What is LEED?
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED®, is a green building rating system that has become a nationally-accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.  
       
  • The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched the first LEED rating system in 1998 as a means to define and measure “green” buildings. Green buildings refer to high-performance, environmentally-responsible buildings that also promote the health and well-being of the occupants.  
       
  • USGBC, established in 1993, is a non-profit organization that is working to transform the building industry to sustainable practices.  It is comprised of more than 12,000 member organizations that include product manufacturers, architects, engineers, government organizations, general contractors, and real estate professionals.

  • LEED is the most widely-used and -accepted sustainable building rating system for new and existing buildings in the United States. It evaluates environmental performance from a whole building perspective over a building's life cycle, providing a quantifiable standard for what constitutes a ”green” building.

  • The five environmental categories by which buildings are evaluated are: sustainable sites; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; and indoor environmental quality. An additional category addresses innovation and design process.

  • To achieve LEED certification, a building must first meet a set of minimum standards, or pre-requisites. Project teams earn credits toward certification by employing specific sustainable design strategies during design, construction or operation, and documenting levels of building performance.
      
  • Documentation for meeting credits is submitted online and verified by certification experts.  Once the review is completed, buildings can be awarded a LEED rating in one of four categories: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. 
     
  • The LEED portfolio of products now includes LEED for New Construction, LEED for Existing Buildings, LEED for Commercial Interiors, LEED for Core & Shell, LEED for Homes, and LEED for Neighborhood Development.

  • USGBC member committees developed the current LEED rating system via a robust consensus process that allows USGBC to incorporate constantly-evolving practices and technologies. The key elements of the process, which USGBC has refined over more than a decade of leadership experience, include a balanced and transparent committee structure; Technical Advisory Groups to ensure scientific consistency and rigor; opportunities for stakeholder comment and review; member ballot of new rating systems and substantive improvements to existing rating systems; and a fair and open appeals process.

  • LEED is maintained through an open, transparent, consensus-based process that is facilitated by volunteer committees representing green building experts and the diversity of the building industry. Updates and additions to LEED go through a public comment period, allowing feedback from all stakeholders, and are adopted through a vote by USGBC’s full membership.