Why LEED Matters

Posted By Alvin Brown || 9-Sep-2015

Use of energy-efficient lighting and more access to natural sunlight are just two of many ways that contemporary structures are designed to meet LEED standards and sustainability goals.

Design and building professionals benefit immensely by obtaining certification through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ratings system. Established in 1998 by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), the LEED program employs a set of standards that makes it easy to identify environmentally sustainable buildings. The program guidelines encourages architects to design with a green building focus employing energy and water systems, in ways that are cost effective, sustainable, environmentally conscious, healthier for inhabitants, and sustainable.

The LEED program uses an integrative ratings method, determining difference and importance, and assigning value to each step of the building process. Because LEED functions in this manner, it requires a detailed predesign strategy amongst all team members, normally called a discovery period. This phase includes project assessment of who will occupy the structure, how it utilizes energy and water resources, and how will it achieve economic and environmental goals.

Based on a scoring consensus of best practices in green construction, the LEED ratings system is composed of five categories: Building Design and Construction (BD+C), Interior Design and Construction (ID+C), Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M), Neighborhood Development (ND), and Homes. Also, before a project can obtain LEED points, a distinction is made based on construction type and space usage -- LEED makes it clear that all projects are not created equal.

There are many benefits to having a project LEED certified, including government, state and local green building incentives, along with coveted recognition from peers, environmentalists, and community at large. The rewards for LEED certification includes: Tax incentives, bonus density, expedited permitting, net metering, grants, loans, technical assistance/design assistance, permit/zone fee reduction, rebates and discounts on environmental products and leasing assistance, among many. Some of the incentives may vary from state to state, but most states have in place incentive programs to encourage private development of green sustainable building.

There are four levels of certification for new construction – Certified (40-49), Silver (50-59), Gold (60-79), and Platinum (80-110). The incentives vary at each level, with the higher certification receiving more incentives; for example, as an added bonus, projects achieving platinum status have all certification fees refunded.

Driven by strict and environmentally conscious building codes, designers today are faced with the challenge of developing buildings that are not only aesthetically appealing, more energy-efficient, comfortable, healthier, environmentally sustainable and cost effective.

Whereas LEED certified structures may initially come with slightly higher production costs, obtaining LEED status virtually assures that a structure meets green building codes, indoor environmental quality, energy performance, water efficiency and overall sustainability goals.

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