Embracing an eco-friendly lifestyle is more than just recycling cans and newspapers or campaigning for endangered species. Smart environmental living also extends to our homes and offices. In recognition of that, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system, often referred to as "LEED," was established to exemplify green building, maintenance and operation in offices, homes and neighborhoods.
LEED is essentially a rating system for the building and maintenance industry. Established by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED has become an internationally recognized mark of excellence. According to the USGBC, LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions. Since the system was created in 1998, LEED ratings standards have been applied to more than 7,000 projects in the United States, as well as 30 additional countries, and more than a billion square feet of developed area has been LEED classified.
Various parameters must be met before a building can receive LEED certification. LEED requires a set of prerequisites and credits. Prerequisites include required elements or strategies that must be included in all LEED-certified projects. Credits are extra incentives that can be included in projects to work toward LEED certification. The ratings system generally uses a numeric scale of 110 points for buildings, while LEED for Homes has a scale based on 131 points. Credits are allocated based on the environmental impacts and human benefits of the buildings and operations. Projects can receive basic certification between 40 to 49 points, and Platinum status is reached at 80-plus points. LEED v4 is the next incarnation of the rating system and will focus even more on increasing the lengths to which projects go to employ green goals.
While the rating system was developed through an open, consensus-based process that involved USGBC volunteers and working groups, third parties are responsible for verifying that a building, home or community was created using strategies aimed at high performance in environmental health. These include, but are not limited to, water savings, energy efficiency, sustainable site development, and indoor environmental quality. USGBC says LEED is flexible enough to apply to all project types.
LEED is also internationally known and accepted, and in 2003 the Canada Green Building Council received permission to create LEED Canada-NC v1.0.
Examples of LEED-certified structures include the Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, Penn., which has multiple LEED certifications, including the world's only Platinum-Certified greenhouse. Shearer's Foods plant in Ohio is the first food manufacturing plant to receive LEED Platinum status. Since 2011, Taipei 101 has been the tallest and largest green LEED Platinum-certified building in the world. Individuals can visit www.usgbc.org and search the USGBC directory of more than 64,000 registered and certified LEED projects to see how each achieved their certification.