LEED – or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design – is an internationally recognized green building certification system and standard. It delivers third-party verification that a space was designed and built using best-in-class strategies to address its entire life cycle.
Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED provides building owners and operators with a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions. LEED can be applied to all building types – and even to entire neighborhoods.
LEED can be referred to in two different ways: as it relates to buildings and as it relates to people. Buildings can be LEED-certified and people can be LEED-accredited (meaning they hold LEED credentials). Below are some examples to help clarify this distinction:
When a building is LEED-certified, it has achieved a certain number of points or credits in a particular rating system. For example:
GBA’s offices are LEED-CI Platinum-certified, which means:
- The project team applied for LEED in the Commercial Interiors (CI) rating system because the organization is a tenant in a building, not a building owner.
- The project received more than 80 points, which is required to achieve a LEED Platinum certification.
Similar to other degrees or credentials, when someone is a LEED-accredited professional, there will be a series of letters behind their name on a business card or in an email. For example:
If someone is a LEED Green Associate, this means that they met the eligibility requirements to take and pass their LEED Green Associate exam, which is the most basic level of LEED professional accreditation and one which anyone can pursue. Learn more here.
If someone is a LEED AP BD+C, this means that the are a LEED Accredited Professional – a step beyond LEED Green Associate – with a specialty in Building Design and Construction. They met the prerequisites and eligibility requirements to take and pass their LEED AP exam. Learn more about becoming a LEED AP here.
Certification Levels (exclusive of LEED for Homes)
Projects can earn any of four levels of certification based on the number of points they achieve:
All of the LEED rating systems address five main credit categories for certification and, within each of them, projects must satisfy prerequisites and earn points. The number of points a project earns determines its level of certification (see above for certification levels).
Main credit categories:
Integrative Process credits incentivize project teams to set early goals and collaborate together to achieve them, while also doing early analysis on water and energy systems for the best results.
Location and Transportation credits ask project teams to consider how people get to and from the project location for better human health impacts and lower environmental footprint, prioritizing locations with existing infrastructure and multiple transportation options.
Sustainable Sites credits encourage strategies that minimize the impact on ecosystems and water resources.
Water Efficiency credits promote smarter use of water, inside and out, to reduce potable water consumption.
Energy & Atmosphere credits promote better building energy performance through innovative strategies.
Materials & resources credits encourage using sustainable, transparent, and healthy building materials and reducing waste.
Indoor Environmental Quality credits promote better indoor air quality and access to daylight and views.
Bonus credit categories:
Innovation in Design credits address sustainable building expertise as well as design measures not covered under the five main credit categories. This can include pursuing one of LEED’s Pilot Credits. Six bonus points are available in this category.
Regional Priority credits address regional environmental priorities for buildings in different geographic regions. Four bonus points are available in this category.
LEED for Homes and LEED for Neighborhood Development also have additional credit categories.
LEAD the Way with a LEED Professional Credential
Don’t miss this opportunity to stand out among all the other job seekers in today’s economy! No matter a person’s career or position, everyone can benefit from becoming accredited in LEED.
A LEED professional credential signifies that its bearer is a leader in the field and an active participant in the green building movement. Credentialed professionals can contribute expertise to the design, construction, operations, and maintenance of buildings and neighborhoods that save energy, use fewer resources, reduce pollution, and contribute to healthier environments for their occupants and the community.
With many new design-related jobs specifying a need for LEED expertise, a LEED professional credential can result in increased opportunities for employment, job stability, and promotion, while underscoring an employee’s value to LEED project teams and sustainability-focused organizations.
Most LEED accreditations focus mainly on commercial building practices, but the LEED AP specialties for Homes and Neighborhood Development place a focus on residential building practices as well.
There are currently three levels of LEED credentialing available:
Who is Eligible for LEED Accreditation?
Anyone can earn a LEED credential – and LEED APs can select their own areas of specialty! Students, design professionals, construction workers, engineers, realtors/developers, K-12 teachers, and university professors and faculty can all benefit from being a LEED professional. This credential can greatly assist in providing a competitive edge – as well as the knowledge – to help employees and job seekers understand their relationship with the built environment.