What is LEED?
LEED is a set of building systems developed by the United States Green building Council, or USGBC. LEED is an acronym which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design. The LEED program is a voluntary program which has established a group of comprehensive and measureable building standards for New Construction, Commercial Interiors, Homes, Building Management, Neighborhood Development, and more. The LEED system encompasses design, construction and building management. The LEED rating systems offer the ability for third party certification of building practices that promote the use of sustainable materials, energy efficient building standards, healthy indoor environments, and reduced impact on the environment. The LEED rating systems use a points system to measure a wide variety of factors that contribute to a buildings overall adherence to the LEED standard. Based on a projects point total, certification levels are Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Currently a Platinum certification is the standard bearer for the ultimate commitment to sustainability.
As a part of the LEED program, professionals wishing to be certified for their expertise in the area of green building standards can obtain the LEED-AP (Accredited Professional) certification. APs can then provide consulting services to other contractors and developers as well as serve as a certifying authority on behalf of the USGBC. As of the end of 2008 over 70,000 professionals have acquired the LEED-AP certification.
Why is LEED So Important?
Not many would argue that redirecting waste from our overflowing landfills to be utilized in building construction or consumer goods is a bad thing. Nor would we baulk at innovations that lead to greater efficiencies in energy and water consumption that result in a reduced impact on overtaxed water supplies and power grids. What if products used in every day construction could be produced with resources that are rapidly renewable; say bamboo or wheat grass which has a life of 10 years or 1 year respectively. These are some of the achievements of the LEED program. By setting goals as a percentage of cost by weight with no installation costs included, the USGBC has created some metrics by which we can measure organizational success at achieving these objectives.
LEED is an important program for a variety of reasons. Here are a few:
LEED is the most comprehensive and difficult certification to attain.
No other level of certification is as comprehensive as that of the LEED program. Several other organizations in commercial and residential construction have a variety of standards, each paling in comparison to that of the LEED standards. Most projects, if they achieve the Platinum level certification, will qualify for most other industry certification standards.
It defines the language and benchmarks utilized by all industry.
For years consumers have been beleaguered by the use of terms by marketers and manufacturers that offer unquantifiable benefits. For example; lite, organic, natural, or green for that matter. These are the sorts of terms that have populated the products that we find on our grocery store shelves, home improvement stores, and even on our network television stations. In the environmental construction industry, this is referred to as "green washing". The LEED standard defines and specifies not only the terms, but also the metrics that allow for us to measure REAL innovation in eco-conscious materials. While the consumer should as always still beware, a little research into whether a products claim actually qualify it as a product meeting standards set by the LEED program, will reap tremendous benefits. There are many products on the market that claim varying levels of "green-ness" that upon further inspection qualify for little or nothing under the guidelines established by the USGBC.
Through the LEED program the USGBC has provided businesses, and the public, the means to measure current environmental impact and future progress toward greater sustainable building.
It creates incentive for companies to innovate in ways that are defined and measurable.
With the gaining popularity of the LEED certification systems, manufacturers are in a scramble to create innovative new products that qualify under the program requirements. This means that products with greater recycled content , rapidly renewable resources, as well as building products that reduce waste will become more readily available. This will eventually make for greater and more affordable products for the general public as well. As these construction trends grow in the commercial markets more of these green materials will become more practical for use in residential projects.
It provides the public a clear metric for environmental achievement.
Similar to the labeling of products, companies that wish to align themselves with a green image can ascribe to the LEED standards that apply their situation. A building built, remodeled, or managed according to the standards of the LEED program is a clear sign of a company's commitment to the environment.