LEED Green Building Rating System
The buildings in which we live, shop, study, eat and work have an impact on the environment. More and more, we are recognising the impact of our built environment on the natural environment, human health and the economy. This has led to the development of green buildings, aiming to change the built environment by creating buildings that are energy efficient, healthy and productive. This trend of Green building is quickly turning into a revolution, with consumers, builders, communities and governments becoming more sensitive to the impact of buildings on urban life and the local, regional and global environment.
With the increase in the number of Green building initiatives, the need for a certification system became apparent. A certification system was needed to demonstrate that building was truly ‘green’ and more importantly, to give building owners the tools to have a measurable impact on their buildings’ performance.
The LEED Green Building Rating System was established by the U.S Green Building Council to certify green buildings. Though this program began in the United States, it has now gained worldwide recognition.
 About the U.S Green Building Council
The U.S Green Building Council is a non-profit organisation that promotes sustainability in the way buildings are designed, constructed and operated. It has approximately 15,000 members from all sectors of the building and construction industry. In its efforts to promote environmentally responsible and healthy places to live and work, the U.S Green Building Council’s most notable contribution has been the development of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System in 2000.
 About LEED Green Building Rating System
The LEED Green Building Rating System is a voluntary third party certification program that validates a building’s ‘green’ features and verifies that the building operates in accordance with its design.
The benchmarks of the LEED system are set through a transparent, consensus-based process. This process is led by LEED Committees that are made up of a cross-section of experts from the building and construction industry. LEED also has technical advisory groups to ensure that LEED systems are scientifically consistent.
 LEED Credit Categories
The LEED System is a point based system. The building projects earn points based on their satisfying Green building criteria. They must satisfy certain prerequisites and earn credit points based on six different categories. The six categories
- Sustainable sites
- Water efficiency
- Energy and atmosphere
- Materials and resources
- Indoor environmental quality
- Innovation and design process
Depending on the number of points the building project earns, it is awarded a certification level. There are four LEED certification levels – Certified, Silver Gold and Platinum. For more details on the LEED point system please see LEED Certification Primer
 Buildings that can use the LEED
The LEED system is structured so that different types of buildings can opt for LEED certification. Currently, the LEED system allows for:
- New Construction: The LEED for New Construction Rating System is meant to guide and distinguish commercial and institutional projects such as office and high-rise residential buildings, manufacturing plants, laboratories, government buildings as well as recreational facilities.
- Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance: The LEED for Existing Buildings Rating System is meant for building operators to improve the efficiency of existing buildings while reducing their environmental impact. This can be applied to existing buildings that have never used LEED certification before as well as buildings that have been certified as new constructions. This system deals with issues such as cleaning and maintenance including the use of chemicals and recycling programs, as well system upgrades.
- LEED for Commercial Interiors: The LEED for commercial interiors empowers tenants and designers to contribute toward sustainability even though they may not be able to affect the entire building operations. It certifies high performance green interiors aimed at the tenant improvement market. These green interiors are healthy, productive and cost less to operate and have a reduced environmental footprint.
- LEED for Core and Shell: The LEED for Core and Shell is aimed at designers, builders and developers that covers base building elements such as structure, envelope and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). It is is also designed to complement the LEED for Commercial Interiors. The idea is to develop synergistic strategy that allows developers to implement green strategies and future tenants to capitalise on them.
- LEED for Schools: Schools are unique spaces in terms of design and also in the fact that they must account for children’s health issues. Based on this, LEED for Schools has been developed for schools wishing to go ‘green’ by addressing a variety of issues including classroom acoustics, mold prevention and master planning. It is recommended for early education, day care, and high school facilities.
- LEED for Healthcare: LEED for Healthcare has been developed to meet the requirements of healthcare facilities -inpatient and outpatient, assisted living facilities, medical offices and medical education and research facilities. Issues such as patient sensitivity to pollutants and chemicals, distances from parking facilities and access to natural spaces.
- LEED for Homes: The LEED for Homes Rating System allows homeowners and developers to make sustainable choices that can be applied to single and multiple family housing. A network of LEED for Homes Providers allows people to find builders and helps them register their project as LEED project. The LEED for Homes website also provides assistance in locating LEED certified homes and provides information to help people embark on making greener family homes. Recently, USGBC has also launched REGREEN Residential Remodelling Program to help people through sustainable renovation programs.
- LEED for Neighbourhood Development: The LEED for Neighbourhood Development is currently in its pilot period and is expected to launch in 2009. This program has been started with the aim to ensure that the location and design of a development project meets the principles of smart growth and to reduce urban sprawl.
 Who Uses the LEED System?
The LEED system is used by designers, architects, engineers, construction managers, government officials among others to make sustainable buildings. Many U.S state and federal agencies are adopting LEED certification. The LEED certification has gained worldwide acceptance as a benchmark for sustainable buildings with LEED certified projects in 41 different countries including Canada, Mexico, Brazil and India.
 Did You Know?
- In the United States, the number of cities with green building programs has risen from 22 to 92 for an increase of 418% since 2003
- Buildings use one quarter of all the world’s wood harvest
- Buildings account for 35% of U.S carbon emissions
- A 2007 study by McKinsey, a consulting firm, showed that changes in building design and construction could offset up to 6 billion tons of carbon emissions
- Nearly 3.6 billion square feet of commercial building space are involved with the LEED Green Building Rating System
- Approximately $464 million worth of construction registers with LEED every business day
 Disadvantages of LEED and Green Building
One of the major criticisms faced by LEED and green building systems is the extra cost associated with them. The building costs associated with green buildings are higher than those of conventional buildings. Then there is the additional cost of undertaking the LEED certification. This is a valid criticism, however, the green building market is becoming more competitive and one time increased costs are offset by the energy savings of green buildings.
Another criticism of LEED certified green buildings is that the design structure of the building may be limited and careful planning and review of all design has to be undertaken to meet green requirements. The benefits however, may far outweigh any disadvantages.
 LEED and Asia
Given the rapid economic growth and large rural population, Asia has become the hub of urbanisation. Asian countries are increasingly looking towards green buildings in local conditions to preserve their resources and environments. LEED has become the global standard for Asian countries. Singapore, Hong Kong, China and India are expanding their green building initiatives. Since 2003, approximately 30 Indian projects have obtained LEED certification. India’s first green airport is nearing completion in Hyderabad. Aiming for a silver rating, it will be only the second airport in the world (after Delta Airlines ‘Terminal A’ at Logan International Airport in Boston U.S.A) with a LEED sustainable building certification. Prominent corporate headquarters in major cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore have already received certification. In Pune, a city size special economic zone called Blue Ridge has also been certified. Many more projects are in the pipeline for LEED certification.
- Why focus on sustainable design?
- The Green Building Revolution by Jerry Yudelson, S. Richard Fedrizzi
- Cities with green Buildings have increased
- The U.S Green Building Council
- The Green Home Guide: LEED for Homes
- First LEED certified airport in Boston
- Expedition to Hyderabad
- Newsweek: Feeling the cool breeze
- Overview of LEED Green Building Rating System
- Disadvantages of green building