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What is a LEED Certified Business?

Updated on January 1, 2015
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A professional career coach, Marcy has helped hundreds refine their resumes, improve their interviewing skills, and advance their careers.

Many Green Certified businesses install solar panels to save energy and reduce pollution


How Can My Company Get LEED Certified?

Whether you're an established business in a building you've owned for a long while, or just starting out, you can take steps to protect the environment and also add to your image by becoming certified through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

This internationally recognized status is awarded to businesses (and to government entities) that meet various benchmarks in using sustainable materials, reducing their impact on the environment and in conserving energy and resources.

LEED Certification is not easy to attain; the guidelines are stringent and each element must be inspected and approved for certification to be awarded. The program, begun by USGBC in 2000, develops its rating criteria through input from a variety of industry committees, and periodically it is updated to include new advances and technology.

A wide variety of industries, government agencies and professions use LEED standards to retrofit existing businesses and to plan for sustainable and eco-friendly construction when new buildings are installed.

According to USGBC, about 120 countries around the globe currently have LEED projects under way.

LEED Certification for New buildings: You can construct your building to meet LEED Certification standards

Buildings can be retrofitted, but it is easier and less expensive if your business can build Green from the ground up.
Buildings can be retrofitted, but it is easier and less expensive if your business can build Green from the ground up. | Source

Water conservation is important for Green Certification


What LEED Recognizes and Measures

The LEED program examines and recognizes a wide variety of components to Green building and sustainability.

For Commercial Interiors, there are five basic areas in which a project can be awarded a total of 100 points. Applicants can demonstrate responsibility in areas such as:

  • Water Conservation (11 Points): Does the building use water efficiently in all appliances and systems? Is the landscaping eco-friendly rather than requiring water-intensive maintenance and upkeep?
  • Energy Use (37 Points): The goal here is to reduce the consumption of electricity (USGBC cites the U.S. Department of Energy's estimate that buildings consume nearly three-fourths of the electricity produced domestically). The program examines the type of systems, fixtures, lighting and appliances in the building, energy conservation measures and whether clean and renewable sources of energy are used.
  • Site Sustainability (21 Points): The program discourages using land that is previously undeveloped and examines the project's impact on the ecosystem, erosion, potential light pollution and the risk of a thermal effect. Smart transportation is also considered under this category.
  • Resources and Materials (14 Points): New construction consumes a large quantity of material and generates waste. The LEED program evaluates the project's efforts in reducing the consumption and waste of energy and materials, including at the source level.
  • Indoor Environment (17 Points): Since Americans (in particular) are indoors a majority of each day, the quality of the air they breathe and the effects of materials they encounter in this environment can impact their health. LEED's focus is on improved air quality in buildings and including natural lighting and views for users and occupants.

Bonus Points

In addition, projects can get up to 10 addition points in these bonus areas:

  • Design Innovation (6 Points): Some unique design strategies can help a building's performance exceed even that required by LEED. Businesses can also be rewarded for using LEED Accredited Professionals as part of their team.
  • Priorities for Regions (4 Points) : Various regional affiliates with LEED have identified sensitive environmental concerns in their areas. Projects can get additional recognition for helping to address those issues.

Other Considerations:

  • Location, Location, Location: Is the project compatible for its setting and community? Is the site in an area previously developed? Is it near infrastructures that will provide water, utilities, open spaces for activities and transportation linkages?
  • Education and Awareness: Building or renovating a site to protect the environment is a start. Continued success includes a component to help educate prospective users in how to maximize the efficiency of the building and its features.

A LEED Platinum Building in Philadelphia

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LEED Certification Levels

LEED Certification Level
Points Required
LEED Platinum Certified
80+ Points
LEED Gold Certified
60+ Points
LEED Silver Certified
50+ Points
LEED Certified
40+ Points

The total is based on 110 possible points (as listed above). Of those, 100 points are included in the basic categories and 10 bonus points can be awarded for Design Innovation and Regional Priority

How and When to Apply for LEED Certification

The Green Building Certification Institute has information on the process for being certified and how you can register for the program. You can also get information on sustainable engineering and building practices through the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Engineering Program.

Ideally, you should look registration as early into your project as possible. Any business or organization contemplating the following should research LEED Certification:

  • Site Selection: If your company is choosing a site for expansion or new construction, LEED guidelines can help give you a head start on protecting the environment and better qualifying for certification.
  • New Construction: Are you planning new construction from the ground up? Using LEED Certified Professionals as part of your team can help you in the planning and construction stages.
  • Expansions: If you are adding square footage to an existing structure, consider participating in the LEED program, even if the original building isn't constructed to those standards. You may be able to get special loan considerations and tax benefits for including sustainable materials or energy efficient systems in your project.
  • New Construction: If your site is already selected, it's still not too late to plan construction that follows LEED guidelines and standards. Add some Green Consultants or LEED Certified Professionals to your team to ensure your construction saves money as well as the environment.

Local Programs for Green Business Certification:

Although the LEED program is considered the Gold Standard for certification, you may also find local programs in your state, country or region that offer credentials. These may be based on some of LEED's standards or can include standards unique to your area or modified in some way to make them more accessible. Check with your area's environmental agency to see what type of certification (aside from LEED) might be available or recognized in your area.

  • Local or regional programs might offer recognition for initiatives such as:
  • Excellence in Recycling
  • Promoting Car Pools and Public Transportation
  • Use of Sustainable or Recycled Supplies and Materials
  • Energy Efficiency Measures

No matter what stage your business is in, it can pay to become education on how to Go Green. You will save money, help save the environment and raise awareness in your community.

Other Options for Green Businesses and Professions

Because environmental careers and business initiatives are growing every year, options for getting into these fields or joining the trend are rapidly increasing as well.

Some professionals might want to consider Green Consulting as a way to transition their current career direction.

Businesses of all sizes can research Green Energy Grants as a way to improve their buildings and facilities at a lower cost, and save future dollars by lowering utility bills.


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