LEED is the acronym that is short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED certification program assesses building design and construction in terms of energy efficiency, water usage, air quality, and choice of building materials as well as environmental factors such as access to public transportation and responsible land use.
The LEED program is sponsored by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Building projects that participate in the program can be awarded LEED certification on four levels, based on the total points earned:
- LEED Certified buildings earn 40–49 points
- LEED Silver buildings earn 50–59 points
- LEED Gold buildings earn 60–79 points
- LEED Platinum buildings earn 80 or more points
Why Certify With LEED?
The LEED certification program is the leading international program for sustainable building design and construction. Attaining LEED certification demonstrates environmentally responsible building practices. This can be a big boost for the image of both a building's owner and for a contractor who designs and/or constructs LEED-certified buildings. A record of LEED-certified projects can help a builder become recognized as a leader in the construction industry.
Beyond public relations, LEED certification can carry significant tangible incentives. For example, the USGBC states, “LEED buildings have faster lease-up rates and may qualify for a host of incentives like tax rebates and zoning allowances. Not to mention they retain higher property values,” attracting more commercial construction companies to the field. For residential construction companies, LEED certification can help homes sell faster and for a higher price.
Homebuilders can often receive tax credits for building LEED-certified homes. Also, construction companies can advertise to prospective homeowners that a LEED-certified house may lower their insurance premiums and that their home values may be more likely to increase over time compared to similar, non-LEED-certified homes in the same area.
There is some evidence that LEED can help a construction business stay productive and profitable in times of slow growth. Eco Brooklyn Inc points out that “the growth of LEED-certified buildings also seems to be recession-proof. Despite a precipitous decline in new construction because of the bursting of the real-estate bubble, the total square footage of LEED-certified buildings grew by 14%.”
Possible LEED Concerns
The LEED program is involved exclusively with the design and construction of buildings. It is not involved in monitoring or assessing the performance of the building after construction, nor does it measure a building's energy or water use by the building's occupants. It is certainly possible that a LEED-certified building can end up using more resources than its counterparts simply due to the building occupants' practices. One famous example of this is the LEED Platinum Bank of America building in New York City.
The Bottom Line
LEED offers a net benefit for construction companies. Demonstrating the ability to design and construct LEED-certified buildings can help any construction company—commercial or residential—attract clients. The principles and practices behind LEED certification not only save buyers money, increase building efficiency, and add credibility for construction companies; they also represent an ethical system for sustainability. In reducing energy use and water waste and improving air quality and livability, LEED strives to make the world a healthier, more sustainable place.
Construction firms interested in LEED certification should invest in green construction management software and LEED certification training and investigate other ways firms can go green.