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LEED Certification – What Is It and Why Does It Matter?
By Christine Shimasaki
By now, you have probably added LEED to your list of industry acronyms. You've seen references in the trade publications about various facilities that are LEED certified, have received marketing pieces proudly announcing that a convention center or hotel has achieved certification, and maybe even met an individual who has earned LEED Green Associate accreditation. Undoubtedly, LEED is a good thing – but do you really know what it means and, more importantly, what it means to you?
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is all about sustaining the environment through building design and operation. It is an internationally recognized green building certification system created in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) that provides voluntary guidelines for the development of sustainable buildings, and can apply to schools, homes, healthcare facilities and even entire neighborhoods, as well as hotels and convention centers. Currently, approximately 65 convention centers and over 200 hotels in the U.S. have attained some level of LEED certification, according to the USGBC.
There are different certification requirements for new buildings, which are designed from the ground up based on detailed and complex green standards, and for existing buildings, which implement green practices through renovation and sustainable building operations. Whether new construction or an existing building, the project must comply with a stringent list of requirements and undergo a rigorous third-party commissioning process to verify that the building has achieved its environmental goals and is performing as designed.
New buildings receive Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum LEED certification based on the number of points awarded in each of the following five categories:
-sustainable site development
-energy and atmosphere
-materials and resources
-indoor environmental quality
Existing buildings are rated on their ability to maximize the efficiency of their operations while minimizing their impact on the environment. The certification rating system analyzes these major aspects of ongoing building operations:
-exterior building site maintenance programs
-water and energy use
-environmentally preferred products and practices for cleaning
-sustainable purchasing policies
-waste stream management
Interestingly, LEED involves not only brick-and-mortar projects, but is actively reviewed by nearly 13,000 USGBC organization members and over 20,000 individual members. Organizational USGBC members include companies, non-profits, professional societies and trade organizations that are highly concerned about finding ways to create a more sustainable planet. The individual membership base is comprised of people committed to forwarding the green building movement. A dedicated few individuals can take a series of exams to become accredited for their knowledge of the LEED rating system, and are recognized as a LEED Accredited Professional or a LEED Green Associate.
In the end, LEED certification demonstrates that a property or facility has made a serious commitment to the environment and is walking the walk, not just talking the talk. For more information about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and a complete list of LEED certified hotels and convention centers, please contact the U.S. Green Building Council at, http://www.usgbc.org/