4 critical LEED certification building process points

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LEED certify a building feature

Through the latest LEED framework, it is possible to use the LEED certified buildings regardless of project type. From large scale commercial to small scale residential and even special campus projects. The process to LEED certify a building can vary depending on project type, the rating system you have chosen and the applicable active policies, procedures and pricing. In this article we will focus on the steps to certify a commercial project.

If you are curious about the LEED framework, want to learn more, or are looking to become a LEED Accredited Professional yourself, have a look at our free 20-minute intro to LEED Green Associate and gain the knowledge you need to design a LEED-certified building today.

1.LEED Certified Buildings – Register

Leed certified buildings online
LEED Online platform

The first step to for the LEED certification building process is to register on the LEED Online platform. All projects pursuing certification must register on the platform. This is where you will submit all the initial important documentation and pay the initial registration fees. Before registering a project, be sure to check that it meets the minimum program requirements as set out below. Any project must meet these requirements in order to be eligible for LEED certification.

Minimum program requirements

In the latest LEED framework, all building projects must:

1. Be in a permanent location on existing land

The LEED framework evaluates projects based on project type and how they relate to their context. Thus, all LEED projects must be placed in a permanent location and on existing land. The project may not be able to move location or use artificial land masses that may disrupt natural systems surrounding it.

2. Use reasonable LEED boundaries

The project boundary must include all the land adjacent and associated with the building that supports its operations. This also includes any additions to- and general landscaping of the site. It is important to note that the specified boundaries should not exclude certain portions of the building or site to advance the project in adhering to credit requirements.

3. Comply with project size requirements

There are specific size requirements that projects should adhere to in order to accurately measure its performance according to LEED standards. These vary depending on your chosen rating system for the project.

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) supplies the full details for minimum program requirements here.

The last step before registering your project is to select the rating system you will use for the project. For a commercial project, you may use one of the following rating systems in order to LEED certify a building:

– LEED for Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C)
– LEED for Interior Design and Construction (LEED ID+C)
– LEED for Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M)

Leed certified buildings rating systems
Leed specialty rating systems

You can find the full USGBC guide to selecting a rating system here.

Register online

Once you have all the required documents, confirmed whether your project meets the minimum program requirements and you have chosen a rating system, you can access LEED Online the platform where you will submit your application for the LEED certification building process. The LEED Online platform does not only facilitate the application and registration process, it also gives you access to useful tools and resources. Here is where you will submit your payment for registration and the project owner will sign the certification agreement.

Once your online registration is done, you have to carefully select your project team to fulfil certain roles throughout the process to LEED certify a building.

Your team may consist of:
– Project owner
– Project Administrator
– Agent/s

It is at this stage where you will look for reputable, LEED-accredited professionals to form your team and make your project a success.

*Remember to register your project as early as possible to ensure you don’t miss the registration and certification deadlines!

2. Apply

This is the most important part of the process for the LEED certification building, where you gather the documentation needed to form an application. This is reviewed by the GBCI who will determine the level of certification achieved by your project. Together with your project team, you can now identify the LEED credits you want to pursue. It is then up to you and your team to research, calculate, analyze and prepare documents which clearly outlines how your project addresses each of your chosen credits to LEED certify a building.

Remember to ensure that all the prerequisites for your chosen credits are met and double check all the information you are submitting to make sure it is accurate and up-to-date.

You can then submit the completed application through the LEED Online platform and pay the certification review fee before moving to the next stage.

Leed certified buildings meeting

3. Review

After submitting your application and paying the review fee, the review process will start. Your application will now be reviewed by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). You may go through several stages of review with the project in order to achieve the LEED certification building, or have a straightforward review with positive results from the first stage. At length, the review process may have the following stages:

1. Preliminary review

Your first application will be submitted for a preliminary review. You should receive a response from the GBCI within 20-25 business days containing information on which credits are expected to be awarded with the final review. You will also be informed if there are any credits which were not achieved, or in need of extra information to be reviewed. If there are credits that were indicated as denied or in need of additional information before being able to achieve the LEED certification building, you will be allowed to revise your application before submitting it for a final review.

Otherwise, if you are happy with the preliminary review results, your team can accept this as the final results and receive your certification!

2. Final review

If you choose to submit additional information or review your application after feedback from the preliminary review, it is best if you submit these within 25 business days after receiving your initial feedback. After the GBCI reviewed the newly submitted information, you will receive a final LEED certification report within an additional 20-25 business days. If you are satisfied with the results, you may accept these as final and receive your certification.

If you still want to revise and resubmit your application after the final report, you may do so as an appeal.

3. Appeal review

You may resubmit and revise your application documents as an appeal if you are not satisfied with the outcome of previous rounds of review. An appeal however, does carry an additional cost depending on the complexity of credits and prerequisites addressed in the appeal. You will receive an appeal certification report from the GBCI within 20-25 business days, stating the outcome of your appeal. You can again choose to accept the results as final or submit another appeal.

There is no limit on the amount of appeals you may submit in order to LEED certify a building, but be sure to keep in mind the extra costs that may accompany every appeal.

Review Pathways

There are a number of different review pathways you can follow to LEED certify a building, depending on your project type and preferences. They are as follows:

1. Standard review
2. Split review (LEED BD+C and LEED ID+C)
3. Precertification review (LEED BD+C: Core & Shell projects)
4. Expedited review

The USGBC gives a full explanation of the different review pathways here.
*Once again, remember to check the deadlines for submissions of review applications!

4. Certify

At the stage where you are satisfied with your latest GBCI Certification Report, you will be awarded the certification depending on points gathered in one of the four levels of certification: Certified, Gold, Silver or Platinum. For more information on the levels of certification, see everything you need to know about LEED Certified buildings.

Leed certify a building levels

Once your application went through its final review, the last step of the LEED certification building is to accept the final certification report and the project will be deemed ‘closed out’.

While the process to LEED certify a building may seem long, expensive and time-consuming, it is all the more worth it when you see the returns of your project. Invest in yourself today and start the road to becoming a LEED Accredited Professional through our easy online course you can complete in only 2 weeks!

Soon, you too will help advance the Built Environment with the needed knowledge to LEED certify a building through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.


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