LEED Certified Green Buildings – Everything you need to know

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LEED certified buildings

LEED certified green buildings are at the frontlines of advancing sustainability and improving health in the built environment.

More than 6000 buildings have been LEED certified in the last year alone, with more than 100,000 registered and certified LEED buildings worldwide since 2019.

Additionally, increasing numbers of people are advancing their careers by becoming LEED accredited, gaining the necessary knowledge to design buildings on par with LEED requirements and improving the built environment.

Leed certified green buildings  - the gsk carbon neutral laboratories for sustainable chemistry by fairhursts design group
The GSK Carbon Neutral Laboratories for Sustainable Chemistry – Fairhursts Design Group (LEED Platinum, 2017)
Image: Martine Hamilton-Knight via architecture.com

What is LEED?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a globally recognized sustainability framework, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to address climate change and promote healthier, more efficient and cost-saving buildings. The goal of LEED is to create buildings that:

  • Promote sustainable material use
  • Protect and restore water sources
  • Protect and enhance biodiversity and urban ecosystems
  • Enhance human health
  • Enhance communities’ quality of life
  • Reduce carbon emissions

The LEED framework does not focus on any specific aspect of a building such as energy, water usage or materials, but instead takes a holistic approach, incorporating all elements of a building to meet sustainability goals.

What are LEED certified green buildings?

The LEED framework covers all building types and phases of construction.

To become a LEED certified green building, a project has to meet certain prerequisite requirements, considering its response to address waste, water, energy consumption and expense, material use and reuse, user health and quality of environment.

Buildings are scored according to its success in addressing these factors, and the score determines the level of LEED certification.

Buildings are scored according to its success in addressing these factors, and the score determines the level of LEED certification. 35% of credits are awarded to climate change, 20% to human health, 15% to water resources, 10% to biodiversity, 10% to green economy, 5% to community impact and 5% to natural resources.

The certification tiers are scored as follows:

Certification LevelPoints Scored
Platinum icon 0Platinum80+
Gold icon 0Gold60-79
Silver icon 0Silver50-59
Certified icon 0Certified40-49
Https://www. Usgbc. Org/leed

Selecting a LEED rating system

There are various LEED rating systems for different types of buildings, from schools and retail to neighborhoods and family homes. The USGBC provides a detailed explanation of each rating system.

The entire floor area of a LEED certified green building has to be certified on a single rating system, regardless of usage or construction type. The recommended strategy for selecting an appropriate rating system for a project is the 40/60 rule:

  • A rating system applicable to less than 40% of a building’s floor area should not be used
  • A rating system is appropriate to use where it covers more than 60% of the floor area of the building
  • If a rating system is applicable to between 40%-60% of the floor area, teams may assess themselves which system is most appropriate.

Rating systems are divided into LEED v4 and LEED v4.1 adaptations, so regardless of project type, it can be eligible for LEED certification.

Why are LEED certified green buildings beneficial?

LEED certified green buildings have many benefits in various sectors of the built environment. Here are some of the ways in which they have a positive impact on their surroundings and the people that interact with them:

1. Environmental benefits:

LEED buildings contribute largely to reduced energy use and carbon emissions.

Not only does the construction process generate less waste and use less materials – once completed, LEED certified green buildings continue to contribute to water, energy and waste reduction and conservation. On average, LEED buildings use 25% less energy, have 34% lower CO2 emissions and consume 11% less water.*

*Re‐Assessing Green Building Performance: A Post Occupancy Evaluation of 22 GSA Buildings. Kim M. Fowler. Emily M. Rauch. Jordan W. Henderson.

2. Health benefits:

Employers in LEED certified green buildings report their employees are happier and more productive due to the design of the building.

LEED helps create healthier spaces in regard to indoor air quality, daylight influence, and areas with no harmful toxins found in paint and surface treatments.

3. Economic benefits:

LEED certified green buildings also carry economic benefits for its developers, owners and tenants.

Sustainable buildings are more attractive to buyers, and LEED certified green buildings help attract more tenants, lowering vacancies in the building and surrounding areas. Additionally, LEED helps investors manage more cost-effective buildings, prioritizing energy-efficiency, decreasing operational costs and increasing value in their assets.

It is estimated that LEED certified green buildings have saved $1.2 billion in energy, $715.3 million in maintenance cost, $419.5 million in water and $54.2 million in waste over the period of 2015-2018. (Source: USGBC)

Examples of LEED certified green buildings

1. Facebook Headquarters, Menlo Park, CA (LEED Platinum, 2018)

Leed certified green buildings  - facebook headquarters by gehry partners
Image: Courtesy of Facebook, via ArchDaily

Designed by Gehry Partners, Facebook’s headquarters is tailored to be highly sustainable. The building is designed to connect to the outdoors, located on a green area with 40ft tall redwood trees and featuring a 3.6-acre rooftop garden with an additional 200+ trees.

The project plans to connect to the surrounding community through a community bike and pedestrian path, and expansion to a park with public facilities and event spaces.

2. Vancouver Convention Centre West, Vancouver (LEED Platinum, 2009)

Leed certified green buildings  - vancouver convention center
Image: Nic Lehoux, via ArchDaily

The first convention center to achieve LEED Platinum certification, the design creates a community experience utilizing sustainable elements.

The building boasts the largest living roof in Canada, 73% reduced potable water consumption and on-site treatment of 100% of grey- and blackwater. Additionally, natural ventilation is employed on the west facade, and the flooring used increases air circulation without additional energy use.

How to get LEED certified

In order to design buildings eligible for LEED certification, the best course of action is to become LEED accredited. You can achieve this by getting the LEED Green Associate Certification. This will put you in a position to design with knowledge and ensure that your buildings have the most positive impact they can have.

Start now – with our free introduction to LEED that will put you on course to get the LEED GA certification. Our on-demand, online training will provide you with all the knowledge and tools that you need to start the path of designing buildings that are better for the environment and the people in and around them.


Become accredited in 2 weeks or less!