What does a LEED certified building mean?

Published on Dec 2, 2023

If you’ve been to any large commercial building or industry, you might have come across the LEED logo printed on the doors. Ever wondered what it signifies?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Its framework covers all types of buildings and is available virtually to apply. This certification covers broad categories of health and efficiency in buildings.

This is usually chosen by the owners and project teams of the buildings in order to inform the sustainable efforts they’ve put in to make the building green. Some even see it as a badge of honour. LEED certification ideally encourages the construction of buildings that are energy-efficient and comfortable for the occupants.

LEED certification has been adopted globally by tens of thousands of buildings and has become a benchmark for the design and construction of green homes and buildings.

How does LEED work?

It is not a compulsory but voluntary rating system that was designed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1998 to score and certify the sustainability of new and planned buildings.

The score works on a set of parameters. Currently, it places a renewed focus on reducing the energy demand from the buildings and how the buildings can benefit the local communities.

Some examples of scoring include:

1 credit point for designing the building to avoid excessive water usage.

1 credit point for providing EV chargers to 5% of the parked spaces

2 credit points for enhanced air indoor air quality strategies

And many more as mentioned in the scorecard here.

All such points are added together and there are four levels of LEED certification:

  • Certified: 40–49 points earned
  • Silver Certification: 50–59 points earned
  • Gold Certification: 60–79 points earned
  • Platinum Certification: 80+ points earned

Based on the points achieved, the building gets the level of certification.

How much does LEED certification cost?

A registration fee of USD 1500 must be paid upfront for most projects, plus a precertification fee of USD 5000. The cost of reviewing and scoring the building itself depends on a number of different factors, including the rating system the building requires (which is determined by its type), the size of the building, and the target LEED certification level. The usual estimated cost is around 6–6.5 cents per square foot.

But, LEED also comes with a few flaws of its own:

To get credit points, many buildings may have bicycle parking wherein the occupants don’t even end up using them.

The occupants in some buildings use excess power / not when needed which defeats the true purpose even though the building is designed to be energy efficient.

In order to be close to public transport, multiple large buildings might crop up close to a specific zone which might end up creating traffic chaos.

Also, the costs to implement some of the LEED steps become financially difficult for many small and medium buildings. Maybe this could be one of the reasons why we don’t usually see such a rating in smaller buildings.

As LEED also became a status symbol, several attempt are being madeto cheat the system and get the certification, which completely defeats the purpose.

Having said that, LEED has been good to a certain extent in bringing order to our workspaces to be environment-friendly. It is our task as occupants/ visitors to question the practices followed by the owners/ project managers to ensure that such certifications don’t remain limited to a picture on the wall but practised rigorously and innovate.


Written by Zodhya

About Zodhya

We are Zodhya, a start-up that provides AI-based tech to reduce energy bills and lower emissions for commercial buildings and industries.