Becoming LEED certified: How to get started

June 3, 20195 minute read

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Supporting Corporate sustainability efforts can grant businesses two key benefits: First, you can sleep a little easier knowing you’re doing your part to reduce unnecessary carbon emissions and slow climate change. Second, you can boost your brand’s reputation by demonstrating your commitment to the longevity of our planet.

And if your facility becomes LEED certified, you can achieve both.

You’ve likely heard of LEED certifications, and you may have conducted some research to determine what earning this designation would entail. Given that the commercial and residential sector accounted for nearly 40 percent of all U.S. energy consumption in 2017 — and most of this energy was used by buildings, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration — it makes sense to seek better alternatives.

Whether your organization is constructing a new space or updating an existing one, now is the time to ensure that your investment is future-proof through certification. While earning this hallmark of corporate environmental consciousness can be a bit more challenging than installing a few solar panels and recycling bins, it can also provide numerous advantages and cost-savings that are well worth the effort.

Here is some useful information to help jumpstart your organization’s quest for a greener future.

What is a LEED certification?

With 90,000 projects spanning 165 countries, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most widely recognized green building certification program in the world. It’s available for all building types around the globe.

Before a space can earn its certification, the LEED program scores the building based on several factors, including construction materials, air quality, water usage, energy efficiency, land use, proximity to public transportation, and more. If you’re curious, all base requirements and scoring criteria are freely available. Buildings that earn at least 40 points will achieve one of four certification levels:

  • LEED Certified: 40 – 49 points

  • LEED Silver: 50 – 59 points

  • LEED Gold: 60 – 79 points

  • LEED Platinum: 80 or more points

What are the benefits of a LEED certification?

Given the time and attention required to become certified, you may be wondering if earning the LEED label is really worth it. After all, while sustainability is important, you also have to consider ROI. Fortunately, preserving the planet isn’t the only advantage sustainability efforts can bring. Other benefits include:

  • Instant recognition: Because it’s the most widely used green building rating system, proudly displaying a LEED certification can provide immediate credibility and contribute to public opinion of your organization.

  • Economic benefits: Not only will your building use less water, electricity, and other resources that can hike utility bills, but it can earn a higher resale or rental value too.

  • Improved health and wellbeing: From your workforce to the community you occupy, many people can benefit from your building’s CO2 emissions being reduced. And this only serves to enhance your company’s positive influence on your industry and society as a whole.

How to become LEED certified

So what can you do to earn the highly coveted LEED seal of approval?

Start by creating an account with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This will give you access to an online platform where you can plan and delegate aspects of your project.

Then, you’ll need to register your building or building project with the USGBC and submit a certification application. Green Building Certification Inc. (GBCI) will review then your application and send a certification decision.

To achieve your minimum grade of 40 points, you’ll have to pay close attention to the following:

Materials and resources: Select more environmentally friendly building materials and reduce your organization’s waste.

Energy and atmosphere: Increase energy performance by investing in better products. For example, revamp your IT environment and replace outdated equipment with eco-friendly technology. IT sustainability efforts can drastically reduce your company’s carbon footprint.

Water efficiency: Reduce potable water usage and implement a system to collect and harvest rainwater.

Indoor environment quality: Leverage daylight to reduce lighting usage and install proper ventilation to ensure better indoor air quality.

Location and transportation: When choosing a site for your building, consider whether it’s conveniently located near public transit options. Also, take care to avoid infringing upon or destroying nearby natural ecosystems.

Earning a LEED certification requires a significant amount of forethought and careful strategizing around everything from the materials and location of the structure itself its capacity for IT sustainability within its interior systems. By putting forth the effort, you can reduce operating costs, support a positive brand reputation, and make a positive impact on your community and the planet.

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