Decoding LEED: A Quick Overview

When it comes to sustainable building design, it’s all about Platinum, Gold and Silver.

Under the LEED program, these levels are used to evaluate how sustainable and environmentally friendly buildings are in key categories.

“One of the misconceptions of sustainable design is that (buildings) are supposed to look weird or different and are not how a normal building should look,” said Jason Green, the director of sustainability at St. Petersburg College, home of two Gold-certified campus buildings. “But they are just like any other building, just using other materials or similar materials in a far more efficient way.”

What exactly is LEED and how is it achieved? Here’s a short Q &A decoding the terminology, evaluation standards and certification process developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

What does LEED stand for?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Essentially, it is a green building assessment and rating initiative that is internationally recognized. The voluntary certification can be applied to any building type at any phase in its lifecycle.

What does LEED rate?

LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in key areas:

  • Energy savings
  • Water efficiency
  • CO2 emissions reduction
  • Improved indoor environmental quality
  • Stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts on the environment

How are these areas measured?

From photo shows the number of points assigned to each category for New Construction. There are similar guidelines for Existing Buildings, Schools, Homes and Commercial Interiors.

LEED uses a 100-point scale, where points are awarded for five categories. There are also two bonus categories, for a total of 110 points. The categories are:

  • Sustainable Sites: Examines where a building site is located. It discourages developing on undeveloped land while encouraging minimizing a buildings’ impact on the surrounding environment. Other factors include regionally appropriate landscaping, smart transportation choices, control of storm water runoff and reducing erosion, light pollution and construction-related pollution.
  • Water Efficiency: Encourages smarter use of water. Reduction is normally achieved through efficient appliances, fixtures and fittings inside the building and water-wise landscaping outside.

  • Energy & Atmosphere: Encourages innovative energy strategies that can include but are not limited to energy use monitoring, efficient design/construction, efficient appliances, efficient lighting and the use of renewable sources of energy.

  • Materials & Resources: Supports the selection of sustainable building materials that are grown, harvested and produced locally. It also promotes the three ‘R’s’ during construction: reduce, reuse and recycle.

  • Indoor Environmental Quality: Promotes strategies that can improve indoor air as well as providing access to natural daylight.

The following are considered “bonus” credits that a building can achieve.

  • Innovation in Operations: Examines the use of new and innovative technologies and strategies to improve a building’s performance well beyond what is required by other LEED criteria

  • Regional Priority: Identifies the most important local environmental concerns for every region of the country and rewards extra points for priority implementation

How does a building become certified?

For a project to become certified, it must satisfy the prerequisites and earn a minimum number of points, as outlined in each individual rating system. The number of points the building achieves determines the level of certification.

Certified: 40-49 Silver: 50-59 Gold: 60-79 Platinum:80+

What types of buildings can be LEED certified?

From graph shows the nine different rating systems for LEED certification.

Any building can become LEED certified. The guidelines are flexible enough to apply to both commercial and residential buildings. LEED also works throughout the building lifecycle – design and construction, operations and maintenance, and retrofits.

Where did the LEED program originate?

The program began in 2000, initially aimed at commercial construction of buildings. It was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to provide building owners a “framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.” It expanded in 2007 when LEED for Homes was launched; it now has nine different ratings systems.

Who uses LEED?

Architects, real estate professionals, facility managers, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, construction managers, lenders and government officials, just to name a few. State and local governments are adopting LEED for public-owned and public-funded buildings while globally there are LEED projects in 41 different countries.

How is LEED Developed?

LEED guidelines are developed through volunteer committees composed of experts representing the building and construction industry. The key elements of the process include a balanced committee, technical advisory groups that ensure scientific consistency, opportunities for comment and review, member voting of new rating systems and a fair and open appeals process.

Are there any LEED buildings in Tampa Bay?

Below is a list of some of the LEED certified commercial buildings in Tampa Bay, along with their certification levels.

Project Name Owner Location Certification

Happy Feet Plus, Inc. Happy Feet Plus Clearwater Gold

MetWest International MetWest International Tampa Gold

Moorings/Sunsail Office Offices of Park Place Clearwater Gold

Science & Math Building St. Petersburg College Clearwater Gold

Student Services St. Petersburg College St. Petersburg Gold

USAA SE Regional Office USAA Tampa Gold

USF Science & Tech Facility  USF-St. Petersburg St. Petersburg Gold

Walker Brands Walker Brands Tampa Gold

Woodland Corp Center Liberty Property Trust Tampa Gold

Woodland CI Liberty Property Trust Tampa Gold

100 North Tampa Prudential Tampa Silver

Atlantis International Grady Pridgen Inc. St. Petersburg Silver

Gensler Gensler Tampa Silver

Sandpearl Resort JMC Communities Clearwater Silver

Chancey Office Building CDP Holdings, LLC Tampa Certified

Iota Residence Complex Eckerd College St. Petersburg Certified

The Oaks @ Cross-Town Crescent Resources Tampa Certified

Information compiled from the U.S. Green Building Council


One response to “Decoding LEED: A Quick Overview

  1. This is a great article.
    very useful to me.
    keep going on.

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