LEED – approach to sustainable design

LEED is a product of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit concensus based organization based in Washington D.C. that is dedicated to sustainable building design and construction. 


LEED-Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design was developed to encourage and accelerate global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted standards, tools and performance criteria. It is a rating system that evaluates a project’s strategies & components for its implementation of sustainable design, awarding points in various categories.  A project must meet 7 minimum requirements to qualify for LEED certification, at which point the project can be registered with the USGBC. The design team must then demonstrate that the project meets the prerequisites for each applicable category and a minimum number of credits to achieve LEED certification.

There are 4 levels of certification; Certified, Silver, Gold & Platinum; each with a minimum credit threshhold. Credits are spread over 7 catergories, and can vary in scope, depending on the building type.  There are a growing number of Rating Systems, each adresses the building type or status.  Exisitng buildings can achieve certification in Operations and Maintenance.  New construction is divided into building types: New Construction, Core & Shell, Commercial Interiors, Retail, Schools, Healthcare, Neighborhood Development and Homes. Each Rating System approaches sustainability from the 7 basic categories, varying the criteria to address the unique characteristics of the specific building type.

LEED Rating System Categories:

  1. Sustainable Sites
  2. Water Efficiency
  3. Energy & Atmosphere
  4. Materials & Resources
  5. Indoor Environmental Quality
  6. Innovation in Design
  7. Regional Prioirities

LEED for Homes has 2 additional categories:

  1. Location & Linkages
  2. Education & Awareness

Each category is  involved, overlapping and complimenting other strategies in its own and other categories; each deserves a more detailed discussion and will be addressed in future posts. 

LEED promotes the Integrated Design Approach, where all contributing parties (owners, building & landscape design professionals, engineers, lighting specialists, contractor,..) come together at the start of the project to understand the owner’s goals and then work as a team to meet them.  Early in the process, the team convenes for a charette-a brainstorming session, to assess the options, eliminate strategies that are unobtainable and direct the project toward design solutions that will assure a successful outcome.  This design approach is very efficient as the team members work simultaneously and collaboratively toward a comprehensive design solution.

There you have it,.. in a nutshell, the LEED approach to sustainable design; leading the charge to a better future.

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