The Basics About What LEED Means & How You Can Participate & Benefit

To understand what LEED means, we need to first look at who founded LEED what that vision entails. LEED is the acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The LEED program is sponsored by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC)

Buildings that participate in the program can be awarded LEED certification. There are four levels of certification based on the total points earned.

  1. LEED Certified- buildings earn 40–49 points.
  2. LEED Silver- buildings earn 50–59 points.
  3. LEED Gold- buildings earn 60–79 points.
  4. LEED Platinum- buildings earn 80 or more points.

The LEED certification program assesses building design and construction on:

  • Air quality
  • Choice of building materials 
  • Energy efficiency
  • Environmental factors such as access to public transportation and responsible land use
  • Water usage

Mission and Vision

“The USGBC is committed to transforming how buildings are designed, constructed, and operated through LEED, because we believe that every person deserves a better, more sustainable life.

Our vision is that buildings and communities will regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within a generation. 

Our mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.

Today people know that if they are in a LEED-certified building they are using less energy and water, avoiding waste, saving on maintenance costs, improving indoor air quality, offering comfort to their occupants, and creating less environmental burden on their community. 

They also know that they are in a building that enhances health and wellness. Now green building has grown into a trillion-dollar industry, and LEED has become the most widely used green building program in the world.”


History- Click the link above to read about how LEED began in the 1990’s and exploded in 2003.

Why Certify With LEED? Business & Residential Benefits

  1. The LEED certification program is the leading international program for sustainable building design and construction. 
  2. Attaining LEED certification demonstrates environmentally responsible building practices. 
  3. In this environmentally conscious time, constructing a LEED building is a smart business move.
  4. Builders with LEED-certified projects can become recognized as leaders in the construction industry.
  5. Tangible incentives include: faster lease-up rates; qualifying for several incentives like tax rebates and zoning allowances; retaining higher property values. 
  6. For residential construction companies, LEED certification can help homes sell faster and for a higher price.
  7. Homebuilders often receive tax credits for building LEED-certified homes.
  8. LEED-certified houses may have lower insurance premiums.
  9. Home values are more likely to increase over time compared to similar, non-LEED-certified homes in the same area. 

Links for additional information: LEED Education & Resources.

Residential LEED   

Most of us would agree that our home is one of the most important places in our lives. Homes can remain in families for generations and generations, becoming a part of the fabric of people’s lives. To live in a LEED certified green home not only means that you are choosing the absolute healthiest option for your family but you are also making a wise financial as well as eco-conscious decision as LEED homes use less energy and fewer resources.

Residential Projects: Impact for Renters, Owners & the Environment

LEED certification can be applied to all types of residential projects.

  1. Multifamily- new construction or renovation of multifamily projects.
  2. Multifamily Core and Shell- new construction or renovation multifamily projects that do not include a complete fit out.
  3. Single Family Homes- both attached and detached.

Using the strategies outlined in LEED, homeowners are having a net-positive impact on their communities. LEED homes are designed, constructed, and operated to be resilient in adverse conditions and are developed with proactive design planning for potential impacts of catastrophic weather, which is so incredibly important in today’s climate.

  • Health: LEED homes are designed to maximize indoor fresh air and minimize exposure to airborne toxins and pollutants. Also built to provide ample natural light and all while using safe building materials. 
  • Savings: LEED homes reduce energy and water consumption, which means lower utility bills. On average, certified homes use 20 to 30 percent less energy than non-green homes, with some homes saving up to 60 percent.
  • Value: With proper planning, LEED homes can be built for the same cost as non-green homes. LEED homes can qualify for discounted homeowner’s insurance, tax breaks and other incentives. And in many markets, certified green homes are now selling quicker and for more money than comparable non-green homes.

LEED-certification affirms the integrity of green building commitments by ensuring project teams are delivering on design plans and goals. Third-party validation helps guarantee that each project saves energy, water and other resources, reducing overall environmental impact. No cutting corners.

How Certification Works

For new projects:

  1. Determine your project type: single family, multifamily or multifamily core and shell. View the full list of LEED rating systems.
  2. Select your priorities and customize your plan on how to gain LEED credits, such as: health, energy and water efficiency, resilience. These credits earn points that determine a project’s certification level. Learn more about LEED prerequisites and credits or access the LEED credit library.
  3. Build your team including a LEED Green Rater (projects in the USA and Canada may also contact a Homes Provider organization).
  4. Deadlines. A LEED rating system is either open for registration and certification, closed for registration but open for certification or closed for both registration and certification. View the deadlines to make sure you know the status of your desired rating system/version.
  5. Fees. View the fees table to find the LEED registration and certification costs.
  6. Register your project in LEED Online and follow the steps in the Guide to Certification for your project type.

There are a number of tools and resources available to support you when working on your LEED project including:

COST- View the full pricing

Single familyfrom $150from $225
Multifamilyfrom $900from $0.035 per sq ft

Green Home Guide

USGBC’s Green Home Guide has organized tips on how to make your home healthier and more sustainable.


LEED offers a net benefit for construction companies as well as individual and residential communities. The principles and practices behind LEED certification not only save buyers money, increase building efficiency, and add credibility for construction companies; they also represent an ethical system for sustainability. In reducing energy use and water waste and improving air quality and livability, LEED strives to make the world a healthier, more sustainable place.

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