What Are the USGBC and LEED Certifications (and Why Should I Care)?

USGBC stands for the United States Green Building Council. It’s a coalition of building industry leaders who came together in 1993 to promote environmentally responsible and profitable buildings that are also healthy plac es to live and work. The Council then developed the LEED certification program to provide guidelines and recognition for green buildings. LEED means Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Green means good business.

If you don’t seek LEED certification for your buildings, you could soon face tough competition. Through September 2007, according to the USGBC, about 1,100 projects have received certification, with 6,000 more registered to become certified. Interest in LEED has grown exponentially since 2004. At the same time, more customers have become green savvy, and they expect businesses to show proof of environmental concern.

In order to become certified, a project must provide documentation showing that it meets certain requirements. The USGBC awards points accordingly. The number of points determines the LEED rating:

Certified: 32-39

Silver: 40-47

Gold: 48-63

Platinum: 64-85

There are specific rating systems for different types of projects:


Piloted in 1998 and launched in 2002, LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations is designed for rating new and existing commercial and institutional buildings.


In 2004, the USGBC first introduced LEED certification for Existing Build ings, now LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. The LEED for Existing Buildings Rating System helps building owners and operators, measure operations, improvements and maintenance on a consistent scale, with the goal of maximizing operational efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts. LEED for Existing Buildings addresses whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues (including chemical use), recycling programs, exterior maintenance programs, and systems upgrades. Beginning September 1, 2008, all projects registering for LEED for Existing Buildings must do so under the new LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance version.

Other LEED Programs

As LEED-NC and LEED-EBOM became benchmarks for green buildings nationwide, the USGBC created other LEED certification systems for specific segments of the building industry. They include:

LEED-CI (Commercial Interiors): For the tenant improvement market provides guidelines for sustainable choices among tenants and designers.

LEED-CS (Core & Shell): For designers, builders, developers and new building owners who wish to implement sustainable design for new core and shell construction.

LEED for Schools Recognizes the unique nature of the design and construction of K-12 schools. Based on the LEED for New Construction rating system, it addresses issues such as classroom acoustics, master planning, mold prevention and environmental site assessment.

LEED for Retail Recognizes the unique nature of the retail environment and addresses the different types of spaces that retailers need for their distinctive product lines.

LEED for Healthcare Developed to meet the unique needs of the health care market, including inpatient care facilities, licensed outpatient care facilities, and licensed long term care facilities.

LEED for Homes: Promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes.

LEED for Neighborhood Development: Integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design.

Learn more about the USGBC at http://www.usgbc.org

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