What is LEED Certification?

Written by Charles Costa
Updated September 25, 2015
two people in a house under construction
LEED certification is good for both builder and client. (Angie's List photo)

In short, it's a rating system for green building construction.

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If you're in the market for real estate or are simply looking to renovate your home, one of the buzzwords you likely encountered is LEED certification. For those unfamiliar with the term, the certification stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and it is a series of rating systems pertaining to green building construction and remodeling. Even if you aren't environmentally conscious, there are many reasons you should hire a certified professional to handle any home renovation projects.

Related: How Green Building is Changing Home Construction

What are LEED standards?

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards were created in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Counsel to help building owners and operators use resources more efficiently and to be more ecologically responsible. Rather than setting a narrow set of guidelines which are difficult for homeowners to reach, the standards are designed with numerous tracks in mind allowing homeowners to focus on core areas such as: water efficiency, energy credits, indoor environment quality credits (such as air quality and daylight visibility) and materials credits for usage of recycled construction materials.

Additionally the guidelines standardized for construction professionals across the globe - helping to lay the groundwork of a uniform set of standards for construction professionals regardless of location. These standards are verifiable by a third-party to ensure that construction professionals are living up to the promises they deliver.

Potential cost savings with LEED certification

There are many benefits to following environmental standards including improved safety, decreased resource usage, and increased asset value, however one of the most important benefits to following these standards is eligibility for tax rebates and other incentives. Before making any commitment to these standards however, it is important to speak with an expert to determine your eligibility for subsidies and credits since the terms can vary greatly from location to location.

Green building doesn't guarantee savings

Although there are many incentives to comply with green energy standards, there are a few reasons going green might not be worth the trouble. The most notable negative of green construction is that cost rises significantly if you want to pursue an eco-friendly building. Even when accounting for the possibility that eco-friendly buildings pay for themselves over time, cost savings are not guaranteed and will depend heavily on your utility usage, type of building and location.

As these standards are only a design tool rather than a performance measurement tool it is possible for architects and building designers to score points on the rating system even if those measures aren't the most efficient ones available. This means that a home in a dark region will score the same number of points for installing solar panels when a better investment might be better insulation. The standard also isn't location sensitive meaning that a building in Alaska will be held to the same standards as Hawaii even though the climates are completely different.

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