Building a house that is too tight?  (C) Daniel Friedman

Green buildings: What is the LEED Certification Program & How Does it Work?

  • Green buildings, energy savings, & indoor air quality
    • Critique of IAQ provisions in the current LEED designation for buildings
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the LEED designation program for buildings and how the program works

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This article explains the LEED Green Building Certification program, providing a summary of what the LEED designation means, how it is achieved, and what factors are considered in awarding a LEED Green Building Certification to a building or construction project.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved.

What is the LEED Green Building Certification Program & How Does it Work?

Sketch at page top and accompanying text are reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss. The sketch above shows a split-level cantilevered raised ranch with chimney and bay windows - a tough house to build tight.

LEED, energy conservation and green building techniques: see ENERGY SAVINGS in buildings and SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS, and readers should also see related topics at the left of this page. LEED and IAQ: see LEED Building Designation & IAQ. Readers concerned with good design for indoor air ventilation systems should see INDOOR AIR QUALITY & HOUSE TIGHTNESS and INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE as well as VENTILATION in BUILDINGS as well as VENTILATION, WHOLE HOUSE STRATEGIES. Also see GREEN BUILDING CONSTRUCTION CODES GUIDES. Contact us to suggest text changes and additions and, if you wish, to receive online listing and credit for that contribution.

LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) is a building energy efficiency rating system promoted for green building practices by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The indoor environmental quality (IEQ) provisions in LEED cite two requirements for LEED designation (below) and provides "Credits" or sources for points towards earning the LEED designation for a building. The LEED website provides extensive information about this program. We have reviewed that data and provide this more concise explanation for readers who are unfamiliar with the LEED certification program and how it works.

The LEED® green building certification program is a voluntary, consensus-based national rating system for buildings designed, constructed and operated for improved environmental and human health performance. LEED addresses all building types and emphasizes state-of-the-art strategies in five areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials and resources selection, and indoor environmental quality.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. .... LEED provides third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Nine LEED Designation Measurements for LEED Building Designation

[Includes comments & references by DF] The LEED designation for buildings is a point or credit-based system that evaluates a building project and assigns "LEED Points or Credits" in nine areas described below. LEED Certification or "Green Building Certification" is issued by an independent third party through the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

  1. LEED designation & site sustainability - discourages development on previously un-developed land, minimizes the building's impact on ecosystems and waterways, encourages regionally appropriate landscaping [cactus not grass in Arizona, for example] considers use of mass transit, stormwater runoff control, erosion control, light pollution [reflections and outdoor lighting?], heat island formation [paved parking lots]), and construction-related pollution.
  2. LEED designation & water efficiency: water efficiency credits encourage conservation [water conserving fixtures, low-flow faucets and showers, low-flush toilets - see TOILET TYPES, CONTROLS, PARTS, ALTERNATIVE HOT WATER SOURCES, and WATER QUANTITY USAGE GUIDE & WELL FLOW TEST PROCEDURE]
  3. LEED designation & energy& atmosphere: encourages energy use monitoring to reduce energy consumption by the building, appliance efficiency, lighting, use of renewable resources. [See ENERGY SAVINGS in buildings and SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS ]
  4. LEED designation & Materials & Resources -use sustainably grown materials & resources, minimizing material waste during construction
  5. LEED designation & Indoor Environmental Quality - see LEED Indoor Environmental Quality IEQ Provisions
  6. LEED designation & Locations & Linkages - where is the home located and how does it fit into the community; encourages building homes near existing infrastructure, open spaces, outdoor walking
  7. LEED designation & Awareness & Education - educating homeowners/occupants to make maximum use of energy-conserving features
  8. LEED designation & Innovation in Design - "...bonus points for projects that use new and innovative technologies and strategies to improve a building’s performance well beyond what is required by other LEED credits or in green building considerations that are not specifically addressed elsewhere in LEED." - LEED
  9. LEED designation & Regional Priority - " ... environmental concerns that are locally most important for every region of the country, and six LEED credits that address those local priorities were selected for each region." - LEED

Inadequacies of Optional IAQ Credit Categories Specified in LEED - White Paper from AIHA

LEED Indoor Environmental Quality IEQ Provisions

  1. Provide minimal outdoor air in accordance with ASHRAE standard 62.1
  2. Eliminate or control tobacco smoke from the indoor environment

LEED Designation Credits for IAQ

  1. IAQ management during construction: LEED Credit 3.1: protect HVAC duct interiors from dust, debris, moisture during construction and control dust inside the building.
  2. IAQ testing requirements: LEED Credit 3.2: IAQ testing before the building is occupied, including a "one time" air flush of the building before testing [this approach may improve test results but it does not address pollutants from continuously - emitting sources nor even from incompletely out-gassed new construction materials --DF]. [AIHA (see below) has raised questions as well regarding the testing protocols and methods used for this purpose.]

In April 2010, in the article "How to Put the IH in LEED, Green buildings Need Industrial Hygienists' IAQ Expertise", Dale Walsh, writing in the American Industrial Hygiene Associations's magazine The Synergist, author Walsh directs attention to a forthcoming (2010) White Paper for Green Building, produced by the Occupant Air Quality Project team of the AIHA Green Building Working Group.

The white paper, "Indoor Air Quality in Green buildings", will, according to Walsh, focus on the inadequacies of two optional credit categories in the LEED specification: the construction IAQ management plan credits (the "3" series described just below), and the low-emitting building materials credits (the "4" series also described just below). The white paper's goals:

  • Clarify the value of the single-event building air flush-out prior to testing and describe the conditions under which it might be appropriate.
  • Discuss the history of Credit 3.2 option B
  • Show that the current LEED requirements for indoor air testing in buildings are poorly defined regarding sampling methods and timing of sampling, and that the specified pollutants and their allowable levels are often inappropriate.

    [Readers should also see MOLD TESTING METHOD VALIDITY, MOLD LEVEL IN AIR, VALIDITY, and Cultures to "Test for Mold" for compelling examples of the overwhelming importance of indoor air mold sampling methodology and the importance of documenting building conditions in understanding the enormous variation in test results that will be found when monitoring indoor air quality - DF]
  • Discuss the appropriateness of using outdoor air-related total VOC content limits for controlling indoor air quality, along with alternative approaches.
  • Discuss other issues that negatively affect IAQ, including the shedding of fibrous duct lining [see FIBERGLASS HAZARDS and FIBERGLASS INSULATION MOLD], poor access to building ventilation systems for maintenance [see Air Filter Location], and the location of sewer vents [see SEWER GAS ODORS] and other outdoor pollutant sources near outdoor intakes.

Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.


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