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LEED Certification 101

Many in the construction and demolition sector have realized that investing in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) pays off. Not only does going green mean potentially lower overall operating costs, but it also opens the door for new revenue possibilities.

The benefits that come with sustainability simply can’t be ignored. Green buildings can have lower maintenance costs, can significantly cut down waste, and can be better for a developer’s bottom line.

If you’re considering LEED for your project but are unfamiliar with the process, this overview will give you a high-level view of what to expect. Here’s a sneak peek—your project’s waste plays a pretty significant role in getting you across the finish line.

What is LEED?

LEED is considered the gold standard in the green building industry. It’s a well-structured way for professionals to become involved in sustainability and reduce the millions of tons of C&D (Construction and Demolition) waste produced each year.

The USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) started developing the LEED certification program back in 1993. With so many prerequisites and requirements, LEED might seem like it’s difficult to pursue. But the various pathways to achieve LEED are less of a complication and more of a benefit.

As part of its mission, the organization behind LEED continues to improve its systems and processes. That continual refinement takes into account the complexities industry leaders face when searching for accreditation for themselves or certification for their projects. All of those different routes make it possible for virtually all buildings and home project types to earn certification.

LEED Accreditation vs. LEED Certification

LEED accreditation is primarily for professionals who want to advance their career and increase their skill set. Earning accreditation can also earn points for your future LEED projects. Through accreditation, you’ll become knowledgeable in unique design and construction techniques, be in high demand in an increasingly green market, and stay informed on the latest tech through continuing education.

LEED certification is specifically for buildings. Through certification, your business can earn tax credits, save money on operational costs, and make an impact on all who live, work in, and use your building. You’ll pay a flat upfront fee to get registered, and then you’ll pay another fee based on the completion of your project.

Levels of LEED

Accreditation

There are three tiers to accreditation with AP Fellow being the most exclusive. Each tier has its own eligibility requirements and its own exams. Depending on which exam you take and whether you’re a USGBC member influences how much you’ll pay in fees and materials.

  •      Tier 1: LEED Green Associate
  •      Tier 2: LEED AP Specialization
  •      Tier 3: LEED AP Fellow

Certification

Everything you do during a building project—from the materials you choose to the way you manage waste—adds up to a point system that helps you earn certification. The more points you earn, the better the sustainability of the building. You can earn one of four levels:

  •      Certified: 40 – 49 points
  •      Silver: 50 – 59 points
  •      Gold: 60 – 79 points
  •      Platinum: 80+ points

How to Achieve LEED Certification

Because the program is so flexible, not every project has to follow the exact same rules to earn points. There are different rating systems that take into consideration the needs and challenges of various projects. How you earn points really depends on what you’re building.

Rating Systems:

  •      Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C)
  •      Interior Design and Construction (LEED ID+C)
  •      Building Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M)
  •      Residential
  •      Cities and Communities

Every rating system has its own set of “prerequisites,” which are just the minimum requirements your project needs to achieve on top of the points needed for certification.

Earning LEED Credits and Points

So, how do you earn points and meet the requirements? This is where many people get confused.

LEED has a system of “credits” that are equivalent to points. For example, if you’re working on a new construction project (LEED BD+C) you’re required to follow the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Planning credit guidelines. The USGBC has a Credit Library which lets you easily select your type of project and pull up a list of credits. The library will show you what’s required and how you can earn points.

You don’t have to follow every single credit’s guidelines. That’s the beauty of LEED—you can choose what’s best for you, your business, and your project.

Ways to Impact Your LEED Score

Overall, LEED credits are focused on the following concepts, which are also the smart filters in their online library:

  •      Integrative process
  •      Location and transportation
  •      Sustainable sites
  •      Water
  •      Energy
  •      Materials and resources
  •      Indoor environmental quality

These concepts guide the direction of a project and impact your certification. In order to achieve LEED status, it’s necessary to keep detailed records of how these concepts are brought to life. From the emissions created hauling materials in and out to the way you sort and dispose of debris—just about every step can count for or against you.

Waste management is a required and critical step. When you submit your project for certification, one of the many things you’ll need to show is how much waste was generated, disposed of, and diverted. A misstep in tracking your prerequisites like waste management planning could cost your entire project its certification.

Here’s a look at just some of the recycling and waste management credits that can impact your projects points:

It’s important to be aware of just how detailed LEED certification can be. With such a vast system, you’ll need a detailed plan for waste management alone. Building LEED credits mean building more value, and the right waste partner can help you get there.


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