Answers to Questions about Going Green

June 1, 2008
Here’s information to make you smarter about green technology and LEED certification.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Web site ( has a plethora of usable information for understanding technical terms as well as practical knowledge you can use to make informed decisions about green buildings. Here are some highlights.

What is LEED?
LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000 through a consensusbased process, LEED serves as a tool for buildings of all types and sizes. LEED certification offers third-party validation of a project’s green features and verifies that the building is operating exactly the way it was designed to.

What types of buildings can use LEED?
LEED certification is available for all building types, including new construction and major renovation; existing buildings; commercial interiors; core and shell; schools and homes. To date, there is more than three billion square feet of construction space involved with the LEED system.

How does LEED work?
LEED is a point-based system where projects earn LEED points for satisfying specific green building criteria. Within each of the six LEED credit categories, projects must satisfy particular prerequisites and earn points. The six categories include Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation in Design (Projects can earn points for green building innovations.). The number of points the project earns determines the level of LEED certification the project receives. LEED certification is available in four progressive levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

Does a green building cost more?
No, green buildings do not have to cost a penny more. LEED-certified projects, to date, demonstrate that you can achieve LEED certification and reap its many benefits with a common-sense approach to design with no additional dollars. Depending on your green building strategy and the level of certification your project is targeting, there may be mid- and long-term ROI associated with additional green features that merit an investment in first costs.

What are the benefits of LEED certification?
LEED certification is third-party validation of a building’s performance. LEED-certified projects blend environmental, economic, and occupant-oriented performance. They cost less to operate certifiand maintain; are energy- and water-efficient; have higher leaseup rates than conventional buildings in their markets; are healthier and safer for occupants; and are a physical demonstration of the values of the organizations that own and occupy them.

What are the benefits of LEED for existing buildings?
LEED helps building owners and managers solve building problems, improve building performance and maintain and improve performance over time. LEED reduces costs associated with building operations, reduces environmental impacts, creates healthier and more productive employee workspaces and provides public recognition for leadership in sustainability. The majority of requirements for LEED for Existing Building certification are operations and maintenance best practices. The process does not necessarily require any major upgrades; instead, it promotes using performance records, testing and analysis and tracking resource use. LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance certification ensures your building is meeting its potential.

Who should use LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance?
LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M helps building owners and managers solve building problems and improve building lifecycle performance. LEED is used by everyone, from facility managers to operations contractors. LEED applies to a spectrum of facilities, ranging from those wanting to identify efficiency improvement opportunities and put in place sustainable policies to those facilities in need of significant system and operational improvements.

How often does a project need to recertify?
Recertification of LEED is required at least once every five years, though buildings can recertify annually. Annual certification might be beneficial in cases where LEED for Existing Buildings operators want yearly feedback on building performance for performance reviews and budgets or in cases where LEED certification scores are included in lease agreements as a metric for quality of delivered space. Applications for recertification only require documentation of changes in policies and performance data that have occurred since initial certification.

Is there a minimum age for a building to participate in LEED?
LEED for Existing Buildings: O&M requires buildings to be in operations for at least 12 continuous months before certifying.

Helpful tips to get started:

  1. Review the LEED rating system to assess credit potential.
  2. Set your target certification level: Certified, Silver, Gold, Platinum.
  3. Assess what equipment will need upgrades.
  4. Assign responsibility for credits and for writing green policies.
  5. Make a budget.
  6. Make a timeline to optimize work and process flow.
  7. Register project to take advantage of USGBC resources.

What is the process for LEED certification?

  1. Register eligible buildings via
  2. Identify and implement operational improvements and equipment upgrades necessary to obtain certification.
  3. Prepare your application by documenting building performance data and operational procedures.
  4. Submit certification application to the USGBC via LEED Online for review, and provide any supplemental information deemed necessary by the reviewers.
  5. Receive a final LEED certification review from the USGBC.

Is training available for LEED?
Yes, USGBC provides LEED for Existing Buildings workshops and online Webinars. To view the dates and locations of workshops, visit the Workshop section of the USGBC Web site. This is a searchable database, enabling you to find the date, location and time that work for you.