Basics and Benefits of LEED Certification for Commercial Projects
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a third-party, points-based certification system awarded to building projects that meet specific sustainability standards throughout the construction and development process. There are four possible LEED levels of certification:
Administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is an internationally recognized and awarded certification for residential and commercial building projects committed to protecting and improving environmental and community standards around the world.
LEED Certification for Commercial Projects
LEED certification is available for single buildings, as a volume supplement for multiple structures within a project, or for neighborhood development projects. Each certification type and level has specific requirements and associated costs. Commercial LEED certification is available for several categories:
- Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C)
- Interior Design and Construction (LEED ID+C)
- Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M)
There are four steps involved in the application process for commercial LEED certification:
- Application submission
- Application review
- Certification (upon project approval)
In order to qualify, there are certain minimum requirements that projects must meet to be considered, including:
- Compliance with applicable environmental laws
- Meet minimum floor area and occupancy requirements
- Meet minimum building area to site area ratio
- Disclosure of whole-building energy and water usage data
- Must be complete and permanent building
- Adherence to reasonable site boundaries
The fees for a LEED commercial certification application vary depending on the size and type of project and level of membership. There are flat registration fees, as well as additional fees per square footage. LEED certification also allows for an appeals process with additional fees.
Benefits of Commercial LEED Certification
LEED certification is the "green" standard in the construction process. It signifies building efficiency and compliance with a number of important environmental and conservancy standards. These include water conservation, air quality, materials used and heating efficiency, among others, all of which have become important selling points for both residential and commercial tenants and businesses.
According to data compiled in a study for the U.S. Department of Energy, LEED certified buildings produce 34 percent fewer CO2 emissions than non-LEED buildings in the United States, which account for nearly 40 percent of the country's carbon emissions every year. Green buildings are also reportedly 25 percent more energy efficient than their counterparts, use over 10 percent less water and help to keep close to 80 million tons of waste out of landfills each year.
According to the USGBC, investing in green building standards through LEED certification can increase projected property values by lowering maintenance and energy costs. Additionally, green retrofit projects have been shown to decrease operational costs within the first year, and developers can expect to recoup investments in retrofit projects through cost savings and value increase within several years of investment.
Growing Demand for Energy Efficiency
As environmental concerns over the effects of climate change continue to grow, the demand for greater energy efficiency and green building practices has exploded. In addition to adding more than a million new construction jobs in 2018 and generating over $75 billion in wages according to estimated labor statistics, the green building industry is already outpacing traditional construction projects, with the numbers expected to continue to grow. With both client and market demand for energy efficient buildings currently over 30 percent, LEED certification can offer a competitive advantage for developers and building owners.