RESEARCH GUIDE: LEED
What is LEED?
LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a certification program that recognizes sustainable design and construction. The program is run by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).
This article from Green Building Elements provides a concise overview of what LEED is and how projects earn LEED certification.
What types of projects can be certified under LEED?
There are several different LEED rating systems for different types of projects.
Building Design + Construction (BD+C) applies to commercial buildings of at least 1,000 square feet that are being newly constructed or undergoing a major renovation.
Interior Design + Construction (ID+C) applies to commercial projects of at least 250 square feet that are complete interior fit-outs.
Building Operations + Maintenance (O+M) applies to existing commercial buildings of at least 1,000 square feet undergoing improvement or minor renovations.
Homes applies to new single-family homes and multi-family housing of up to six stories that are defined as “dwelling units” by all applicable codes.
Neighborhood Development(ND) applies to new development or redevelopment projects, which can be commercial, residential, or mixed-use, that include at least 2 habitable buildings and are no larger than 1,500 acres.
How do projects achieve certification?
A project must meet all the LEED Prerequisites to achieve certification. For LEED v4, a building must be in a permanent location on existing land, must use reasonable boundaries to evaluate the project, and must meet the size requirements for the appropriate LEED rating system.
Each LEED rating system is made up of credit categories such as water efficiency, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and sustainable sites. A project can earn LEED credits in each category, and the total number of credits earned determines the level of certification.
A project must earn a minimum number of credits to be LEED Certified at all, and additional credits will earn the project a LEED Silver, LEED Gold, or LEED Platinum Certification.
Learn more about the LEED Certification Process.
How does a project earn LEED credits?
There are nine categories in which a project can earn LEED credits.
- Integrative Process credits are awarded for cross-discipline collaboration in the design process.
- Location & Transportation credits are awarded for access to transit, sensitive land protection, surrounding density, bicycle facilities, reduced parking, and other issues related to site selection and transportation.
- Materials & Resources credits are awarded for reducing waste and using materials that have published life cycle assessments and environmental product declarations.
- Water Efficiency credits are awarded for reducing use and increasing reuse of water, inside the building as well as in the outdoor landscaping.
- Energy & Atmosphere credits are awarded for energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy.
- Sustainable Sites credits are awarded for protecting natural habitat, keeping open spaces, dealing with rainwater, and reducing light pollution and heat island effects.
- Indoor Environment credits are awarded for using building materials and products without harmful chemicals, and for providing access to fresh air, natural light and views of the outdoors.
- Innovation credits are awarded for innovations in green building, either by using a strategy not included in LEED or by achieving exemplary performance with an existing LEED strategy.
- Regional Priority credits are awarded for projects that meet existing prerequisites or credits in the rating system that have been selected by USGBC Chapters and Regions as especially important in their area.
You can find all of the available LEED credits on the USGBC website. Select the appropriate rating system at the top of the page, and then search for a particular credit or browse the list by category.
In the Library
Each issue focuses on a different building type, both commercial and residential, and includes case studies with photographs, plans and elevations
Each issue focuses on a different sector of commercial design and includes case studies with photographs, plans and elevations
Each year, the AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) selects 10 projects that demonstrate excellence in sustainability and produce in-depth case studies, including photographs and plans. This website lets you search for AIA COTE Top Ten award-winning projects by project type (residential, hospitality, etc.), climate zone, location, site context (urban, suburban or rural), square footage, and award year.
Provides case studies of high-performance, green building projects across the United States and around the world, including everything from small single-family homes to large commercial and institutional buildings
Provides case studies of a wide range of new construction and renovation projects, ranging from single-family homes to large commercial and institutional buildings
Provides case studies of the nearly 100 LEED Certified buildings on the Harvard University campus, including office and classroom buildings, research laboratories, student residence halls, student centers, and more
USGBC offers three levels of recognition for green building professionals
- Earn a LEED Green Associate (GA) credential by passing the LEED GA exam, which covers green building principles and practices as well as LEED. USGBC offers a discounted exam fee for students. To maintain your credential, you will need to fulfill on-going continuing education requirement.
- Earn a LEED AP with a specialty credential by passing the LEED AP exam for a particular LEED rating system (BD+C, ID+C, O+M, Homes, or ND). Although LEED project experience, it is strongly recommended. To maintain your credential, you will need to fulfill on-going continuing education requirement.
- The LEED Fellow designation recognizes exceptional green building professionals. To be eligible for nomination, professionals must have at least 10 years of green building experience, at least 8 years holding a LEED Professional credential, and currently hold LEED AP specialty credential in good standing.
This 1-minute video explains the basics of earning a LEED GA credential
This 1.5-minute video explains the basics of earning a LEED AP credential
Outlines what you will need to know to pass the LEED GA Exam and lists references to consult for further information on the exam and the subjects covered
Free exam resources and study materials for all LEED credential exams, provided by USGBC
Provides detailed information about the continuing education required to maintain a LEED credential
The front of each board must be labeled with the name of the student(s) and with the year and semester completed
Each board should measure 16 x 20 inches, 20 x 30 inches, or 24 x 36 inches
When your instructor doesn’t care how you cite as long as you do cite, make sure to include the information someone would need to find your source on their own. A citation for a case study might look like this:
“Andover Classrooms” case study. Harvard Energy & Facilities. http://www.energyandfacilities.harvard.edu/andover-classrooms-hds.
Cite It Where You Use It
Every time you use a quotation, a piece of information, or an image from another source, cite the source right where you use it, whether it’s on your project board or in your paper, job book or presentation.
Include enough information to allow your audience to figure out which source (from your complete list at the end) you’re citing. For example, if you use the case study in the example above, the citation on your board or presentation slide might be “Andover Classrooms”.
Check out this tutorial on Citing Sources Informally for more guidelines and examples to informally cite every source you use - whether it’s a book, magazine, website, blog or video - and avoid plagiarism.
Please fill out as much information as you can to recommend a resource. If you are recommending a book, feel free to include an Amazon or Google Books link.