Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) explained.
Let’s talk quantity. Last week we covered the basic qualities of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), so diving into the quantifiable details and juicy substance behind the LEED Rating Systems that has sculpted the sustainable building industry is only natural.
LEED dictates an assembly of seven focus topics – sustainable site development, water savings, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental air quality, innovation in design, and regional priority. The LEED curriculum is distributed throughout the entire building lifecycle, from conception through design, construction, occupation, and maintenance. Each of the LEED Rating Systems (revisit our first article to delve into the different rating systems) is tailored to a specific building type and industry. Here’s a simple breakdown from the USGBC website of what each topic covers and an explanation of what, specifically, LEED measures.
Sustainable Site Development: Choosing a building’s site and managing that site during construction are important considerations for a project’s sustainability. The Sustainable Sites category discourages development on previously undeveloped land; minimizes a building’s impact on ecosystems and waterways; encourages regionally appropriate landscaping; rewards smart transportation choices; controls stormwater runoff; and reduces erosion, light pollution, heat island effect and construction-related pollution.
Water Savings: Buildings are major users of our potable water supply. The goal of the Water Efficiency credit category is to encourage smarter use of water, inside and out. Water reduction is typically achieved through more efficient appliances, fixtures and fittings inside and water-wise landscaping outside.
Energy and Atmosphere: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings use 39% of the energy and 74% of the electricity produced each year in the United States. The Energy & Atmosphere category encourages a wide variety of energy strategies: commissioning; energy use monitoring; efficient design and construction; efficient appliances, systems and lighting; the use of renewable and clean sources of energy, generated on-site or off-site; and other innovative strategies.
Materials and Resources: During both the construction and operations phases, buildings generate a lot of waste and use a lot of materials and resources. This credit category encourages the selection of sustainably grown, harvested, produced and transported products and materials. It promotes the reduction of waste as well as reuse and recycling, and it takes into account the reduction of waste at a product’s source.
Indoor Environmental Air Quality: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans spend about 90% of their day indoors, where the air quality can be significantly worse than outside. The Indoor Environmental Quality credit category promotes strategies that can improve indoor air as well as providing access to natural daylight and views and improving acoustics.
Innovation in Design: The Innovation in Design credit category provides 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. This credit category also rewards projects for including a LEED Accredited Professional on the team to ensure a holistic, integrated approach to the design and construction phase.
Regional Priority: USGBC’s regional councils, chapters and affiliates have identified the 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.