Friday, April 11, 2008

Green Vocab WotD #004: LEED Certification

This post is part of an on-going series. The first three can be found by searching "WotD" in the search bar above.

It's been a little while but I'm back with a new one...


First, a pinch of insider knowledge.

When I first saw this term I thought "that looks far to easy to actually pronounce the word, I will, instead, say each letter to appear as though I'm in the know." That worked great until I met an architect who just said "leed." So, it's pronounced "LEED," not "el, ee, ee, dee."

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a designation given to buildings that are built and function according to certain standards. This badge of honor is basically a rating system for how "green" a certain commercial structure is.

Wikipedia weighs in here:

[The] (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. Since its inception in 1998, LEED has grown to encompass over 14,000 projects in 50 US States and 30 countries covering 1.062 billion square feet of development area. The hallmark of LEED is that it is an open and transparent process where the technical criteria proposed by the LEED committees are publicly reviewed for approval by the more than 10,000 membership organizations that currently constitute the USGBC.

Having a LEED certification doesn't just mean you recycle water and use some natural light, it means that sustainability was a critical piece of the design process. It means that you either set out to achieve the designation or re-designed at some point in the process to incorporate important changes.

There are four different ratings a structure can achieve. Each rating corresponds to a point total and the points are earned a number of different ways. You receive points for air quality controls, water reuse, energy efficiency, and pollution reduction. The rating levels are as follows:

LEED certification badge
LEED Certified: 26 - 32 points

LEED Silver certification badge
LEED Silver: 33 - 38 points

LEED gold certification badge
LEED Gold: 39 - 51 points

LEED platinum certification badge
LEED Platinum: 52 - 69 points

Points are assigned through an elaborate sporting event involving misshapen plaster-of-Paris "balls" and unflattering kevlar padding.

Only joking.

The points are awarded by the LEED committee in many different categories. The categories are as follows (from here, PDF file FYI):

Sustainable Sites
Water Efficiency
Energy & Atmosphere
Materials & Resources
Indoor Environmental Quality
Innovation & Design Process

Each category has from 5 to almost twenty subcategories. It's very interesting seeing how a building can qualify for this mostly because it highlights a bunch of stuff people have simply ignored for a long time (or the technology was not available until now). Most interesting one? Light Pollution Reduction.

So, that's LEED in a nutshell.

Because buildings are enormous contributors to pollution and global warming, this kind of certification is an excellent how to promote sustainable construction. Not only does it attract attention to the problem but it evokes human competition which GETS STUFF DONE. Why go for Gold certification when there's a Platinum just within reach?

The LEED badging system sets an official standard of rating green buildings and contributes towards a new standard of construction. Not only that, it is, as a side-effect, inspiring some beautiful construction projects...

First ever Platinum Certified house by LivingHomes.

The Genzyme Center in Boston

The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) (pic from Inhabitat)

High Line 23 in New York

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