LEED is a process established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) based in Washington, D.C. The purpose of LEED is to establish a standard for certification and credentialing buildings, architects and designers. The LEED process was established by the USGBC in March of 2000 and remains the industry’s leading recognized standard for determining the sustainability of building structures.
When discussing LEED and its benefits it is important to have a common understanding of its associated terms. This includes an understanding of the difference between LEED certification and LEED credentials, who receives which, and why having either of these designations is important. Building owners and those involved in their design should apply this knowledge in order to understand the importance of LEED and what advantages it brings.
LEED Certified versus Credentials
LEED certification and accreditation mean two different things. The LEED certification program, began in March 2000 by USGBC, is a process that establishes ratings for different type of building structures as energy efficient and environmentally sustainable or green. Certification takes place when a subject project submits to rigorous certification required and documentation to become certified, silver, gold or platinum designated LEED structures.
Building designers and architects achieve accreditation as either a LEED Green Associate or LEED Associated Professional (AP). AP designations correspond with the 5 rating categories for the LEED certification of buildings: Building Design and Construction (BD+C); Interior Design and Construction (ID+C); Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M); Neighborhood Development (ND); and, Homes.
The Importance of LEED Certification for Buildings
LEED certified buildings tend to operate at a lower cost and more efficiently than those that do not utilize LEED principles. The trend toward LEED buildings is demanded equally by one-third of construction clients and by the market for new and LEED certified older structures. 55% of respondents to a 2014 global study by Nielsen were willing to pay more for products and services offered by companies that are committed to creating a positive impact on the environment and society.
The willingness to pay more was greater in Asia-Pacific (64%), Latin America (63%) and the Middle East and Africa (63%), where attitudes have risen 9, 13 and 10 percent respectively since 2011. Although overall commitment to LEED principles was lower in North America and Europe (42% and 40%), the purchasing sentiment rose in both since 2011, 7 and 8 percent (respectively).
The Advantages of LEED Credentials for Architects and Designers
Contractors, architects and building designers looking to expand into $120-$145 billion green building opportunity are at a greater advantage over those who do not acquire the LEED Green Associate or AP designation. Professionals who possess LEED credentials not only stand to benefit in the private construction market but also from opportunities with the Federal government.
The Federal Energy Management Program of the U.S. Department of Energy found in FY2013 that energy consumption by the government fell to its lowest level since 1975. Much of this drop in consumption is being credited to LEED standards, which were mandated by an Executive Order issued by the President. LEED credentials places architects, designers and contractors in an enviable position to take advantage of federal contracting opportunities.