LEED Certification for Your Business: Getting Certified

As a business owner, you can instill sustainability values throughout your company by starting with the building itself. The LEED certification can help you identify areas to improve your green initiatives. Read further to learn more about the LEED certification, potential benefits for your business, insights on how the rating system works and a step-by-step guide to help you earn the LEED certification for your business.


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What is the LEED certification?

The LEED certification is an international certification program that awards business owners and builders for including green (environmentally-friendly) initiatives during the building process and in the overall design of one or more buildings. LEED stands for leadership in energy and environmental design. According to usgbc.org, the LEED certification takes these factors into account when considering those for the certification:

  • Performance in location/planning
  • Site development sustainability
  • Water savings
  • Energy efficiency
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality


Benefits of getting LEED certified: Why a small business should apply

According to Duquesne University, there are several benefits to getting LEED certified. Here are some examples of why small businesses should apply for certification:

  • Enhances your brand: If you’re LEED-certified, it may enhance the reception of your brand as your business demonstrates its commitment to environmentally-friendly practices.
  • Reduces operational costs: Due to large windows, energy-saving light, plumbing and other initiatives, you can reduce the average cost of running and maintaining your building. For example, reduced water and electricity bills.
  • Increases property value: If you own a green building, this can significantly increase its value if you ever wanted to refinance a mortgage or sell for a profit.
  • Attracts top-tier talent: By showing that you’re environmentally-concious, you may be more likely to attract talented job candidates who share the same environmental values.
  • Qualifies you for tax rebates: When you’re LEED-certified and have one or more energy-efficient technologies and equipment in your workplace, you may qualify for tax reductions or refunds from your state or local government.


How does the LEED rating system work?

The LEED rating system is used to fairly evaluate different types of buildings or buildings at different stages of construction. The rating system consists of four levels. Here is how the LEED rating system works by going to usgbc.org:


1. Select a rating system

Choose one of the four rating systems to start out:

  • LEED for Building Design and Construction: Used to evaluate newly constructed buildings or those that only have the shell, meaning know walls or appliances.
  • LEED for Interior Design and Construction: To review the degree of green design and materials used within the building such as furniture and appliances.
  • LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance: Used to evaluate existing buildings that are making green improvements, like energy-saving light features and solar panels.
  • LEED for Neighborhood Development: To evaluate residential neighborhood properties regardless of whether the building is still being built, is new or older.

Each rating system should have a clickable link attached that allows you to view qualifications for this system in detail.


2. Review details in relation to your square footage

Get information about the floor-plan details for your building. Use this data to determine how each square foot of your building matches up to the qualifications of the rating system in question.


3. Compare percentages

Using the 40/60 rule instructions on the usgbc.org website, compare your building’s square footage to the following guidelines:

  • Do not use: If the rating system is appropriate for less than 40% of your building’s gross floor area
  • Do use: If the rating system is appropriate for more than 60% of your building’s gross floor area
  • Make your own assessment: If the rating system ends up between 40% and 60% of your building’s gross floor area. This means you choose which one would be best for your needs.


4. Repeat for each rating system

Repeat steps one through three for the remaining three rating systems to ensure there isn’t another rating system for which you qualify.


5. Choose the rating system that best matches your building status

After assessing compatibility between your building and the four LEED rating systems, choose only one to use going forward in the LEED certification process.


6. Confirm results with the “Discover LEED Tool”

If you need more assurance on whether your building qualifies for a particular rating system, use the Discover LEED Tool to confirm your answer.


How to earn LEED certification

According to usgbc.org, to earn LEED certification, you must complete a few key steps that depend on your project type. Follow these steps to earn LEED certification for your business using the Guide to LEED Certification:


1. Select your building type

The Guide to LEED Certification page gives you the following options to choose from:

  • Commercial
  • Neighborhood development
  • Residential
  • Volume supplement
  • Cities & Communities

This guide will follow the commercial certification instructions.


2. Register your project and pay the registration fee

  • Review requirements to be considered for consideration
  • Choose your LEED rating system
  • Use either the Arc or LEED online portal to register (Arc is always used for cities, communities and operations and maintenance projects). Use LEED online portal for all other situations.
  • Complete and submit your LEED certification application
  • Pay registration fee


3. Assemble your project team

Do this while you wait to confirm whether your application has been approved. You will need to assign the following roles:

  • Project owner
  • Project agent
  • Project administrator


4. Allow LEED officials to review your building

There are a few types of review processes you can choose from depending on your needs:

  • Standard review (project reviewed upon completion)
  • Split review (only for LEED BD + C and LEED ID-C rating systems) where you submit one part of the application at the design phase and the other at the construction phase
  • Expedited review (project reviewed at an earlier date than the standard review process)


5. Receive and accept certification

After LEED officials review your project and determine that it is appropriate for certification, you will be notified about the level of certification you received based on the points you earned:

  • LEED Certified™ (40-49)
  • LEED Silver® (50-59)
    LEED Gold® (60-79)
  • LEED Platinum® (80+)


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