The Beginner's Guide to LEED Certifications

by Jason Brubaker

More and more companies are getting involved in the field of sustainability. This is a pivotal trend for workers in the building materials and construction industries. Almost every contractor and project administrator wants their company to have an environmentally-friendly reputation. But getting recognized as a leader in sustainability is more than putting some “go green” practices on your website.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) provides a green building rating system, and it’s become the standard for sustainable facilities. The system is practically a requirement when constructing commercial buildings.

So what do you need to do to adopt this system and become recognized for your commitment to sustainable construction? It’s not an overnight decision, so you need to take care of a few prerequisites before you start your project.

How Does LEED Certification Work?

In short, LEED is a points system. The more energy efficient and “green” your building is, the more points you receive. Points are earned through meeting credit requirements in the following six categories:

  • Sustainable Sites
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy & Atmosphere
  • Materials & Resources
  • Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
  • Innovation in Design

There are four levels of certification: Certified (40-49 points), Bronze (50-59 points), Silver (60-69 points), Gold (70-79 points) and Platinum (80+ points). You don’t need to worry about the ranking system yet; this guide intends to get you started towards a LEED Certification.

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Get Familiar with LEED

If you go to LEED’s website, you will quickly discover that there is a lot more than the points system explained above. There are numerous exams, guides and resources for professionals leading all kinds of projects. You will need to identify what resources you will need for your specific project.

You may want to research what others have done during their paths to becoming LEED certified. Think about what you need to do as an individual, and more importantly as a business leader, to prepare for LEED certification. Also, network with professionals in the industry; you may be surprised at the number of people who are already involved.

Consider a LEED Professional Credential

If you’re really serious about your commitment to sustainability, it’s a good idea to take the LEED Green Associates exam. Passing the exam shows that you have an up-to-date understanding of green building principles and practices, and signifies that you are a leader in sustainability.

LEED offers free exam resources to help you get prepared. Look into their website to determine if the exam is something you want to work towards, and how you can get there.

Become a Leader and Student in Sustainability

As a professional in any field you need to stay plugged in, and sustainability is no different. It’s important for leaders to continuously learn in their respective industries; sustainability in particular is a fast-growing, innovative field that requires constant studying. Continue researching what other leaders in the field are doing. Read up on current events within sustainability. Familiarize yourself with the practices of a LEED-certified company.

Sustainability touches on practically every industry, and it’s a fast-growing field itself. Universities are offering degrees in it and world leaders are turning to sustainability consultants. Consider getting in touch with these professionals. Attend seminars and lectures at universities (there is guaranteed to be at least a couple near you within the next month). Whatever method works for you, it’s important to immerse yourself in the industry.

Prepare for LEED Certification

Once you’ve identified the criteria and resources needed for your project, you’re ready to get started. Whether you're renovating or constructing a facility, you will need to have all the tools ready to start the certification process. First, identify team leaders and project roles. Next, consider deadlines and plan accordingly.

Make sure your resources are compliant with LEED’s standards. For example, Nydree’s flooring used in Mercedes-Benz Stadium holds up to high traffic and meets the facility’s stringent sustainability requirements. If you don’t use the correct materials when designing your project, you’re not going to achieve certification.

When you’re working on your project, always keep the scorecard in mind. You should go off of LEED guidelines and resources when constructing the facility. Remember, this is your examination to prove that you are a leader in sustainability.

Getting LEED certified is a process that requires a lot of preparation. It becomes another project in and of itself, and it will put your time and project management skills to the test. But, if you establish a plan and goals, getting that certification will be a lot easier.