Smarter Business: Standards & Metrics

Key Facts

The non-profit United States Green Building Council (USGBC) states its mission is “to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.” To this end, USGBC has established the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) suite of internationally recognized green-building certifications, covering a wide range of building types, including interiors, retrofits, houses and neighborhoods.

LEED certifications include:

New Construction (NC),
Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EB:O&M)
Commercial Interiors (CI)
Core & Shell (CS)
Schools (SCH)
Healthcare (HC)
Neighborhood Development (ND).

In general, each of these certifications rates the buildings according to the following criteria: siting, water efficiency, energy efficiency and atmospheric emissions, indoor environmental quality, design innovations, and regional priority. Buildings must both meet specific prerequisites and receive enough points (on a 100 point scale) for satisfying criteria to achieve rating as LEED certified (40-49 points), LEED Silver (50-59 points), LEED Gold 60-79 points) and LEED Platinum (80 points and above).


The expense of building to LEED standards varies by the level of certification. A 2003 report by California’s Sustainable Building Task Force (PDF) based on 33 LEED-certified projects found average cost premiums for new buildings as follows:
LEED Certified (8 buildings) -- .66%
LEED Silver (18 buildings) -- 2.11%
LEED Gold (6 buildings) -- 1.82%
LEED Platinum (1 building) -- 6.5%

The average premium overall for LEED construction was found to be 2%.

Pros & Cons


  • LEED construction provides average energy savings of 18% to 39% per floor over conventional buildings, reduced water waste and better indoor environments.
  • LEED has been widely adopted by local governments as a green building standard and LEED certified professional architects and builders are numerous and widespread.
  • LEED standards address global warming and CO2 emissions.
  • LEED standards have created markets for green construction products.


  • 28% to 35% of LEED-certified buildings use more energy than their conventional counterparts, according to a 2009 study by the Institute for Research in Construction of the National Research Council, Canada.
  • LEED is considering granting points for use of wood products and lumber certified by less-rigorous standards (such the Sustainable Forestry Initiative's) than those of the Forest Stewardship Council.



NRDC: LEED for Neighborhood Development

LEED Professional Directory: Listing of LEED credential professionals

last revised 6/17/2011

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