What does LEED® certified mean?

Today, buildings designed to maximize energy efficiency and make the most of renewable, sustainable resources are often referred to as LEED certified. But what does it mean to be LEED-certified, and what does it take for a building to earn the rating? Details follow.

What is LEED?

  • LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ certification. It designates environmentally responsible—sometimes referred to as ”green” or “sustainable”—commercial buildings designed, built and operated to optimally use the building location, minimize non-renewable energy use, reduce water consumption, while offering healthy settings in which to work and live.
  • Currently, there are LEED rating systems for three market sectors: LEED for New Construction, LEED for Existing Buildings and LEED for Commercial Interiors. This fact sheet focuses on LEED for New Construction.
  • Buildings, rather than individual products or components in it, are eligible for LEED certification.
  • The LEED Green Building Rating System for New Construction was first published in 1999. The current LEED for New Construction is referred to as LEED-NC, Version 2.2.
  • LEED certification is granted by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), a national coalition of 6,400 member organizations and 80 regional chapters. According to usgbc.org, the USGBC’s core purpose 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.”
  • Qualifying commercial buildings may now be LEED certified.
  • LEED certification programs for residential homes, a building’s core and shell and neighborhood development are currently in development.

Why is LEED certification valuable?

According to Mark Godfrey, AIA, LEED AP, with Pazdan-Smith Group Architects in Greenville, South Carolina:

  • “LEED provides a way for all buildings claiming to be sustainable to be graded on a common scale—that way people are comparing apples to apples and no one is making false sustainability claims.
  • LEED is an internationally recognized certification, which can help in promoting your project and/or your firm's commitment to the environment.
  • The rating system looks at the total effects of the building on the environment, not just its energy efficiency or water conservation.
  • LEED is constantly evolving and updating itself to take into account new standards, new technology, new building types, new research and new ideas on green design.
  • Finally, LEED is a tool which helps architects, engineers and clients who are concerned about sustainability to develop a plan to lessen the impact of their buildings on the environment. Not everyone wants to build green, but if you do, it’s a very comprehensive tool to help your building be the best it can.”

How does the LEED rating system work?

  • ‚ÄčA building can earn credits toward LEED certification through performance in five key areas of human and environmental health.

1. Sustainable sites (14 total points possible)

  • The sustainable site category includes a wide variety of criteria, including such items as reducing various types of pollution and conserving a site’s natural elements.
  • Within the 14 points possible in the sustainable sites category, one point is available for light pollution reduction.

2. Water savings (5 points possible)

3. Energy and atmosphere (17 total points possible)

  • This category covers criteria related to the installation and performance of a building’s energy systems, including the heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration systems, the lighting and daylighting controls, hot water systems and renewable energy systems, such as solar or wind.
  • Using Pella products can help earn 10 points within the 17 points possible in the energy and atmosphere category.
  • Pella windows are highly energy efficient with total unit U-values as low as 0.25 (Source: National Fenestration Rating Council) and air infiltration rates as low as 0.05 cfm/sq. ft. (Source: Hallmark Certification testing)
  • Most Pella aluminum-clad wood windows that open (venting windows) are tested for air infiltration when manufactured.
  • Additionally, with Pella products, total-unit Solar Heat Gain Coefficients (SHGC) as low as 0.15 are available (Source: National Fenestration Rating Council).
  • Pella Designer Series® windows and patio doors with blinds between the panes of glass can help contribute to the credit for light pollution reduction. When Pella Designer Series windows and patio doors with blinds are closed at night, they help prevent direct-beam illumination from leaving the building.

4. Materials and resources (13 total points possible)

  • This category covers the criteria for the material selection for a building.
  • Using Pella products can help earn points in the following two areas of the materials and resources category: recycled content and local/regional materials.
  • Recycled content (2 points possible)—A typical Pella product contains in excess of 20% post-industrial recycled content, primarily in the aluminum cladding and glass.
  • Local/regional materials—manufactured locally (1 point possible)—Pella products designed for new construction projects are manufactured at more than 10 locations across the United States. Any project within a 500-mile radius of these manufacturing sites may qualify for this credit. Pella distributors are also located throughout the U.S. and Canada.
  • According to Dara Zycherman, LEED Program Coordinator, “For MRc5 (Materials and Resources credit 5.1), the point of assembly would include a distributor that is doing some sort of finish work and thus would be included in this credit. Local finish work could include mulling or combining units together, or applying a finish to help preserve the windows or doors.

5. Indoor environmental quality (13 total points possible)

  • This category includes a wide variety of criteria related to creating and maintaining a building’s indoor air quality.
  • Using Pella products can help earn up to four points within the 13 total points possible in the following areas of the indoor environmental quality category: low-emitting materials, controllability of systems and the use of daylight and views.
  • Low-emitting materials (1 point possible)—Pella unfinished products or factory-applied interior prime and interior finish options meet these requirements. Products finished elsewhere may not meet these requirements.
  • Controllability of systems (1 point possible)—Pella windows offer a variety of window types that open for fresh air ventilation. Pella casement and awnings can be adapted with a motor operated by a remote control device to operate remotely.
  • Daylight and views—Daylight in 75% of spaces (1 point possible)—Pella Designer Series windows with between-the-glass blinds are an excellent solution for reflecting daylight to the ceiling while eliminating glare associated with daylighting strategies and still allowing views to the outdoors. This is accomplished without the use of interior light shelves, exterior shading devices, baffles or louvers translucent glass options are also available.
  • Daylight and views—Views for 90% of spaces (1 point possible)—Pella windows and doors can easily and effectively integrate fixed and operable windows glazed with glass for views to the outdoors.

6. Innovation and design process (5 points possible)

  • This category awards points for exceeding the minimum criteria in the first five categories and/or innovative performance in categories related to green building categories not specified in the rating system.
  • Using applicable Pella products can help earn one point within the five points possible in this category—Pella windows and doors offer exceptional U-values and SHGCs, which can contribute to the innovation and design credit when exemplary energy performance is achieved under the Energy and Atmosphere category.

There are 69 total credits available for LEED certification.

  • LEED certification is reached between 26 and 32 credits.
  • LEED silver certification is reached between 33 and 38 credits.
  • LEED gold certification is reached between 39 and 51 credits.
  • LEED platinum certification is reached at 52 credits.

For more information about LEED, visit the United States Green Building Council website at www.usgbc.org.

As an industry leader dedicated to using resources responsibly, Pella Corporation is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Pella takes a comprehensive approach to environmental stewardship and provides environmentally-responsible information about its products and services.