LEED Green Building Rating System

LEED Green Building Rating Systems

Rating systems are groups of requirements for projects that want to achieve LEED certification. Each group is geared towards the unique needs of a project or building type.

LEED is flexible enough to apply to all project types including healthcare facilities, schools, homes and even entire neighborhoods. The Rating System Selection Guidance will help you determine which specific rating system is right for your project.

Projects earn points to satisfy green building requirements

Within each of the LEED credit categories, projects must satisfy prerequisites and earn points. The number of points the project earns determines its level of LEED certification.


Main credit categories

  • Sustainable sites credits encourage strategies that minimize the impact on ecosystems and water


The location of a project is the foundation for the sustainability of individual buildings or an entire neighborhood. The sustainability of a project site has several aspects:

  • Transportation;
  • Site selection;
  • Site design and management; and
  • Storm water management

These elements encompass the interaction between a project and its local and regional circumstances, as well as the project's impact on ecosystems and water resources. The most sustainable sites are locations that reduce transportation demand, restore degraded or contaminated areas, minimize impacts such as light pollution and manage storm water to protect water quality and aquatic ecosystems.

  • Water efficiency credits promote smarter use of water, inside and out, to reduce potable water consumption.

Americans' use of the limited public water supply continues to increase as development expands. Municipally provided potable water is delivered to users for domestic, commercial, industrial, and other purposes and is the primary source of water for most buildings, but high demand is straining limited supplies. The resulting wastewater then overwhelms treatment facilities, and the untreated overflow can contaminate rivers, lakes, and sources of potable water with bacteria, nitrogen, toxic metals, and other contaminants. Additional municipal supply and treatment facilities must then be built, at public cost. LEED encourages and recognizes efficiency measures that significantly reduce the amount of potable water used by buildings while still meeting the needs of the systems and the occupants. These measures involve all the water usage associated with buildings:

  • Indoor water for restrooms;
  • Outdoor water for landscaping; and
  • Process water for industrial purposes and
  • Building systems.

Efficiency strategies, combined with monitoring that tracks water consumption and identifies problems, can dramatically improve water conservation compared with comparable conventional buildings. Many LEED-rated buildings reduce potable water use by more than 50%, with direct benefits for the bottom line and the environment.

  • Energy & atmosphere credits promote better building energy performance through innovative strategies.

Energy has emerged as a critical economic issue and top priority for policymakers. Unsustainable patterns of energy supply and demand have serious implications and long-term impacts on everything from household budgets to international relations. Buildings are on the front fine of this issue, and the integrated design of buildings, neighborhoods, and entire communities can dramatically boost energy efficiency and benefit from cleaner, renewable energy supplies. Studies have repeatedly shown that well-designed buildings and land use offer some of the most cost-effective opportunities to save money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Efforts to address energy through green building focus on four interconnected elements;

  • Energy demand;
  • Energy efficiency;
  • Renewable energy; and
  • Ongoing energy performance.

Integrative design processes can bring these elements together to identify synergistic strategies. The analysis of whole-building life-cycle costs is central to green building practice because it provides a framework for understanding trade-offs between the first costs and the long-term operating costs of HVAC and other energy-using systems. LEED encourages project teams to use simulation models to quantitatively analyze the trade-offs and identify cost-effective energy-saving strategies. This saves money over the life of the building, saves energy, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts.

  • Materials & resources credits encourage using sustainable building materials and reducing waste.

Buildings generate a large amount of waste throughout their life cycles, from construction to building operations to demolition. The amount of waste leaving the property can be reduced, however, through responsible procurement choices, as well as by implementing comprehensive recycling programs throughout the construction, operation, and demolition phases. Consideration of materials and resources focuses on the health and productivity consequences of material selections for building occupants, plus the long-term social, economic, and environmental l impacts of materials used in the design and construction of the building.

Green building addresses two kinds of problems related to materials and resources:

  • Waste management; and
  • Life-cycle impacts.

LEED recognizes and encourages strategies that consider materials and resources from a long-term, lifecycle perspective.

  • Indoor environmental quality credits promote better indoor air quality and access to daylight and views.

According to the EPA, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, where concentrations of pollutants may be significantly higher than outdoor levels. Consequently, indoor environmental quality is a major concern in buildings. Strategies to improve indoor environmental quality have the potential to enhance the lives of building occupants, increase the resale value of the building, and reduce liability for building owners. Personnel costs-primarily salaries and benefits- are much larger than the typical building's operating costs, such as electricity and maintenance. Thus, strategies that improve employee health and productivity over the long run can have a large return on investment. Moreover, preventing problems is generally much less expensive than dealing with any illnesses and loss of productivity stemming from poor indoor environmental quality. Building owners, designers, and operators should aim to provide stimulating and comfortable environments for the occupants and minimize the risk of building-related health problems. Meeting this goal requires attention to two kinds of issues:

  •  Indoor air quality; and
  •  Thermal comfort, lighting, and acoustics.

Additional LEED for Neighborhood Development credit categories

  • Smart location & linkage credits promote walkable neighborhoods with efficient transportation options and open space.
  • Neighborhood pattern & design credits emphasize compact, walkable, vibrant, mixed-use neighborhoods with good connections to nearby communities.
  • Green infrastructure & buildings credits reduce the environmental consequences of the construction and operation of buildings and infrastructure.

Additional LEED for Homes credit categories

  • Location & linkage credits encourage construction on previously developed or infill sites and promote walkable neighborhoods with access to efficient transportation options and open space.
  • Awareness & education credits encourage home builders and real estate professionals to provide homeowners, tenants and building managers with the education and tools they need to understand and make the most of the green building features of their home.

Two bonus credit categories

  • Innovation in design or innovation in operations credits address sustainable building expertise as well as design measures not covered under the five LEED credit categories. 

The LEED rating systems offer Innovation in Design credits to encourage projects to go above and beyond the credit requirements and explore innovative green building strategies. LEED recognizes two strategies for earning Innovation in Design credits: exceptional performance and innovation.

  • Regional priority credits address regional environmental priorities for buildings in different geographic regions. 


All information provided by the websites of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). <>, and Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). <>.


Thank you for visiting my website. My name is Mark Smith and I reside in Stevensville, Michigan my wife and two children. I have been interested in Architecture since my boyhood days; however, because of my families business—a lumberyard—I never really got a chance to pursue my dream until later in my career. Read more...


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