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  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

    Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is one of the most popular green building certification programs used worldwide. Developed by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) it includes a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods that aims to help building owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently.

    From 1994 to 2015, LEED grew from one standard for new construction to a comprehensive system of interrelated standards covering aspects from the design and construction to the maintenance and operation of buildings. LEED also has grown from six volunteers on one committee to 119,924 staff, volunteers and professionals. LEED standards have been applied to approximately 83,452 registered and certified LEED projects worldwide, covering around 13.8 billion square feet (1.28 billion square meters).

    USGBC's Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) offers various accreditation to people who demonstrate knowledge of the LEED rating system, including LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP), LEED Green Associate, and since 2011, LEED Fellows, the highest designation for LEED professionals. GBCI also certifies projects pursuing LEED.

    The LEED 2009 performance credit system aims to allocate points "based on the potential environmental impacts and human benefits of each credit." These are weighed using the environmental impact categories of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Tools for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and Other Environmental Impacts (TRACI). and the environmental-impact weighting scheme developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

    The certification process for design teams is made up of two consecutive applications: one including design credits, and one including construction credits. All of the LEED credits in each rating system are assigned to either the design application or the construction application. The design credits include those that are the purview of the architect and the engineer, and are documented in the official construction drawings. The construction credits include those that are predominantly under the purview of the contractor, and are documented during the construction and commissioning of the building.

    Today, increasing demand towards environmental safety forces LEED certification to play major role. The process of the LEED for Homes Rating System, available in the United States, Canada and Sweden, is significantly different from the LEED NC rating system. LEED for Homes projects are low rise residential and are required to work with either an American Provider Organization or a Canadian Provider Organization and a Green Rater. A Provider Organization helps the project through the process while overseeing the Green Raters. Green Raters are individuals that conduct the two mandatory LEED for Homes site inspections; the Thermal Bypass Inspection and the Final Inspection. Although LEED for Homes is typically viewed by the construction industry as a simpler rating system, especially when compared to LEED NC, LEED NC does not require an on-site inspection. The Provider and the Green Rater do not certify the project, but rather assist in the certification process.

    Scofield in 2013 analyzed 21 LEED-certified buildings in New York City. He found that buildings that had achieved LEED Gold used, on average, 20% less source energy than did conventional buildings. Buildings with LEED Silver or LEED Certified ratings actually used 11 to 15% more source energy, on average, than did their conventional counterparts.

    Based on similar dataset (21,477 occupants), in 2013, Schiavon and Altomonte, found that occupants have equivalent satisfaction levels in LEED and non-LEED buildings when evaluated independently from the following nine factors: (1) office type, (2) spatial layout, (3) distance from windows, (4) building size, (5) gender, (6) age, (7) type of work, (8) time at workspace, and (9) weekly working hours. LEED certified buildings may provide higher satisfaction in open spaces than in enclosed offices, in smaller buildings than in larger buildings, and to occupants having spent less than one year in their workspaces rather than to those who have used their workspace longer. The study also points out that the positive value of LEED certification from the aspect of occupant satisfaction may tend to decrease with time.

    As of 2008, LEED (and similar Energy Star) buildings had mostly been evaluated by case studies. From a purely financial perspective, in 2008 several studies found that LEED for-rent office spaces generally charged higher rent and had higher occupancy rates. CoStar Group collects data on properties. The extra cost for the minimum benefit has been estimated at 3%, with an additional 2.5% for silver. More recent studies have confirmed these earlier findings in that certified buildings achieve significantly higher rents, sale prices and occupancy rates as well as lower capitalization rates potentially reflecting lower investment risk.

    The Green Building Certification Institute describes Professional Accreditation as follows: "LEED Professional Credentials demonstrate current knowledge of green building technologies, best practices, and the rapidly evolving LEED Rating Systems. They show differentiation in a growing and competitive industry, and they allow for varied levels of specialization. A LEED Professional Credential provides employers, policymakers, and other stakeholders with assurances of an individual's level of competence and is the mark of the most qualified, educated, and influential green building professionals in the marketplace." Credentials include the LEED Green Associate and the various types of specialized LEED Accredited Professionals (AP).

    The city of Cincinnati, Ohio adopted a measure providing an automatic 100% real property tax exemption of the assessed property value for newly constructed or rehabilitated commercial or residential properties that earn a minimum of LEED Certified.