How to Get LEED Certification

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Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an environmental building certification system developed and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED certification guidelines provide architects, engineers, general contractors and building owners with specific “green” — or environmentally conscious — ways of designing, building and maintaining structures. Various levels of LEED certification are available. Levels are tallied on a 100-point scale. The greater the environmental impact of a building feature, the higher the point value assigned.

Determine the type of LEED certification you want to obtain by reviewing guidelines provided by the USGBC. A building project must meet all prerequisites from its category to qualify for LEED certification. Certification is available for new construction and for retro-fit commercial construction, as well as for residential structures.

Develop specific sustainable building strategies that will meet the requirements of the level of LEED certification you hope to attain. This process generally involves all members of a building team. Areas to consider include the sustainability and environmental impact of site selection, water system efficiency, energy-wise power systems and building materials, and resources that have a minimal ecological impact and are sustainably grown.

Register your project with the Green Building Certification Institute and pay the applicable registration fee. This step serves as a declaration of intent to certify a building or project, and it grants access to additional resources that may be helpful during the building and certification processes.

Complete the building or retrofitting project per the guidelines in your selected LEED certification category.

Prepare an application for certification. Each level of certification requires specific documentation, which may be accessed through the USGBC LEED certification website. As part of the application, the project manager must indicate which certification is being sought and name the specific individual or individuals responsible for executing the necessary steps outlined for certification. The application will also ask for specific details about the fundamental green aspects of the building or project seeking certification.

Upload the completed application with applicable documentation to LEED Online. If the project is approved, a certificate of certification will be received. If the certification is denied, you may appeal the decision.


  • While LEED certification generally applies to building certification, it is also possible for a building professional to be individually certified by the USGBC as a LEED Green Associate.

    In addition to LEED certification, the USGBC offers an Innovation in Design designation for qualified building projects that use innovative approaches that exceed LEED certification requirements.

    Additional points may be earned toward LEED certification for projects that meet “regional priorities” established by regional USGBC offices. Check regional chapters to see if your project qualifies.


  • Building a facility or retrofitting an existing building to meet LEED certification standards might be more costly than traditional building methods. For best results, factor these cost considerations into construction budgeting before undertaking any project.