At the core – The LEED® Rating System

If you live in Texas, do business in Texas or anywhere else in the U.S., you know a wave of environmental change is coming.  At the center of that wave is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification program.  2009 marks the innovative program’s 11th full year.Developed by the forward thinking and environmentally responsible U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the LEED® certification program is just one component of a very comprehensive plan to advance the group’s mission, which 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.”When the not-for-profit group was founded in 1993, those lofty goals were certainly outside the mainstream.  Shortly after USGBC’s founding, a core group of architects, builders and engineers set about a three year process of developing clear LEED® standards for new construction.What began as a single purpose initiative now encompasses six related standards and has begun to work its way into industries other than construction.The LEED® standards specifically address:•    Sustainable site development•    Water efficiency•    Energy and atmosphere•    Materials and resources•    Indoor environmental quality•    Innovation and design processLike the LEED® standards and rating system, the USGBC has expanded its scope and size.  The Council now includes 75 regional chapters and more than 11,000 member organizations.LEED® certification is a third-party program that has become the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.  The rating is based on a points system whereby each building is evaluated according to the six basic standards.  The rating system sets four standards of compliance and achievement:•    Certified – 40-50% of non-innovation points•    Silver – 50 – 60%•    Gold – 60 – 80%•    Platinum – 80% +While it may appear easy enough to obtain a LEED® certification, less than 7,500 buildings in the U.S. had accomplished certification by the conclusion of 2008.  The LEED® program has come a long way, but with the support of local, state and federal governments, the program’s future is just ahead.

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