Learning to LEED: Get familiar with the USGBC’s green building certification system.

If you’ve ever been involved with designing or building a commercial property, you know it’s a huge job. You’ve got to find the right location, get permits, bid contractors, and design every detail of your space—which should definitely include making considerations about energy efficiency.

A “green” building won’t just lessen your environmental footprint—it also puts more cash in your pocket because of the energy you’re saving. Not to mention the potential to get federal tax credits for going green.

So where do you start?

The best place to learn more about green building construction is the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Their LEED program is a rating system that follows a set of guidelines encouraging new construction projects to create more sustainable, cost-effective buildings. LEED-certified properties can also help your employees stay healthier and be more productive.

A LEED certification is recognized across the globe as a prestigious accomplishment. With nearly 20 billion square feet of LEED-certified space in over 165 countries (and with more than two million square feet added daily), it is the gold standard when it comes to sustainability achievement. Its guidelines were developed by thousands of scientists, architects, planners, and industrial experts using a consensus method that’s constantly refined to reflect the latest advances and trends in green construction.

There are four certification levels for LEED: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Many of the ways to improve your chances of LEED certification focus on saving energy, and include:

  • Using energy efficient bulbs and fixtures
  • Using onsite solar panels
  • Choosing environmentally friendly, locally sourced building materials
  • Taking advantage of natural light
  • Improving HVAC efficiency
  • Optimizing waste management
  • Using reflective materials for passive cooling
  • Improving storm water drainage
  • Using vegetation—such as on a roof—to reduce impervious surfaces

These are just a few examples of what the USGBC looks at when evaluating a new LEED project. To learn more about what it takes to become a LEED-certified commercial property, be sure to check out the guide to commercial certification. Existing buildings can also be retroactively LEED certified (for operations and maintenance), although this usually takes significant renovation and is a different process.

No matter what type of commercial facility you’re planning to build, LEED certification can be a great option for your next construction project. Even if you aren’t interested in making your building LEED certified, it’s still a good idea to think about energy efficiency. And keep in mind that we can help make your next project energy efficient right from the start.