Any building new, or under renovation, can become Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. LEED is a green certification program that takes a "whole building" approach to designing and constructing buildings. LEED certification evaluates a building using key sustainable development principles.
Sustainable Sites The site on which a building is located should only be on previously developed land. Sustainable sites also covers and encourages the building site to only minimally impact the local ecosystem and waterways, use native plants for landscaping, and maximize environmentally friendly transportation options. The site should also work to lessen storm water runoff, light pollution, the building's heat island effect, and pollution during construction of the building.
Water Efficiency Recognizing that buildings use a large percentage of available drinkable water, this area encourages water efficiency both within the building and outside the building. Buildings can reduce their water use with water efficient appliances and by using water wise design in the surrounding landscaping.
Energy and Atmosphere The U.S. Department of Energy reports that buildings use almost 75% of the electricity produced yearly in the U.S. and nearly 40% of the total energy used in the U.S. goes to buildings. To reduce energy consumption buildings are encouraged to monitor their energy consumption, and use efficient design techniques, appliances, and lighting to reduce that energy consumption. Using sustainable energy sources is also promoted.
Material and Resources Waste produced during construction and during the building's lifespan is also a concern. To reduce waste, buildings can be built with sustainable products and develop ways to reuse and recycle materials, from the construction to the operation of the building.
Indoor Environmental Quality According to the EPA, indoor air quality is often worse than the outdoor air quality, and yet Americans on average spend 90% of their time indoors. Through this category methods to improve indoor air quality should be employed and buildings should be designed to maximize the use of natural lighting and views.
Locations and Linkages This category promotes the building of homes near urban centers rather than in undeveloped rural areas. Homes should be near transportation, infrastructure, and other resources. Building near easy access to outdoor activities is also favored.
Awareness and Education Promoting green building must also involve educating the building's residents and surrounding community about using green and sustainable techniques for development. Building owners and operators are encouraged and supported in their efforts to showcase and educated others about the building's green features.
Innovation in Design This category is optional in the LEED certification process. Buildings that include innovative technologies and strategies that are in line with LEED certification goals can earn bonus points towards LEED certification. Bonus points are also given if a LEED Accredited Professional was part of the project's design and construction.
Regional Priority Within each region of the country, local environmental concerns have been identified. Building projects that address local environmental concerns as laid out by the USGBC can earn bonus points.