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  • Latest Architect’s Guide For LEED Certification Checklist 2023

    In order to design a green building, architects require an updated version of the LEED Certification Checklist, i.e., LEED v5. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, aka LEED, is the most popular green building rating system in the world. A LEED Certification Checklist simplifies referring to and building environmentally conscious buildings while honouring architects for the same.

    Image Credits: ongreening.com

    Since its inception in 1993 by the USGBC, there have been more than 100,000 projects in about 180 countries. Considering India, there are 146 buildings, and it ranks third in the Top 10 countries in 2021. For this purpose, there are four levels of certification given to deserving buildings: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

    As a result, the LEED Certification Checklist on the USGBC website might be quite overwhelming. So, here’s a compact guide for your next LEED-rated building.

    Levels of LEED Rating

    Image Credits: Green Building Alliance

    Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) is the private organisation responsible for awarding rating systems. There are 4 Rating Systems, where the maximum score is 110.

    9 Criteria Checklist For LEED Certification

    Image Credits: USGBC

    1.Energy and Atmosphere: 33%

    The building’s energy consumption and the use of energy-efficient technologies are major criteria for LEED Certification. It must include the following:

    1. Meet the standards for minimum energy performance.
    2. Must incorporate additional energy-saving strategies to nullify the excess energy consumption.
    3. Source renewable energy on site and utilise a certain amount for the building’s energy requirements.
    4. The building must undergo thorough commissioning for optimal operation on site.
    5. Minimise refrigerant use due to its impact on global warming.

    2.Indoor Environmental Quality: 16%

    The building must contribute to the health and wellbeing of its users. IEQ must include the following:

    1. Utilise strategies to reduce vibrations and noise pollution through sound-absorbing materials.
    2. Enhance thermal comfort by using shading devices and natural ventilation.
    3. Incorporate natural light and perfect views for the mental wellbeing of the users.

    3.Location and Transportation: 16%

    The criteria cover the impact location and transportation can have on the building. Its involvement can be taken from the site development stage itself and is as follows:

    1. Provide transportation options such as car pooling and bike storage programmes.
    2. Provision of secure changing rooms and bicycle storage facilities for ease of use.
    3. Investigate if there is access to public transportation and shuttle services.

    4.Water Efficiency: 11%

    The criteria involve the water consumption of the building throughout the construction process. The credits for efficient water usage are as follows:

    1. The design must include drought-tolerant landscaping and irrigation systems with minimum water usage.
    2. Must incorporate innovative technology to reuse and treat wastewater.
    3. Use water-efficient appliances and fixtures to reduce water consumption.
    4. Implement strategies like a rainwater harvesting system that captures and reuses stormwater.

    5.Materials and Resources: 13%

    It encourages the use of materials with low environmental impact, recycling, and the use of locally sourced products. The following are the credit criteria:

    1. Must have a higher percentage of recycled materials as compared to new ones.
    2. Implement locally sourced materials rather than imported products to reduce the impact of transportation on the environment.
    3. Reduce waste generated from construction and use strategies such as recycling and reusing materials.
    4. Investigate the ingredients in each material and avoid materials with high levels of harmful chemicals.

    6.Sustainable Sites: 10%

    The criteria involve sustainable site selection and its impact on the environment. The credits are as follows:

    1. Recognise areas with low environmental impact and risk of natural disasters.
    2. Encourage brownfield development, which makes use of abandoned, contaminated, and redeveloped sites.
    3. Recognise and promote sustainable development patterns like walkable and accessible neighbourhoods.

    7.Design Innovation: 6%

    It involves innovative design strategies throughout the construction process. The credits are as follows:

    1. Incorporate innovative design solutions that encourage efficient and sustainable use of energy.
    2. Adopt innovative operational practices that are sustainable and energy-efficient.

    8.Regional Priority: 4%

    It involves recognising environmental issues that are specific to a certain region and climate zone.

    9.Integrative Process: 1%

    The category covers overall strategies related to the design and construction of a building. It involves the following credits:

    1. Implement effective project management practices for an efficient building design.
    2. Integrate various design processes and bring all project stakeholders earlier into the design process.

    Here is an interactive scorecard to see if your building can achieve LEED Certification:

    How To Get A LEED Credential?

    Image Credits: Emirates GBC

    As an architect or interior designer, one can step into the world of green design by obtaining a LEED Credential. Obtaining a credential can help one understand the rating criteria and make obtaining the certification much easier. LEED Accreditation can be made simple by utilising the exam preparation package offered by USGBC.

    According to USGBC, one must clear two levels, which can either be taken separately or together. 

    1.LEED Green Associate (LEED GA): 

    Clearing LEED GA is the first step to getting a certification. It assesses the general knowledge of green building practices. The examination will take place online, with the option to attempt it from a test centre or from home. The time duration is two hours with 100 multiple-choice questions.

    2.LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP): LEED AP is an advanced level examination that focuses on five specialities based on expertise, which are as follows:

    1. Building Design + Construction (BD+C): Guidelines for new buildings and renovations of old buildings
    2. Operations + Maintenance (O+M): Guidelines for owners to measure maintenance and minor improvements after construction
    3. Interior Design + Construction (ID+C): Guidelines for interior design and renovations
    4. Neighbourhood Development: Principles for sustainable urbanism and smart growth of city planning.
    5. Homes: Guidelines for three-story or less single and multi-family residential structures.

    Similar to LEED GA, it gives an option to attempt from a test centre or from home.

    Image Credits: USGBC

    Minimum Program Requirement (MPR) For LEED Certification

    Here are the Minimum Program Requirement For LEED Certification:

    1. The construction must be in a permanent location. The project must not move at any point in its lifetime.
    2. The project must adhere to LEED boundaries, which include all kinds of land that are part of the project, such as parking, sidewalks, septic tanks, etc.
    3. The project must meet the minimum area requirement according to the LEED Project typology. For that, one must understand the various categories and decide accordingly.

    Getting Started With A LEED Project

    Once you become a LEED-accredited professional, you need to decide the project category. There is a LEED category for every project:

    1. Building Design and Construction (BD+C): Minimum of 1,000 square feet (93 square metres) of gross floor area.
    2. Interior Design and Construction (ID+C): Minimum of 250 square feet (22 square metres) of gross floor area
    3. Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M): Minimum of 1,000 square feet (93 square metres) of gross floor area.
    4. Neighbourhood Development (ND): Not larger than 1500 acres and must contain at least two habitable buildings.
    5. Homes: Must be defined as “dwelling units,”, which include permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation as per the International Residential Code.
    6. Cities: MPR is not applicable.

    Steps To LEED Certification

    Image Credits: ongreening.com

    1. Decide the LEED project typology or category for certification. This LEED Rating interactive tool can help you decide your project type:

    2. Select the right LEED Rating System using the 40/60 rule. The rule helps to choose the appropriate rating system when a project is applicable to multiple rating systems. It involves comparing the total floor area (TFA) of the project as follows:

    1. If Rating System TFA < 40% Project TFA: Rating System cannot be used
    2. If Rating System TFA > 60% Project TFA: Rating System can be used
    3. In case Rating System TFA is between 40 and 60 (example multi-use projects): The project team can decide

    3. After deciding, it is time to start a LEED project, which involves continuous evaluation. Visit the USGBC links for the following categories:

    1. Commercial (BD+C, ID+C, O+M): LEED Certification Commercial
    1. Neighbourhood Development: LEED Certification Neighbourhood
    1. Residential/ Home: LEED Certification Residential
    1. Cities and Communities: LEED Certification Cities

    4. To know more about the points for each criteria, refer to the credit library: LEED Credit Library

    Image Credits: brgfx (Freepik)

    To conclude, keeping a LEED Certification Checklist in hand can help make designing green buildings much easier. When it comes to green design, LEED Certification is credible proof for your clients that the building adheres to sustainability standards. LEED has various proven benefits to not just the environment but also the owner, as it will increase the value in the market.

    But should LEED Certification be the prime measure for sustainable design?

    The aim must not be to cross out each criteria in the LEED Certification Checklist, as it might miss out on the human touch. As long as the architect is true to one’s ideology of a green future, the design will naturally be sustainable.

    Text By: Gopika Pramod

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