Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the LEED® Green Building Rating System™ is a framework for identifying, implementing, and measuring green building and neighborhood design, construction, operations, and maintenance.
LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based tool which serves as a guideline and assessment mechanism for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance, green buildings and neighborhoods. LEED rating systems currently address commercial, institutional, and residential building types as well as neighborhood development.
LEED seeks to optimize the use of natural resources, promote regenerative and restorative strategies, maximize the positive and minimize the negative environmental and human health impacts of the buildings industry, and provide high quality indoor environments for building occupants. LEED emphasizes integrated design, appropriate integration of existing technology, and use of state of the art strategies to advance expertise in green building and transform professional practice.
The LEED Green Building Rating System is voluntary, consensus-based, and market-driven. The technical basis on which LEED is built seeks a balance between requirement of existing best practice and voluntary incorporation of leadership strategies. LEED sets a challenging yet achievable set of whole building and neighborhood benchmarks that define green building.
LEED encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable and green building and neighborhood development practices through the creation and implementation of a universally understood and accepted benchmark encompassing existing and new standards, tools, and performance criteria.
USGBC Strategic Goals
- Sustainable Cities and Communities: Catalyze and lead the building sector’s active participation in the movement to achieve sustainable cities and communities.
- Climate and Natural Resources: Lead the dramatic reduction and eventual elimination of building construction and operations’ contribution to climate change and natural resource depletion.
- Green Building Marketplace: Accelerate green building demand, delivery, and accessibility.
- Public Policy: Advocate for effective and comprehensive green building policy and codes at all levels of government.
- International: Advance green building around the world by developing certification 5 Foundations of LEED capacity, sharing knowledge, and collaboratively advancing regionally appropriate and effective green building practices and policies.
- Organizational Excellence: Leverage USGBC’s organizational structure and capacity to support and catalyze the market transformation required to achieve its mission
LEED Strategic Goals
The LEED Green Building Rating System will strive to:
- Promote the tangible and intangible benefits of green buildings, including environmental, economic, human health, and social benefits over the life cycle of buildings.
- Achieve high profile and successful product launches.
- Earn widespread and routine endorsement by private and public real estate industry leaders and stakeholders.
- Earn widespread and routine endorsement by Federal, State, and Local Government and adoption as a vehicle for policy development and implementation.
- Deliver superior customer service that is professional, timely, and targeted to the customer’s needs.
- Offer a comprehensive portfolio of programs to meet the diverse needs of the real estate industry.
- Develop innovative technical tools and support services for LEED products.
- To consolidate LEED as the standard for green building practices for our homes, nonresidential buildings, and developments throughout the U.S.
- To support International adaptations of LEED with interested international organizations, such as green building councils.
- Lead the industry state of knowledge about practical implementation of the most up-to-date and practical innovations.
- Improve LEED performance criteria as the industry gains experience with integrated design, green construction, and sustainable operations and maintenance.
History & Background
Following the formation of the U.S. Green Building Council in 1993, the organization’s members quickly realized that the sustainable building industry needed a system to define and measure “green buildings.” USGBC began to research existing green building metrics and rating systems. Less than a year after formation, the members acted on the initial findings by establishing a committee to focus solely on this topic. The composition of the committee was diverse; it included architects, real estate agents, a building owner, a lawyer, an environmentalist, and industry representatives. This cross section of people and professions added a richness and depth to both the process and to the ultimate product.6 U.S. Green Building Council — July 2009.
The first LEED Pilot Project Program, also referred to as LEED Version 1.0, was launched
at the USGBC Membership Summit in August 1998. After extensive modifications, LEED
Green Building Rating System Version 2.0 was released in March 2000, with LEED Version
2.1 following in 2002 and LEED Version 2.2 following in 2005. This first series of
rating systems was developed to largely address the needs of owner-occupied new construction
As LEED has evolved and matured, the program has undertaken new initiatives. In addition to a rating system specifically devoted to building operational and maintenance issues, LEED addresses the different project development and delivery processes that exist in the U.S. building design and construction market, through rating systems for specific building typologies, sectors, and project scopes: Core & Shell, New Construction, Schools, Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance, Neighborhood Development, Retail, Healthcare, Homes, and Commercial Interiors.
Project teams interact with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) for project registration and certification. GBCI was established in 2008 as a separately incorporated entity with the support of the U.S. Green Building Council. GBCI administers credentialing and certification programs related to green building practice. These programs support the application of proven strategies for increasing and measuring the performance of buildings and communities, as defined by industry systems such as LEED. The green building field is growing and changing daily. New technologies and products are being introduced to the marketplace, and innovative designs and practices are proving their effectiveness. In order to drive this change, the LEED rating systems and reference guides will also evolve. Project teams must comply with the version of the rating system that is current at the time of their registration.