Terminology Time: LEED

I defined LEED on this blog many years ago, but because we’re about to do a series on a new pilot credit, I think we should start by reminding everyone just what LEED is (and isn’t). The USGBC (that’s the United States Green Building Council) says that “The LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is a voluntary, consensus-based standard to support and certify successful green building design, construction and operations.”

In short, LEED certification offers third-party validation of a project’s green features.

LEED was launched in the U.S. in 2000 and in Canada in 2004. Rating systems in both countries continue to evolve and improve over time as technologies, techniques, understanding, motivation and awareness improve. The Canadian and U.S. versions are very similar but adapted for regulatory environments and climates.

LEED is probably the most widely used and influential rating system in the world. It has a significant “brand recognition” with the average consumer, even if they are sometimes confused as to what it means. More than 90,000 projects across 165 countries are now using LEED – enough so that, on average, 2.2 million sq. ft. of building space per day gets LEED certified. LEED-certified buildings demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility and the economic benefits include lower operating costs and increased asset value and many projects qualify for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives.

A few notes about the program:

First, I think one of the most important things the industry (and consumers) need to recognize is the fact that there is no such thing as a LEED certified product. There are characteristics or attributes of products that meet the requirements of particular LEED credits and thus LEED-compliant products have the potential to contribute to earning one or more points under those credits. But in order to earn a point and contribute toward a project’s certification, multiple compliant products will need to be used – a single product is never enough. Most importantly, no individual product is specifically certified or even recognized by LEED. To be clear, there is no “LEED certified product.” LEED certifies buildings, not products.

Further, the use of a product with a recognized attribute doesn’t automatically mean that a point will be earned within the relevant credit. LEED is a complicated program (in any version!) and all the industry can do is provide information about the qualifying attributes. The LEED recognized “value” of such attributes will be based on how they are used within the building while simultaneously factoring in many other considerations such as overall percentages of volume and value, as well as similar/related products’ potential contributions as well. For example, using FSC certified wood in the lobby may not be enough to qualify for an FSC-based credit if all the other wood in the building is not FSC certified. A sufficient volume and value of FSC needs to be utilized by the entire project.

And finally, it is “LEED,” not “LEEDS,” and many LEED professionals take that ‘s’ seriously, so don’t call it LEEDS!

So that’s LEED. Now, over the next few weeks I’ve got a guest blogger, Jason Grant, coming in to tell us about a new pilot credit in LEED for “Timber Traceability” which is often informally referred to as “the Legal Wood Credit.” Stay tuned to learn more!

Elizabeth Baldwin is Environmental Compliance Officer for Metropolitan Hardwood Floors. In her 25 plus year career in the wood industry has visited over 70 countries and hundreds of facilities of all sizes and types. She describes herself as a “jack of all wood trades.” Familiar with jungles of all sorts–having camped out along the Amazon and walked the halls of Congress–she blogs for the NWFA on both environmental and regulatory issues for educational and informational purposes only. Her blog is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking legal advice on compliance with CARB, TSCA, the U.S. Lacey Act or any other law, regulation, or compliance requirement/claim should consult with the regulatory agency directly and/or a qualified legal professional.

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