Reducing Environmental Impacts from Buildings with LEED

By AIA Contract Documents

April 26, 2023

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a certification program that recognizes buildings and communities that prioritize sustainable design, construction, and operation. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world.

The LEED certification process involves a comprehensive evaluation of a building’s environmental impact across various categories such as sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design. Buildings can earn points based on the extent to which they meet specific criteria within each category, and the total points determine the level of certification they receive. The four certification levels are Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, with Platinum being the highest level of recognition.

LEED certification is a voluntary program that is open to all building types, including commercial, residential, and institutional. Buildings that earn LEED certification have been shown to have lower operating costs, increased asset value, and higher occupancy rates compared to non-certified buildings. Additionally, LEED-certified buildings are healthier and more comfortable for occupants due to improved indoor air quality and access to natural light and views.

The LEED program has evolved over the years to include various adaptations for different building types and geographic locations. In addition to building certification, the program also includes certification for interior spaces, building operations and maintenance, and neighborhood development.

LEED has played a significant role in promoting sustainable building practices and raising awareness about the importance of environmental stewardship in the building industry. The program has encouraged the adoption of innovative technologies and strategies that have led to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and waste generation. Furthermore, LEED has influenced building codes and standards, resulting in more sustainable building practices across the industry.

In conclusion, LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability and environmental responsibility in the building industry. It has helped transform the way buildings are designed, constructed, and operated, and has contributed to a more sustainable and resilient built environment.

Working on a sustainable project? AIA Document E204-2017 Sustainable Projects Exhibit, has been developed for use on a wide variety of sustainable projects, including those in which the Sustainable Objective includes obtaining a Sustainability Certification, such as LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), or those in which the Sustainable Objective is based on incorporation of performance-based sustainable design or construction elements. E204–2017 addresses the risks, responsibilities and opportunities unique to projects involving substantial elements of sustainable design and construction (sustainable projects).

AIA Contract Documents has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. This article is also not intended to provide guidance as to how project parties should interpret their specific contracts or resolve contract disputes, as those decisions will need to be made in consultation with legal counsel, insurance counsel, and other professionals, and based upon a multitude of factors.