What is LEED Certification?

Written by Simon Whelan

November 22, 2019

Image: Optical Science Center for Applied Research, Delaware State University

LEED certification

Sustainable construction and high-performance architecture is ever more popular. Just few days ago the reputable architecture studio Foster + Partners announced that from 2030 they will design only carbon neutral buildings (Dezeen). And a recent research from USGBC shows that half of the respondents expect to build more than 60 percent of their projects as green buildings by 2021 – all of this driven mostly by client requirements and environmental regulations.

Apparently, this trend leads to increase of popularity of the LEED certification – probably the most popular sustainability symbol in design and construction in the world. As of 2018, only in USA there are 67,593 certified LEED projects. This is compared to just 41 in year 2000. (Statista)

“LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building, community and home project types, LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.”

Buildup LEED

To manage properly for these considerations, the design team should use the ASHRAE 50% Advanced Energy Design Guide (AEDG) and the appropriate climate zone. For projects outside the U.S., consult ASHRAE/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1–2010, Appendixes B and D (1), to determine the appropriate climate zone. ASHRAE has very detailed and extensive prescriptions, including recommendations how to manage the design process in order to achieve the high-performance design goals.

It is important to have couple of things in mind before going into the details of energy efficiency management. 50% AEDG series recommends for achieving 50% site energy savings beyond Standard 90.1-2004 through integrated design, a holistic approach to design that focuses on optimizing the synergy between building systems, as opposed to independent design at the system level.

The 50% AEDG series also offers a performance-based path to achieving the efficiency goal. As savings targets become more aggressive, it becomes less and less practical to recommend a one-size-fits-all approach to design. Many of the 50% AEDGs present whole-building absolute energy targets that reflect recommended strategies and encourage design teams to develop innovative, project-specific solutions that can leverage the principles of integrated design to maximize the cost effectiveness of high-performance design.

Therefore, we must understand that the 30% and 50% AEDG do not give the exact solutions for each particular project but allow for several different approaches which are both not exclusive and complete. There are could be other approaches which would allow for achieving the goals.

Key Takeaways   

LEED and similar sustainability certification systems will become more and more important for the AEC industry and architects and designers could greatly simplify the building design process and link building’s aesthetics with the required performance using BIM technologies like FenestraPro. 

1. More information on Apendicies B and D can be found from ASHRAE.

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