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Nine Ways to LEED

Monica Mosure

August 9, 2013

The U.S. Green Building Council has been busy developing and refining its LEED rating system to help buildings of all types, ages, and end-uses to become certified as sustainable and energy efficient. In fact, there are now NINE rating systems. Can you name them all?


In case you can’t, here is the Cliff’s Notes version (based off USGBC’s LEED Rating System Breakdown) of all available rating systems and their purpose.

Nine Ways to LEED

1. New Construction and Major Renovations: Applicable to a variety of building types, including offices, libraries, churches, and government buildings, this rating system addresses design and construction activities ranging from HVAC improvements to major interior rehabilitation.


2. Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance: This rating system encourages building owners / operators to implement sustainable and energy efficient practices to reduce their buildings’ environmental impacts. A prerequisite to the rating is that the building must have an ENERGY STAR score of 69 or higher. According to Brenda Owens in her article Jumpstart: A New Pathway to LEED-EB, all building types are eligible for certification under LEED for Existing Buildings, and recertification is required every five years.


3. Commercial Interiors: Designed for certifying tenant spaces, the focus of this system is creating healthy spaces that are a productive place to work, have a reduced environmental impact, and are less costly to operate. This system was specifically designed for tenants who lease space in a commercial building, but it was also designed to work with LEED for Core and Shell rating system.


4. Core and Shell Development: A complement to the Commercial Interiors system, the Core and Shell Development system can be used for projects where a developer controls the design and construction of the core and shell of a building, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection.


5. Retail: Retail projects can obtain certification within two additional rating categories, New Construction and Major Renovation or Commercial Interiors. Each type of certification addresses the unique needs of retail clients, such as occupancy characteristics, hours of operations, parking needs, and transportation logistics. LEED for Retail: Commercial Interior is for tenant spaces where a retailer is retrofitting an existing building and has no control over the shell of the building.


6. Schools: Designed specifically to meet the needs of K-12 schools, this rating ensures that buildings are healthy for students and teachers, as well as cost effective.  LEED for new school construction projects focuses its grading criteria on acoustics, mold prevention, and environmental site assessment.


7. Homes: Just as the name implies, this rating system is for multifamily and single family projects. It aims to improve homes in four areas: health (in specific indoor air quality); savings (reducing energy and water consumption, which leads to less money spent on utility bills); trust (a third party ensures your home is inspected and tested for highest performance); and value (green homes can be built for the same cost as conventional homes, but often sell for higher values). It is worth noting that this system can only be used to rate new homes and total residential renovations.


8. Neighborhood Development: Smart growth and even smarter design is what this rating system is all about. After all, well-planned neighborhood design can reduce dependence on automobiles and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This rating system encourages the respect and reuse of historic resources and aims to reduce the use of water resources, energy, and other natural resources.


9. Healthcare: Stringent regulatory requirements and around-the-clock operations are just two ways to describe the special characteristics of a healthcare building, which is why USGBC designed a rating just for these one-of-a-kind building types. This rating system is geared toward inpatient outpatient care and long-term care facilities, but it can also be used for other medical building facility needs.


With so many customized rating systems, it is easier than ever to become more sustainable and save money on utility bills.

Don’t know where to start? Contact our LEED and sustainable development experts at or visit our Sustainable Design page, to learn more.