LEED offers easy path to sustainabilityAs more people start to think seriously about sustainability and energy efficiency, it becomes increasingly important to have reliable standards by which to judge these sometimes vague concepts. Obviously, energy efficiency can be discussed in simple terms of costs, but those can vary from day to day, and even consumption doesn’t necessarily give you a clear idea of what you’re getting for what you’re giving.

Instead, many businesses and even a growing number of homeowners are starting to turn to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, often known simply as LEED certification.

The USGBC started this program two decades ago, looking to provide a reliable benchmark for green buildings so that businesses could invest in sustainability and efficiency with confidence. Since then, the program has expanded dramatically to cover more than 7,000 buildings and 110 million square feet.

The program boasts some impressive benefits, with LEED-certified buildings seeing their energy and water costs drop by as much as 40 percent, but it also covers much more than simple energy efficiency.

There are actually nine different rating systems for various types of construction projects, ranging from neighborhood development to healthcare facilities to retail businesses. In each of these systems, the project is judged on five different categories of sustainability: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

Projects can earn a variety of credits from each category adding up to a maximum of 100, though there are also a few additional categories for certain types of projects and bonuses for particularly innovative designs. Depending on how many points a project earns, it can earn one of four different certification levels: basic, silver, gold and platinum.

Much of the appeal for businesses, however, is not just that they can save money on small business energy costs. Rather, many businesses have been drawn to LEED because the reliable, streamlined application process makes it significantly simpler to earn certification for these investments, but, at the same time, the USGBC has developed an extremely solid reputation.

This makes it significantly simpler for businesses to use these credentials to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency, which can have a wide range of benefits. Many commercial buildings have seen improved occupancy rates from these investments, while others have parlayed them into powerful marketing campaigns.

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