The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your LEED Green Building Certification

Bill Starkey
4 min readDec 7, 2021

Did you know that since 1901, the average global temperature has been rising by roughly 0.16 degrees Fahrenheit each decade? The decade 2011–2020 was the warmest on record worldwide, and eight of the top ten warmest years for the U.S. have occurred since 1988. It’s clear that climate change is accelerating.

Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide-the primary cause of climate change-is more important than ever, if we want to avoid runaway climate change.

One way to do this is to design and build more sustainable homes, businesses, and communities. LEED certification can help people do exactly this.

To learn more about what this certification means and why it matters, keep reading.

What Is LEED?

So, what is LEED? LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is one of the most widely used rating systems for green buildings around the world. Created by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED can be used to rate just about any type of structure and provides guidance on constructing environmentally friendly buildings.

Having a LEED certification is important for developers and building owners because it is a symbol of leadership and achievement in the field of sustainability. Because of its global recognition, this building certification is a way for companies to receive international acknowledgement for their efforts in protecting the planet.

One of the many advantages of using the LEED certification system is that it can be used for all types of buildings and buildings at various phases of construction. This means newly constructed buildings, interior fit-outs, shell buildings, and more all fall under the umbrella of the LEED certification.

What Are the Benefits of Getting LEED Certified?

Building projects that become LEED certified are able to take advantage of a number of different benefits. These benefits can transform organizations in many different ways.

One of the first benefits of getting a building project LEED-certified is that it helps the building owner save money. Not only does it reduce energy and water use and shrink operating costs, but it also can give the building owner a competitive edge.

LEED-certified buildings also provide health benefits. Buildings that have undergone the changes needed to become LEED-certified have less pollution, better air quality, and improved indoor environments, leading to a healthier overall place to live or work.

Finally, LEED-certified buildings can lead to positive change in communities. They inspire others in the community to take the same steps and to work toward a healthier world.

How to Get LEED Certified

With all the benefits of becoming LEED-certified, it’s no wonder that many organizations are choosing this option. And, luckily, becoming LEED-certified is a fairly straightforward process.

To start, project leads will need to identify their building project’s type. There are eight types of LEED certification rating systems:

  1. Building Design and Construction (BD+C): For new construction or major renovation projects
  2. Interior Design and Construction (ID+C): For interior fit-outs.
  3. Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M): For buildings that already exist and are being reconstructed or having minor work done.
  4. Neighborhood Development (ND): For redevelopment or new land development projects for commercial, public, and residential uses.
  5. Homes: For low or mid-rise multi-family homes or single-family homes.
  6. Cities and Communities: For sub-sections of cities and entire cities.
  7. Recertification: For maintaining LEED certification in any of the above categories.
  8. LEED Zero: For LEED projects aiming for net-zero in carbon and resources.

Once the correct type of project has been identified, it’s time to start earning points according to the LEED rating system. Projects earn points by meeting certain sustainability prerequisites related to innovation in design, building materials, site development, energy efficiency, water savings, indoor environment quality, and regional priorities.

As a project earns more points, it moves up in rankings. Projects can be rated in the following categories:

Once a project has between 40 and 49 points, that building is considered LEED certified. That’s just the beginning for businesses interested in reducing the environmental impact of their buildings.

The Cost of Getting LEED Certified

While it would be great if the opposite were true, getting LEED-certified isn’t free. Any project that aspires to be LEED-certified must pay certain associated fees.

The good news is that the registration fees include several benefits. For one, all projects receive access to Arc. The Arc platform allows businesses and project managers to track their project’s progress.

In addition to the Arc platform, registration fees provide project leaders with access to a dedicated LEED Coach. The LEED Coach helps guide managers through the certification process.

The cost of certification varies based on a few different factors. For one, the location of the project will affect the cost, as will the size of the building and the category of LEED certification the project is pursuing. USGBC members receive discounts.

Get LEED Certified Today

Getting LEED certified is a big decision. It’s a project that takes a lot of energy and time. However, it’s also a decision that can have a hugely positive impact on the environment. According to some estimates, buildings are responsible for about 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year. The LEED certification process provides a way for individual building owners and entire communities to rethink their built environment, reduce their carbon footprint, and create a healthier future.

Originally published at on December 7, 2021.



Bill Starkey

A real estate professional in Montgomery, Texas, Bill Starkey spent more than 37 years as CEO of Starkey Construction, LLC.