In a world where the anthropogenic stress on our environment grows day by day, perhaps no industry must work towards stewardship as actively as construction engineering. To that end, numerous so-called “green building certification” programs have been established over the years. From the Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method to the Green Building Initiative, all codes share a common goal – to outline standards and practices that will minimize the impact of our infrastructure on the fragile natural environments that surrounds us. However, no code system has been so successful, and so globally prevalent, as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED program. Today, it remains the strongest, most comprehensive code system of them all, and has positioned itself to remain so indefinitely.
What Is LEED Certification?
LEED was developed by the United State’s Green Building Council in the early 2000s to provide guidelines for improving the environmental performance of new buildings. Since its first release, it has rapidly and consistently grown in scope and performance, setting standards for homes, businesses and even entire neighbourhoods. Furthermore, its influence and demand have exponentially increased alongside its development. The LEED system works by asserting a list of design parameters called “credits,” which are earned when a building meets certain structural, energy, cost, air quality and accessibility codes. Based on the number of credits a building’s design has, it may be rated silver, gold, or platinum, corresponding from average to best rating. Though not cheap, LEED has consistently proven to be the most effective and reliable sustainability code, most evident by its overwhelming 13.8 billion square feet in certified space globally.
What Other Systems of Certification Are Available?
The idea of green building standards started in the early 1990’s when the UK first created their Building Research Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). It was from this early initiative that LEED and its predecessors were born. Other systems that were spawned from this initiative include the National Association of Homebuilder’s Green Building Initiative (GBI), which attempts to be all encompassing like LEED, and energy focused ratings like Passive House and Net Zero Energy Building. Newer systems take sustainability to another level by not only reaching for a net zero effect on the surrounding environment, but by actually improving it – the Living Building Challenge being the most popular example of this.
Why Is LEED Better Than the Others?
While all certification systems share a common goal, many of the lesser known standards are regionally tailored to the locations they were developed for. Herein lies LEED’s primary benefit – its geographic versatility. LEED is a global program, and its standards are effective and cutting edge in every market around the globe. Furthermore, LEED is an all-encompassing standard, unlike programs such as Passive House and Net Zero Energy. Where these programs deal exclusively in energy sustainability, LEED deals with this aspect and several others simultaneously. Finally, LEED’s prestige often leads to its use in “trophy buildings” – flagship construction projects all over the world, with owners that desire them to be built to the most prestigious construction standards. In essence, its prestige makes it valuable to builders, and its value means more buildings get certified, and sustainability of global communities is improved overall.