What to Know about LEED® Certification

Understanding Performance,
Environment & Ecology

What is LEED® Cerfitication?

Run by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the LEED green building program is an environmentally oriented certification program for buildings that stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Described by the USGBC as a “framework for healthy, efficient, carbon and cost-saving green buildings,” LEED certifications are issued to buildings that improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, lower operational costs and create healthier, more pleasing spaces for occupants.

LEED certification is described by the USGBC as a holistic system – rather than focusing on one particular element of a building or any specific impact it may have, LEED considers the “big picture” and factors in as much of the critical elements of a building as possible to determine a score.

How is LEED Certification Achieved?

To achieve LEED certification, building projects can earn points by meeting certain prerequisite standards relating to carbon, energy, water, waste, transportation, materials, health and indoor environmental quality.

There are four levels of LEED certification: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Once evaluated by third-party credentialing organization Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), buildings are awarded points that correspond to these four levels:

  • Certified: 40-49 Points Earned
  • Silver: 50-59 Points Earned
  • Gold: 60-79 Points Earned
  • Platinum: 80+ Points Earned

Can Building Products Be LEED Approved?

Building products such as architectural glass cannot be LEED approved – LEED accreditation applies only to building projects. However, building products that offer superior environmental benefits compared to comparable products, such as low-emissivity (low-e) glass, can support the achievement of more points toward LEED certification by contributing to a lower energy use score generated by energy modeling. Of course, it is important to note that the use of any product doesn’t necessarily guarantee increased points.

What Are LEED Credit Categories?

The LEED rating system designates multiple options for building projects to earn points in nine credit categories. Architectural glass, in particular, has the potential to help building projects earn LEED points in at least seven categories:

  • Integrative Process (IP)
  • Location and Transportation (LT)
  • Sustainable Sites (SS)
  • Energy & Atmosphere (EA)
  • Materials & Resources (MR)
  • Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
  • Innovation (IN)

Please note: Credits included are for certification under LEED v4 Building Design + Construction (BD+C): New Construction.

What Is LEED Documentation And What Does It Include?

If a project is being considered for LEED certification, products used in the project require documentation from the manufacturers.

The documentation needs to certify where the product was manufactured and the distance it traveled form its manufacturing site to the installation site. This documentation is different from other sustainability documentation with which you may be familiar, such as Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) or Health Product Declarations (HPDs).

What Generally Is Not Included?

Disclosure of the environmental impact of building products is more important than ever for LEED certification and many other leading environmental certifications. For this reason, some manufacturers offer Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) that provide detailed data about the life cycle impacts of their products, which can be third-party verified.

While the availability of EPDs for building products alone was previously satisfactory for some sustainability certifications, industry experts predict that programs such as LEED may soon introduce standards for environmental declarations that demand increased transparency and detail. It is important to understand that building product manufacturers are not opposed to transparency in the context of environmental declarations, but there is concern that demand for more information could compromise proprietary technology by explaining too precisely how certain sustainability results are achieved.

What Other Sustainability Certifications Exist?

Administered by the Cradle-to-Cradle Products Innovation Institute, Cradle to Cradle Certified™ is a recognized measure of safer, more sustainable products made for the circular economy across the globe. In order to receive Cradle-to-Cradle certification, eligible products are evaluated for environmental and social performance across five major sustainability categories: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness.

Achievement of the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ standard is one way that building product manufacturers can inform architectural customers that high standards of sustainability are being met without disclosing proprietary information about how products are manufactured.

The WELL Building Standard® is “a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind,” according to the USGBC. WELL is overseen by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), which is described as “a public benefit corporation whose mission is to improve human health and wellbeing through the built environment.”

The Living Building Challenge (LBC), administered by the International Living Future Institute, is a compliance standard “based on actual, rather than modeled or anticipated, performance.” As a result, projects that pursue this standard must be operational for at least 12 consecutive months in order to audit and verify LBC compliance. Additionally, all projects pursuing the Living Building Challenge standard must be holistic, meaning they need to address basic performance issues f from all seven performance categories or “petals”: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity and beauty.

There are additional sustainability certifications and green building codes that may focus more on regional standards or relate to a specific category such as building envelope, but a key takeaway for architects is that building product manufacturers are ready and willing to work with you to gather documentation on their products and support your application for these certifications.

For additional information about how products from Vitro Architectural Glass can contribute to LEED certification, please visit vitroglazings.com/design-resources/sustainability/leed-credit-categories/.

For any other glass questions, please contact Vitro Glass or call 1-855-VTRO-GLS (1-855-887-6457).