Understanding LEED: What Makes Your Company Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum?

Understanding LEED

Since 1998, the LEED rating systems (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) have been used to help building owners increase the energy efficiency, environmental responsibility, and design standards of their buildings.

The LEED system was developed by the US Green Building Council and has been applied to over 7,000 projects in the United States and around the world. From renovated buildings to new structures, any type of building (with the program’s minimum requirements) can become LEED certified.

You may have noticed these LEED ratings while browsing websites about some of the United States’ newest buildings. You may have also noticed them listed as key benefits of energy efficient daylighting systems.

In this simple guide, we will cover the minimum requirements for commercial buildings pursuing LEED certification. We will also look at what requirements a commercial building needs to meet in order to become certified under LEED 2009 with a Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum level certification.

LEED minimum requirements:

In order to pursue LEED certification, a building needs to meet the LEED minimum standards. These standards vary depending on the type of certification the building is pursuing. In this case, we’ll be looking at the LEED Commercial Certification.

Buildings pursuing LEED Commercial Certification must:

  • Be in a permanent location on existing land
  • Use reasonable LEED boundaries
  • Comply with project size requirements

Depending on the type of LEED rating system your project is pursuing certification under, you may also need to meet some additional requirements. The types of LEED certification available for commercial buildings include:

  • LEED for Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C)
  • LEED for Interior Design and Construction (LEED ID+C)
  • LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED EB: O+M)

You can read more about the different types of LEED certification at the LEED online credit library.

All buildings that qualify for LEED certification are considered to be above average in terms of energy efficiency and design. However, LEED certification is available in four forms, each of which denotes a different level of environmental achievement.

Under LEED 2009, buildings are judged in six categories. These six categories offer 100 base points that buildings can use for certification. The six credit categories are:

  • Innovation in Design
  • Indoor Environment Quality
  • Materials and Resources
  • Energy and Atmosphere
  • Water Efficiency
  • Sustainable Sites

As the 100 base points are spread across six different categories, a building with a low score in a certain category – for example, Water Efficiency – can still achieve a good LEED rating based on its score in a different category.

In addition to the 100 base points awarded in the six categories listed above, there are ten bonus LEED points available in two categories: six points for Innovation in Design, and four points for Regional Priority Credits.

Certified: 40-49 points

Certified is the most basic LEED rating. Buildings are LEED Certified if they score at least 40 points in the 100-point rating system. Buildings that are LEED Certified are significantly more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than average.

Silver: 50-59 points

Silver is the third-highest LEED rating. Buildings are LEED Silver certified if they score at least 50 points in the 100-point rating system.

Gold: 60-79 points

Gold is the second-highest LEED rating. Buildings are LEED Gold certified if they score at least 60 points in the 100-point rating system.
Platinum: 80 points or above

Platinum is the highest LEED rating. Buildings can achieve LEED Platinum only if they score at least 80 points in the 100-point rating system. Platinum buildings are regarded as being highly energy efficient and well designed.

Understanding LEED: How Bristolite Can Help


We understand the different LEED ratings and certification systems, and can help you learn more about how to apply for LEED. Visit our Introduction to LEED guide to learn more about the different tiers of LEED credentialing, as well as the various rating systems used to assess a building’s green design and energy efficiency.

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