The United States Green Building Council offers LEED certification for individuals who are interested in sustainable construction practices. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a voluntary system of construction guidelines, developed by the federal government to stimulate green innovation and practice in building.
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There are four levels of LEED certification: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. The LEED system has been around since 1991, and at present there are LEED buildings in all 50 states and in 24 countries around the world.
The LEED system divides a building into six categories: sustainable sites; water conservation; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; indoor environmental quality; and green design innovations.
In order to obtain LEED certification, a builder needs to understand each of these subjects. Although the LEED program is entirely voluntary, there are a number of advantages to certification. For one thing, LEED certification increases the value of construction.
Increasingly, buyers are willing to pay more for buildings constructed with environmentally sound practices. Moreover, LEED certification can generate tax breaks, and can expedite the permitting process. Whenever possible, governments try to provide incentives for sustainable and green building.
Currently, there are six different categories of LEED certification: LEED-NC (new commercial construction and major renovations); LEED-CI (commercial interiors projects); LEED-CS (core and shell projects); LEED-EB (existing buildings); LEED-H (homes); and LEED-ND (neighborhood development). The requirements for LEED certification are different in each of these categories.