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Gabriela Anez-Lobon
By Gabriela Anez-Lobon on January 19, 2021

What Does LEED Mean?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it is a building rating system used worldwide.

It applies to all kinds of structures – commercial and residential – and even to communities. 

According to the US Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED projects resulted in these cost savings, in just over three years.

  • $1.2 billion in energy savings
  • $149.5 million in water savings
  • $715.3 million in maintenance savings
  • $54.2 million in waste savings

But cost-savings is not the only goal of LEED construction and upgrades.

LEED-certified buildings and geographies reduce CO2 emissions by at least 34 percent, significantly impacting environmental health and sustainability.

A Brief History of LEED

In 1993, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) put the wheels in motion to create a new standard for construction – a comprehensive system that covered all parts of the development process. 

Originally a volunteer organization staffed by building professionals and scientists, its goal was to bring the industry together around common and transparent standards. The organization has grown dramatically since then, but its goals are timeless:

  • Define green building and development
  • Promote integrated design and construction, with a mission of sustainability
  • Herald those projects and communities that exhibit environmental leadership
  • Stimulate green competition
  • Make business owners and consumers more aware of green design and building benefits

LEED has become synonymous with environmental action, and the rating system covers a wide range of products and design elements.

At the end of 2019, Statista reported close to 70,000 LEED projects in the U.S. alone.

How Does LEED Work?

Any project – new construction or renovation – can file for LEED certification. Using a point system, the USGBC rates a project at one of the four levels:

  • Certified
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum

As mentioned earlier, many types of projects qualify for LEED certification. The categories used in the application process are:

  1. Building Design and Construction: A wide range of commercial and residential structures fall into this category, including schools, warehouses, multi-unit housing, and retail stores.
  2. Interior Design and Construction: Especially relevant in the hospitality sector, decisions regarding materials, lighting, and energy use can have a massive impact on both costs and sustainability.
  3. Buildings Operations and Maintenance: Upgrades to buildings that have been operational for at least a year can result in significant environmental benefits and cost reductions. LEED does not just apply to new construction.
  4. Neighborhood Development: Entire communities have engaged in projects to reduce their carbon footprints, create a healthier living environment, and save taxpayers millions.

Significant LEED Projects

If you’re considering LEED certification for an upcoming project, look to these glowing green examples of how a wide range of industries and use cases have adopted LEED principles.


From pre-schools to libraries to corporate headquarters, these 10 buildings are just a small sample of how architects, designers, manufacturers, and contractors have come together to deliver sustainable structures. 

Energy use, construction materials, outdoor spaces, and LED lighting installations are just a few of the many steps in creating these earth-friendly and efficient environments.

guide to commercial led lightingEven massive spaces like campuses and stadiums have adopted LEED principles. For example, 30 sports stadiums are LEED-certified. Not only does this construction benefit the owner via cost savings, but they also make consumers more aware of sustainability practices. 

LEED standards do not damper design creativity. The USCBG declared these projects “super rad” because of their innovative application of steps toward sustainability. 


Health and well-being are now a significant focus of both individuals and entire geographies. Worldwide, 100 cities and communities have been LEED-certified. These statistics represent eight countries. To provide incentives and learning opportunities for municipalities and government decision-makers, the USGBC holds a recognition ceremony. A crucial part of sustainable innovation is collaboration. Bringing together the champions of LEED not only acknowledges the importance of sustainability efforts, but it encourages areas to learn from each other and apply best practices.


Lighting is not only a huge expense item and energy drain, but it can have a significant impact on the health and safety of your employees, consumers, and other stakeholders. LED (light-emitting diode) lighting is 90 percent more efficient than conventional lighting, saving energy and expenses.

As you embark on your LEED exploration and upgrades, think about how lighting impacts your environment. Use our simple energy audit checklist to set your baseline.

Some of the lighting elements that factor into LEED certification include energy performance, light controls, light pollution, and mercury content. Upgrading your lighting system is relatively simple to do and can dramatically impact costs and environmental health.

LED is a simple steps toward LEED certification. Access the Commercial LED Lighting Guide to learn more. 

guide to commercial led lighting

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Published by Gabriela Anez-Lobon January 19, 2021
Gabriela Anez-Lobon

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