The US Green Building Council (USGBC) is an international organization dedicated to developing and refining green building techniques and performance. The USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is one of the most widely used systems in the world for measuring the environmental impact of a building project, along with the building's operational performance. There are several different types of LEED programs, most of which focus on the entire scope of a project, from the site that has been chosen to the building's mechanical systems. Unlike other LEED programs, the Commercial Interiors (CI) program is designed for individual tenants within a space. LEED CI gives tenants control over green building within their space only, and does not require the rest of the building to follow the program.
Under LEED CI, business owners can have their space certified by the USGBC based on how green, or eco-friendly the project is. The project earns points based on how many different areas of environmental impact are addressed during design and construction. To earn certification, a project must earn 40 to 49 points. By earning 50 to 59 points, the project is given a "Silver" rating, while those projects earning 60 to 79 points will earn "Gold" status. Projects that earn more than 80 points under the LEED CI program are given a "Platinum" rating, which is the highest possible certification for a green building.
There are many different ways for building owners to earn points under LEED CI, and each method is categorized under one of six different headings. As part of the "Sustainable Sites" category, projects can earn points for adding bike racks for commuters, or by encouraging occupants to use public transportation instead of cars. Under the "Water Efficiency" category, projects earn points by reducing water consumption through low-flow fixtures and graywater recycling systems. Buildings can also earn a large number of points under the "Energy and Atmosphere" category, which is aimed at improving the efficiency of power, heating and cooling systems.
As part of the "Materials and Resources" category, projects earn points for using recycled or sustainable materials. The "Indoor Air Quality" category focuses on improving ventilation to achieve safe indoor air quality levels. Projects can also earn points within this category by using low-emitting paints, carpets, and adhesives to help reduce toxic fumes and gases. Finally, some projects earn bonus points under a category called "Innovation and Design." This allows building owners and designers to develop and incorporate their own unique methods of making the project more "green."
Building owners must register with the USGBC to be eligible for the LEED CI program. As the project progresses, they must submit records to the USGBC review board to support each possible credit, or point. The USGBC will evaluate each point to determine which level of certification, if any, will be awarded.
Those employed in the design and construction trades may wish to pursue accreditation under the LEED CI program. Individuals must pass an exam through the USGBC to earn accreditation. Once an individual is accredited, he or she will have all the skills and training necessary to help lead a project through the certification process. While accreditation is voluntary, many employees will find that it can improve their job prospects, and often helps to facilitate the difficult certification process.