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What is LEED NC?

By Britt Archer
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) established the LEED system in 1998 to measure how ecologically friendly a building is. LEED is just one of many “green” building certifications that a contractor or homeowner can obtain, but it is the most recognized. In fact, the program is now internationally recognized. Although existing buildings can obtain LEED certification, only new construction can be certified LEED NC, and the "NC" stands for "new construction." As a rating system, it measures certain qualities of a building to see if they meet the standards set forth by the USGBC.

The qualifications for LEED NC have changed over the years as new technology has become available to developers and builders. As such, the most updated standards are what are taken into consideration when a builder tries to get this certification for a project. While not all criteria need to be met, experts recommend that projects meet as many as possible. The goal is not only to achieve certification, but also to actually minimize the finished project’s impact on the environment.

The qualifications needed to meet these standards are broken up into several categories: the choosing of sustainable sites, water efficiency, impact on the atmosphere and energy use, building materials and resources, the indoor environment, and whether a design is innovative. All of these categories have certain criteria a building must meet before it can become LEED certified. The standards are presented as a checklist, and each item on the list is given a point value. Certifications are given based on the total point value achieved, and the higher the points, the more ecologically friendly a building is.

To meet LEED NC standards, a builder must first look over the guidelines set forth by the USGBC and see that the project meets the standard prerequisites. If it does, the builder is eligible to register the project with the LEED program. An application and examination process follows, and certification is awarded after that process is completed. To achieve any sort of certification through the program, the finished building must be looked over by a LEED Accredited Professional and a LEED Green Associate. To become a LEED Accredited Professional, a person must pass an exam, and since the standards are those of the USGBC, they are the only source of education to prepare for the test.

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Discussion Comments

By anon289758 — On Sep 05, 2012

The reality is that more and more government and institutional customers are requiring "gold and silver" Leed Designs but are unwilling to pay for either design or construction cost to attain the level of LEED requested. Therefore, more work for less money and more unprofitable construction projects.

By GenevaMech — On Apr 25, 2011

@Amphibious54- To become a LEED Accredited Professional you need to have documented work on a LEED building or project within the last three years leading up to the exam. If you pass the credential audit, you can sign up to take the exam. The exam can be tough, so it might be a good idea to take an exam prep session.

Once you have become an AP, you need to take 30 continuing education hours to maintain your AP status. These can be in the form of work with the USGBC, attending USGBC events, web seminars, etc., but a certain number of your CEs must be within your AP designation. I hope this helps you make your decision.

By PelesTears — On Apr 25, 2011

@Amphibious54- I just finished my LEED Green Associate study sessions so I can tell you what is necessary for starting out. To get your LEED Green Associate you need to take somewhere around 13 hours of guided study sessions. I was able to complete my hours through my university's USGBC chapter free. You can find commercial study sessions that cost $500 to $1000 so you can work on your hours.

Once you have completed your hours you can apply to take the exam. If you are a student, the exam and certification is around $200, but for non-students, the rate is about $400. To maintain your certification you need to take 15 hours of CEUs every two years.

By Amphibious54 — On Apr 23, 2011

What exactly is involved in getting LEED accreditation? I am interested in becoming LEED certified but I do not know exactly what I need to do to pass. Can I just go to a LEED testing center and take the exam or is it more involved than that?

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