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.