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Building in Good Faith - Green Building Resource for Religious Institutions

How to Think About Building Green (2)

How to use LEED

Religious groups can use LEED in one of two main ways:

  • Consult LEED to inform your planning and to gather information.

When you visit www.USGBC.org, navigate your way to "LEED Rating System." There you'll find several different rating systems (such as for schools, residences, etc.), the most widely applicable of which is LEED 2.2.

Once there, you'll see that each of the rating systems addresses the most important aspects of green building: where you build, how you use water, the source and efficiency of your energy, the source and environmental impacts of the materials you use, how you create a healthy indoor environment and, finally, ways in which your project reflects innovations which may help others in their greening efforts.

Each of these major aspects of green building comes with a total number of "points" which your institution can "earn" by carrying out specific tasks or integrating certain green features into your building. The LEED standards discuss each of these outcomes thoroughly - in terms of intention, available technology, and ways you can plan for, undertake and measure its fulfillment.

For instance, one major aspect is "sustainable sites" (or, in other words, where you build and how you build there). A project can potentially earn 14 possible points for 14 different tasks or outcomes under "sustainable sites," such as reducing the energy used for transportation by the people who will be coming to and going from your site.

Keep in mind that not all the tasks or outcomes within each section will be applicable to any one project. For instance, some will apply to urban sites and some to rural ones.

Rather, the "menu" of possible outcomes prompts you to reflect on the unique ways in which your project may best be designed to further its sustainability and positive environmental impact.

In this way, the LEED standards serve as an indispensable tool for learning about opportunities for your green building project.

LEED Certification

  • You can also use the LEED rating systems as your guide to obtain official LEED certification.

Here's why (in the words of the USGBC) you might seek LEED Certification:

"While LEED Rating Systems can be useful just as tools for [planning], there are many reasons why LEED project certification can be an asset:

  • Be recognized for your commitment to environmental issues in your community, your organization (including stockholders), and your industry;
  • Receive third party validation of achievement;
  • Qualify for a growing array of state & local government initiatives;
  • Receive marketing exposure through USGBC Web site, Greenbuild conference, case studies, and media announcements."

Certification process

Your building can earn a LEED certification, or one of several higher levels of certification known as silver, gold and platinum, all depending on how many points your building has scored. Should you decide that LEED certification would be a benefit for your organization, consult the USGBC web site about the certification process.

It is critical to make this decision early in your project. Not only will that inform how you consider the different items on the LEED "menu," but the ease and success of your application very much depend on recording and archiving the documents and decisions made throughout your project (to demonstrate that you have in fact done what you describe in your application).

As the USGBC website describes:

"Project teams interested in obtaining LEED certification for their project must first register online. Registration during early phases of the project will ensure maximum potential for certification. The LEED website, www.leedbuilding.org, contains important details about the certification review process, schedule and fees. The applicant project must satisfactorily document achievement of all the prerequisites and a minimum number of points. See the LEED for New Construction project checklist for the number of points required to achieve LEED for New Construction rating levels."

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