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Reference Guide for Building Design and Construction

Applies to buildings that are being newly constructed or going through a major renovation:

New Construction | Core and Shell | Schools | Retail | Healthcare | Data Centers | Hospitality | Warehouses and Distribution Centers

Use alongside the web-based reference guide in the credit library.

Getting Started

How to use this reference guide

This reference guide is designed to elaborate upon and work in conjunction with the rating system. Written by expert users of LEED, it serves as a roadmap, describing the steps for meeting and documenting credit requirements and offering advice on best practices.

Within each section, information is organized to flow from general guidance to more specific tips and finally to supporting references and other information. Sections have been designed with a parallel structure to support way finding and minimize repetition.

Each credit category begins with an overview that discusses sustainability and market factors specific to the category. For each prerequisite and credit, readers will then find the following sections:

  • Intent & Requirements outlines the rating system requirements for achieving the prerequisite or credit. They were approved through the rating system development process and can also be found on the USGBC website.
  • Behind the Intent connects credit achievement with larger sustainability issues and provides information on how the credit requirements meet the intent stated in the rating system.
  • Step-by-Step Guidance suggests the implementation and documentation steps that can be used by most projects, as well as generally applicable tips and examples.
  • Further Explanation provides guidance for lengthy calculations or for special project situations, such as tips for nonstandard project types or different credit approaches. It includes a Campus section and, sometimes, an International Tips section.
  • Required Documentation lists the items that must be submitted for certification review.
  • Related Credit Tips identifies other credits that may affect a project team’s decisions and strategies for the credit in question; the relationships between credits may imply synergies or trade-offs.
  • Changes from LEED 2009 is a quick reference of changes from the previous version of LEED.
  • Referenced Standards lists the technical standards related to the credit and offers weblinks to find them.
  • Exemplary Performance identifies the threshold that must be met to earn an exemplary performance point, if available.
  • Definitions gives the meaning of terms used in the credit.

More about the Further Explanation section

Further Explanation contains varied subsections depending on the credit; two of the common subsections are elaborated upon here.

Campus Projects

Campus refers to the Campus Program for Projects on a Shared Site multiple buildings located on one site and under the control of a single entity. Examples include buildings on a corporate or educational campus and structures in a commercial development. Only project teams using the Campus Program need to follow the guidance in the Campus section; the guidance is not applicable to projects that are in a campus setting or are part of a multitenant complex but not pursuing certification using the Campus Program.

There are two approaches to certifying multiple buildings under the Campus Program:

  • Group Approach allows buildings that are substantially similar and are in a single location to certify as one project that shares a single certification.
  • Campus Approach allows buildings that share a single location and site attributes to achieve separate LEED certification for each project, building space, or group on the master site.

For each approach, the reference guide gives any credit-specific information and notes two possible scenarios:

  • Group Approach
    • All buildings in the group may be documented as one. The buildings may meet the credit requirements as a single group by, for example, pooling resources or purchasing, and then submitting a single set of documentation.
    • Submit separate documentation for each building. Each building in the group project must meet the credit requirements individually for the project to earn the credit.
  • Campus Approach
    • "Eligible." This credit may be documented once at the level of the master site, and then individual projects within the master site boundary earn the credit without submitting additional documentation.
    • "Ineligible. Each LEED project may pursue the credit individually." Each project within the campus boundary may earn the credit but each project must document compliance separately.
Projects Outside the U.S.

The International Tips section offers advice on determining equivalency to U.S. standards or using non-U.S. standards referenced in the rating system. It is meant to complement, not replace, the other sections of the credit. Helpful advice for projects outside the U.S. may also appear in the Step-by-Step Guidance section of each credit. When no tips are needed or available, the International Tips heading does not appear.

Units of measurement are given in both Inch-Pound (IP) and International System of Units (SI). IP refers to the system of measurements based on the inch, pound, and gallon, historically derived from the English system and commonly used in the U.S. SI is the modern metric system used in most other parts of the world and defined by the General Conference on Weights and Measures.

Where “local equivalent” is specified, it means an alternative to a LEED referenced standard that is specific to a project’s locality. This standard must be widely used and accepted by industry experts and when applied, must meet the credit’s intent leading to similar or better outcomes.

Where “USGBC-approved local equivalent” is specified, it means a local standard deemed equivalent to the listed standard by the U.S. Green Building Council through its process for establishing non-U.S. equivalencies in LEED.

Taking an Integrative Approach to Design and Construction

The realization of benefits associated with LEED starts with a transformation of the design process itself. Success in LEED and green building design is best accomplished through an integrative design process that prioritizes cost-effectiveness over both the short and long terms and engages all project team members in discovering beneficial interrelationships and synergies between systems and components. By integrating technical and living systems, the team can achieve high levels of building performance, human performance, and environmental benefits.

Conventionally, the design and construction disciplines work separately, and their solutions to design and construction challenges are fragmented. These “solutions” often create unintended consequences—some positive, but mostly negative. The corollary is that when areas of practice are integrated, it becomes possible to significantly improve building performance and achieve synergies that yield economic, environmental, and human health benefits.

In the conventional design process, each discipline’s practitioner is expected to design the subassemblies and system components under his or her control for the most benefit and the least cost. In an integrative process, an entire team—client, designers, builders, and operators—identifies overlapping relationships, services, and redundancies among systems so that interdependencies and benefits (which otherwise would have gone unnoticed) can be exploited, thereby increasing performance and reducing costs.

To work this way requires that project teams, whose members represent various disciplines, come together so that the knowledge, analyses, and ideas from each discipline can inform and link with the systems and components of all other disciplines. In this way, LEED credits become aspects of a whole rather than separate components, and the entire design and construction team can identify the interrelationships and linked benefits across multiple LEED credits.

The coordination of building and site systems should be addressed early, preferably before schematic design. The Integrative Process credit formally introduces this way of working into LEED so that the team members’ expertise in building and site systems can inform the performance, efficiency, and effectiveness of every system.

The strategies in the Integrative Process credit are recommended for all LEED projects because they encourage integration during early design stages, when it will be the most effective. The credit introduces an integrative process by focusing on engaging energy- and water-related research and analysis to inform early design decisions through high levels of collaboration among all project team members.

Approaching certification using an integrative process gives the project team the greatest chance of success. The process includes three phases:

  • Discovery. The most important phase of the integrative process, discovery can be thought of as an extensive expansion of what is conventionally called predesign. A project is unlikely to meets its environmental goals cost-effectively without this discrete phase. Discovery work should take place before schematic design begins.
  • Design and construction (implementation). This phase begins with what is conventionally called schematic design. It resembles conventional practice but integrates all the work and collective understanding of system interactions reached during the discovery phase.
  • Occupancy, operations, and performance feedback. This third stage focuses on preparing to measure performance and creating feedback mechanisms. Assessing performance against targets is critical for informing building operations and identifying the need for any corrective action.

Achieving economic and environmental performance requires that every issue and all team members (clients, designers, engineers, constructors, operators) be brought into the project at the earliest point, before anything is yet designed. The structure to manage this flow of people, information, and analysis is as follows:

  • All project team members, representing all design and construction disciplines, gather information and data relevant to the project.
  • Team members analyze their information.
  • Team members participate in workshops to compare notes and identify opportunities for synergy.

This process of research, analysis, and workshops is done in an iterative cycle that refines the design solutions. In the best scenario, the research and workshops continue until the project systems are optimized, all reasonable synergies are identified, and the related strategies associated with all LEED credits are documented and implemented.

Devising a LEED Work Plan

It is recommended that LEED applicants follow a series of steps to certification.

Step 1. Initiate discovery phase

Begin initial research and analysis (see Integrative Process Credit). When sufficient information has been gathered, hold a goal-setting workshop to discuss findings.

Step 2. Select LEED rating system

The LEED system comprises 21 adaptations designed to accommodate the needs of a variety of market sectors (see Rating System Selection Guidance). For many credits, Further Explanation highlights rating system and project type variations to help teams develop a successful approach.

Step 3. Check minimum program requirements

All projects seeking certification are required to comply with the minimum program requirements (MPRs) for the applicable rating system, found in this reference guide and on the USGBC website.

Step 4. Establish project goals

Prioritize strategies for certification that align with the project’s context and the values of the project team, owner, or organization. Once these values are articulated, project teams will be able to select appropriate strategies and associated LEED credits to meet the goals.

The recommended method for establishing project goals is to convene a goal-setting workshop (see Integrative Process Credit) for the project team members and the owner. Understanding the owner’s goals, budget, schedule, functional programmatic requirements, scope, quality, performance targets, and occupants’ expectations will promote creative problem solving and encourage fruitful interaction.

To capture the most opportunities, the workshop should occur before any design work and include wide representation from the design and construction disciplines.

Step 5. Define LEED project scope

Review the project’s program and initial findings from the goal-setting workshop to identify the project scope. Special considerations include off-site or campus amenities or shared facilities that may be used by project occupants.

Next, map the LEED project boundary along property lines. If the project boundary is not obvious because of ownership by multiple entities, partial renovations, or other issues, see the minimum program requirements. Share the final project boundary decision with the entire team, since this site definition affects numerous prerequisites and credits. Finally, investigate any special certification programs that may apply based on the project’s scope, such as the Volume Program or the Campus Program. If the project owner is planning multiple similar buildings in different locations, Volume may be a useful program to streamline certification. If the project includes multiple buildings in a single location, Campus may be appropriate.

Step 6. Develop LEED scorecard

Use the project goals to identify the credits and options that should be attempted by the team. The Behind the Intent sections offer insight into what each credit is intended to achieve and may help teams align goals with credits that bring value to the owner, environment, and community of the project.

This process should focus the team on those credits with the highest value for the project over the long term. Once the high-priority credits have been selected, identify related credits that reinforce the priority strategies and provide synergistic benefits.

Finally, establish the target LEED certification level (Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum) and identify additional credits needed to achieve it. Make sure that all prerequisites can be met and include a buffer of several points above the minimum in case of changes during design and construction.

Step 7. Continue discovery phase

Project team members should perform additional research and analysis as the project progresses, refining the analysis, testing alternatives, comparing notes, generating ideas in small meetings, and evaluating costs. Examples of research and analysis for energy- and water-related systems are outlined in the Integrative Process credit.

The project team should reassemble occasionally to discuss overlapping benefits and opportunities (e.g., how best to use the waste products from one system to benefit other systems). This approach encourages the discovery of new opportunities, raises new questions, and facilitates testing across disciplines.

Step 8. Continue iterative process

The above pattern of research and analysis followed by team workshops should continue until the solutions satisfy the project team and owner.

Step 9. Assign roles and responsibilities

Select one team member to take primary responsibility for leading the group through the LEED application and documentation process. This leadership role may change from the design to the construction phase, but both the design and the construction leaders should be involved throughout the process to ensure consistency, clarity, and an integrative approach.

Cross-disciplinary team ownership of LEED credit compliance can help foster integrative design while ensuring consistent documentation across credits. On a credit-by-credit basis, assign primary and supporting roles to appropriate team members for credit achievement and documentation. Clarify responsibilities for ensuring that design decisions are accurately represented in drawings and specifications and that construction details match design documentation.

Establish regular meeting dates and develop clear communication channels to streamline the process and resolve issues quickly.

Step 10. Develop consistent documentation

Consistent documentation is critical to achieving LEED certification.

Data accumulated throughout the construction process, such as construction materials quantities, should be gathered and assessed at regular intervals to allow the team to track ongoing progress toward credit achievement and ensure that information is not misplaced or omitted. Maintaining Consistency in the Application, below, and the credit category overviews discuss the numeric values and meaning of terms that affect achievement of multiple credits within a credit category.

Step 11. Perform quality assurance review and submit for certification

A quality assurance review is an essential part of the work program. A thorough quality control check can improve clarity and consistency of the project’s LEED documentation, thereby avoiding errors that require time and expense to correct later in the certification process. The submission should be thoroughly proofread and checked for completeness. In particular, numeric values that appear throughout the submission (e.g., site area) must be consistent across credits.

Maintaining Consistency in the Application

Certain issues recur across multiple credits and credit categories and must be treated consistently throughout the submission.

Special Project Situations

Projects with a combination of space types or unusual space types should pay particular attention to how these characteristics influence credit achievement. Common project programs that require additional consideration include the following:


Projects with a mix of uses may find it helpful to consult the Project Type Variations and Rating System Variations sections in the reference guide for advice. For example, if an office building certifying under BD+C: New Construction includes a small data center, the team should follow the data center guidelines for certain credits; these guidelines are not limited to BD+C: Data Centers projects. Another common scenario is a hotel project certifying under BD+C: Hospitality; in designing the retail spaces on the hotel’s ground floor, the team could benefit from guidance for BD+C: Retail projects.

Multitenant Complex

Some projects may be part of a large complex of buildings or a master planned development. Any project can follow the multitenant complex approach if it is part of a master plan development, regardless of whether the project is using the LEED Campus approach.

Incomplete Spaces

Buildings and spaces that earn LEED certification should be completed by the time they have submitted their final application for LEED certification. Complete means that no further work is needed and the project is ready for occupancy. No more than 40% of the certifying gross floor area of a LEED project may consist of incomplete space unless the project is using the LEED BD+C: Core and Shell rating system. Additionally, projects that include incomplete spaces must use Appendix 2 Default Occupancy Counts to establish occupant counts for incomplete spaces.

For incomplete spaces in projects using a rating system other than LEED BD+C: Core and Shell, the project team must provide supplemental documentation.

  • Submit a letter of commitment, signed by the owner, indicating that the remaining incomplete spaces will satisfy the requirements of each prerequisite and credit achieved by this project if and when completed by the owner. This letter may cover the commitment in general terms and need not address each prerequisite or credit individually.
  • For incomplete spaces intended to be finished by tenants (i.e., parties other than the owner), submit a set of nonbinding tenant design and construction guidelines, with a brief explanation of the project circumstances.

For prerequisites with established baselines (e.g., WE Prerequisite Indoor Water Use, EA Prerequisite Minimum Energy Performance) and the credits dependent on the calculations in the prerequisites, the proposed design must be equivalent to the baseline for the incomplete spaces. Project teams that wish to claim environmental performance or benefit beyond the baseline for incomplete spaces should refer to the Tenant Lease and Sales Agreement section.

Projects with Several Physically Distinct Structures

Primary and secondary school projects, hospitals (general medical and surgical), hotels, resorts, and resort properties, as defined for ENERGY STAR building rating purposes, are eligible to include more than one physically distinct structure in a single LEED project certification application without having to use the Campus Program, subject to the following conditions.

  • The buildings to be certified must be a part of the same identity. For example, the buildings are all part of the same elementary school, not a mix of elementary school and high school buildings.
  • The project must be analyzed as a whole (i.e., in aggregate) for all minimum program requirements (MPRs), prerequisites, and credits in the LEED rating system.
  • All the land area and all building floor areas within the LEED project boundary must be included in every prerequisite and credit submitted for certification.
  • There is no specific limit on the number of structures, but the aggregate gross floor area included in a single project must not exceed 1 million square feet (92 905 square meters).

Any single structure that is larger than 25,000 square feet (2 320 square meters) must be registered as a separate project or treated as a separate building in a group certification approach.

Renovations and Additions

Refer to the minimum program requirements for information on how boundaries should be drawn for renovation and addition projects. Additionally, use the following guidance for treating energy systems in any project with mechanical systems.

  • Separate systems. Mechanical systems are completely separate from those in the existing building (emergency generators excepted) and can be modeled separately.
  • Shared central systems located outside the project building or space. Each prerequisite and credit section related to energy modeling offers specific guidance on how to handle this situation; in particular, see the guidance for EA Prerequisite Minimum Energy Performance.
Tenant Sales and Lease Agreement

LEED BD+C: Core and Shell is designed to address the speculatively driven development market where project teams routinely do not control all aspects of the building’s construction. The scope of Core and Shell is limited to those elements of the project under the direct control of the owner/developer. At a minimum, the scope includes the core and the shell of the base building but can vary significantly from project to project.

Given that Core and Shell is limited in its ability to control the design and construction of tenant interior fit-outs, project teams should pursue credits that address parts of the building within the LEED project scope. Only portions of the building within the LEED project scope should be used in credit calculations. If a project team wishes to pursue additional credits or thresholds beyond the construction scope of the LEED project, a binding tenant sales and lease agreement must be provided as documentation. This must be signed by the future tenant and include terms related to how the technical credit requirements will be carried out by the tenant. An unsigned or sample lease agreement is not acceptable. Please note that lease agreements are not required in order to pursue Core and Shell. They are only used if a project is aiming to earn additional points considered outside of the project design and construction scope that will be fit-out by a future tenant.

Previous Development

Several credits require the assessment of a piece of land to determine whether it has been previously developed, defined as follows:

previously developed altered by paving, construction, and/or land use that would typically have required regulatory permitting to have been initiated (alterations may exist now or in the past). Land that is not previously developed and landscapes altered by current or historical clearing or filling, agricultural or forestry use, or preserved natural area use are considered undeveloped land. The date of previous development permit issuance constitutes the date of previous development, but permit issuance in itself does not constitute previous development.

Tricky lands to assess include those with few buildings present. If the land previously had buildings, then it is considered previously developed even if those buildings have since been torn down. Another frequently confusing situation is parkland. Pay careful attention to the type of parkland. Improved parks with manicured landscaping and constructed features like playgrounds (e.g., a city park) are considered previously developed. Land that has only been cleared or graded, with no additional improvements, is not considered previously developed. Land maintained in a natural state (e.g., a forest preserve) is not considered previously developed, even if minor features like walking paths are present.

Development Footprint

A project’s development footprint is all of its impervious surfaces.

development footprint the total land area of a project site covered by buildings, streets, parking areas, and other typically impermeable surfaces constructed as part of the project

Surfaces paved with permeable pavement (at least 50% permeable) are excluded from the development footprint.


Density can be calculated separately for residential and nonresidential elements or as a single value. The following definitions apply:

density a ratio of building coverage on a given parcel of land to the size of that parcel. Density can be measured using floor area ratio (FAR); dwelling units per acre (DU/acre) or dwelling units per hectare (DU/hectare); square feet of building area per acre of buildable land; or square meters of building area per hectare of buildable land. It does not include structured parking.

buildable land the portion of the site where construction can occur, including land voluntarily set aside and not constructed on. When used in density calculations, buildable land excludes public rights-of-way and land excluded from development by codified law.

Land voluntarily set aside and not built on, such as open space, is considered buildable because it was available for construction but set aside voluntarily. For example, 5 acres (2 hectares) of park space required by local government code would be considered nonbuildable, but if a developer voluntarily sets aside an additional 3 acres (1.2 hectares) for more park space, those 3 acres (1.2 hectares) must be categorized as buildable land.

After determining buildable land, calculate residential or nonresidential density or a combined density. To calculate residential density, divide the number of dwelling units by the amount of residential land. To calculate nonresidential density, use floor area ratio (FAR):

floor-area ratio (FAR) the density of nonresidential land use, exclusive of structured parking, measured as the total nonresidential building floor area divided by the total buildable land area available for nonresidential buildings.

For example, on a site with 10,000 square feet (930 square meters) of buildable nonresidential land area, a building of 10,000 square feet (930 square meters) of floor area would have a FAR of 1.0. On the same site, a building of 5,000 square feet (465 square meters) would have a FAR of 0.5; a building of 15,000 square feet (1395 square meters) would have a FAR of 1.5; and a building of 20,000 square feet (1860 square meters) would have a FAR of 2.0.

To calculate the combined density for residential and nonresidential areas, use FAR.


Many kinds of people use a typical LEED building, and the mix varies by project type. Occupants are sometimes referred to in a general sense; for example, “Provide places of respite that are accessible to patients and visitors.” In other instances, occupants must be counted for calculations. Definitions of occupant types are general guidelines that may be modified or superseded in a particular credit when appropriate (such changes are noted in each credit’s reference guide section). Most credits group users into two categories, regular building occupants and visitors.

Regular Building Occupants

Regular building occupants are habitual users of a building. All of the following are considered regular building occupants.

Employees include part-time and full-time employees, and totals are calculated using full-time equivalency (FTE).

A typical project can count FTE employees by adding full-time employees and part-time employees, adjusted for their hours of work.


Equation 1. FTE employees = Full-time employees + (Σ daily part-time employee hours) / 8


For buildings with more unusual occupancy patterns, calculate the FTE building occupants based on a standard eight-hour occupancy period.


Equation 2. FTE employees = (Σ all employee hours) / 8


Staff is synonymous with employees for the purpose of LEED calculations.

Volunteers who regularly use a building are synonymous with employees for the purpose of LEED calculations.

Residents of a project are considered regular building occupants. This includes residents of a dormitory. If actual resident count is not known, use a default equal to the number of bedrooms in the dwelling unit plus one, multiplied by the number of such dwelling units.

Primary and secondary school students are typically regular building occupants (see the exception in LT Credit Bicycle Facilities).

Hotel guests are typically considered regular building occupants, with some credit-specific exceptions. Calculate the number of overnight hotel guests based on the number and size of units in the project. Assume 1.5 occupants per guest room and multiply the resulting total by 60% (average hotel occupancy). Alternatively, the number of hotel guest occupants may be derived from actual or historical occupancy.

Inpatients are medical, surgical, maternity, specialty, and intensive-care unit patients whose length of stay exceeds 23 hours. Peak inpatients are the highest number of inpatients at a given point in a typical 24-hour period.


Visitors (also “transients”) intermittently use a LEED building. All of the following are considered visitors:

Retail customers are considered visitors. In Water Efficiency credits, retail customers are considered separately from other kinds of visitors and should not be included in the total average daily visitors.

Outpatients visit a hospital, clinic, or associated health care facility for diagnosis or treatment that lasts 23 hours or less (see SS Credit Direct Exterior Access for credit-specific exceptions).

Peak outpatients are the highest number of outpatients at a given point in a typical 24-hour period.

Volunteers who periodically use a building (e.g., once per week) are considered visitors.

Higher-education students are considered visitors to most buildings, except when they are residents of a dorm, in which case they are residents.

In calculations, occupant types are typically counted in two ways:

Daily averages take into account all the occupants of a given type for a typical 24-hour day of operation.

Peak totals are measured at the moment in a typical 24-hour period when the highest number of a given occupant type is present.

Whenever possible, use actual or predicted occupancies. If occupancy cannot be accurately predicted, one of the following resources to estimate occupancy:

  1. Default occupant density from ASHRAE 62.1-2010, Table 6-1
  2. Default occupant density from CEN Standard EN 15251, Table B.2
  3. Appendix 2 Default Occupancy Counts
  4. Results from applicable studies.

If numbers vary seasonally, use occupancy numbers that are a representative daily average over the entire operating season of the building.

If occupancy patterns are atypical (shift overlap, significant seasonal variation), explain such patterns when submitting documentation for certification.

Table 1 lists prerequisites and credits that require specific occupancy counts for calculations.

GS1 Occupancy Types Table BDC

Quick Reference

Table 2. Credit attributes

Example Site Plan

GS2_Credit attributes BDC

Minimum Program Requirements

The Minimum Program Requirements (MPRs) are the minimum characteristics or conditions that make a project appropriate to pursue LEED certification. These requirements are foundational to all LEED projects and define the types of buildings, spaces, and neighborhoods that the LEED rating system is designed to evaluate. View the Minimum Program Requirements.

Rating System Selection Guidance

Projects are required to use the rating system that is most appropriate. However, when the decision is not clear, it is the responsibility of the project team to make a reasonable decision in selecting a rating system before registering their project. This guidance helps project teams select a LEED rating system. View the Rating System Selection Guidance.

Credit Category Overviews

LT Overview

The Location and Transportation (LT) category rewards thoughtful decisions about building location, with credits that encourage compact development, alternative transportation, and connection with amenities, such as restaurants and parks. The LT category is an outgrowth of the Sustainable Sites category, which formerly covered location-related topics. Whereas the SS category now specifically addresses on-site ecosystem services, the LT category considers the existing features of the surrounding community and how this infrastructure affects occupants’ behavior and environmental performance.

Well-located buildings take advantage of existing infrastructure—public transit, street networks, pedestrian paths, bicycle networks, services and amenities, and existing utilities, such as electricity, water, gas, and sewage. By recognizing existing patterns of development and land density, project teams can reduce strain on the environment from the material and ecological costs that accompany the creation of new infrastructure and hardscape. In addition, the compact communities promoted by the LT credits encourage robust and realistic alternatives to private automobile use, such as walking, biking, vehicle shares, and public transit. These incremental steps can have significant benefits: a 2009 Urban Land Institute study concluded that improvements in land-use patterns and investments in public transportation infrastructure alone could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in the U.S. by 9% to 15% by 2050; globally, the transportation sector is responsible for about one-quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

If integrated into the surrounding community, a building can offer distinct advantages to owners and building users. For owners, proximity to existing utility lines and street networks avoids the cost of bringing this infrastructure to the project site. For occupants, walkable and bikeable locations can enhance health by encouraging daily physical activity, and proximity to services and amenities can increase happiness and productivity. Locating in a vibrant, livable community makes the building a destination for residents, employees, customers, and visitors, and the building’s occupants will contribute to the area’s economic activity, creating a good model for future development. Reusing previously developed land, cleaning up brownfield sites, and investing in disadvantaged areas conserve undeveloped land and ensure efficient delivery of services and infrastructure.

Design strategies that complement the building’s location are also rewarded in the LT section. For example, by limiting parking, a project can encourage building users to take alternative transportation. By providing bicycle storage, alternative-fuel facilities, and preferred parking for green vehicles, a project can support users seeking transportation options.

Consistent Documentation

Walking and Bicycling Distance

Walking and bicycling distances are measurements of how far a pedestrian and bicyclist would travel from a point of origin to a destination, such as the nearest bus stop. This distance, also known as shortest path analysis, replaces the simple straight-line radius used in LEED 2009 and better reflects pedestrians’ and bicyclists’ access to amenities, taking into account safety, convenience, and obstructions to movement. This in turn better predicts the use of these amenities.

Walking distances must be measured along infrastructure that is safe and comfortable for pedestrian: sidewalks, all-weather-surface footpaths, crosswalks, or equivalent pedestrian facilities.

Bicycling distances must be measured along infrastructure that is safe and comfortable for bicyclists: on-street bicycle lanes, off-street bicycle paths or trails, and streets with low target vehicle speed. Project teams may use bicycling distance instead of walking distance to measure the proximity of bicycle storage to a bicycle network in LT Credit Bicycle Facilities.

When calculating the walking or bicycling distance, sum the continuous segments of the walking or bicycling route to determine the distance from origin to destination. A straight-line radius from the origin that does not follow pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure will not be accepted.

Refer to specific credits to select the appropriate origin and destination points. In all cases, the origin must be accessible to all building users, and the walking or bicycling distance must not exceed the distance specified in the credit requirements.

Total Vehicle Parking Capacity

When determining total parking capacity, include all the off-street spaces available to the project building’s users. This may include spaces both inside and outside the project boundary.

If parking spaces are shared among two or more buildings (“pooled” parking), determine the share of this parking allocated to the project. Include this number of spaces in the total parking capacity and provide rationale for the parking distribution, if necessary.

If no off-street parking is allocated to the project building’s users, the team is eligible to pursue LT Credit Reduced Parking Footprint but is not eligible for LT Credit Green Vehicles.

The following parking spaces must be included in total parking capacity:

  • New and existing surface parking spaces
  • New and existing garage or multilevel parking spaces
  • Any off-street parking spaces outside the project boundary that are available to the building’s users

The following parking spaces should not be included in total parking capacity:

  • On-street (parallel or pull-in) parking spaces on public rights of way
  • Parking spaces for fleet and inventory vehicles, unless these vehicles are regularly used by employees for commuting as well as business purposes
  • Motorbike or bicycle spaces

Preferred Parking

Preferred parking spaces have the shortest walking distance to the main entrance of the project, exclusive of spaces designated for people with disabilities.

If parking is provided on multiple levels of a facility, locate preferred spaces on the level closest to the main entrance to the building.

If the parking area is subdivided for different kinds of building users (e.g., customers and employees, staff and students, ranking military officials), a project may distribute the required preferred parking spaces proportionally across each parking area. This also applies to the provision of fueling stations in LT Credit Green Vehicles.

Alternatively, a project that subdivides its parking area may provide one general preferred parking area with enough spaces for all user types (based on total parking capacity). In this case, parking areas outside the preferred parking zone would still be separated by user type. This also applies to the provision of fueling stations in LT Credit Green Vehicles.

The reservation of preferred parking spaces is required both for carpool and vanpool vehicles in LT Credit Reduced Parking Footprint and for green vehicles in LT Credit Green Vehicles. Projects pursuing both credits will need to reserve a higher proportion of preferred parking spaces.

Carpool and vanpool spaces and green vehicle spaces may be placed at the discretion of the project team (i.e., green vehicle spaces can be closer to the main entrance than carpool and vanpool spaces, or vice versa), provided the number of spaces reserved for each type meets credit requirements.

Although not encouraged, preferred parking areas and signage for carpool and vanpool vehicles and green vehicles may be combined if 10% of total parking capacity is reserved with this signage and both Reduced Parking Footprint and Green Vehicles credits are achieved.

SS Overview

The Sustainable Sites (SS) category rewards decisions about the environment surrounding the building, with credits that emphasize the vital relationships among buildings, ecosystems, and ecosystem services. It focuses on restoring project site elements, integrating the site with local and regional ecosystems, and preserving the biodiversity that natural systems rely on.

Earth’s systems depend on biologically diverse forests, wetlands, coral reefs, and other ecosystems, which are often referred to as “natural capital” because they provide regenerative services. A United Nations study indicates that of the ecosystem services that have been assessed worldwide, about 60% are currently degraded or used unsustainably1. The results are deforestation, soil erosion, a drop in water table levels, extinction of species, and rivers that no longer run to the sea. Recent trends like exurban development and sprawl encroach on the remaining natural landscapes and farmlands, fragmenting and replacing them with dispersed hardscapes surrounded by nonnative vegetation. Between 1982 and 2001 in the U.S. alone, about 34 million acres (13 759 hectares) of open space (an area the size of Illinois) was lost to development—approximately 4 acres per minute, or 6,000 acres a day2. The rainwater runoff from these hardscape areas frequently overloads the capacity of natural infiltration systems, increasing both the quantity and pollution of site runoff. Rainwater runoff carries such pollutants as oil, sediment, chemicals, and lawn fertilizers directly to streams and rivers, where they contribute to eutrophication and harm aquatic ecosystems and species. A Washington State Department of Ecology study noted that rainwater runoff from roads, parking lots, and other hardscapes carries some 200,000 barrels of petroleum into the Puget Sound every year—more than half of what was spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska3.

Project teams that comply with the prerequisites and credits in the SS category protect sensitive ecosystems by completing an early site assessment and planning the locations of buildings and hardscape areas to avoid harming habitat, open space, and water bodies. They use low-impact development methods that minimize construction pollution, reduce heat island effects and light pollution, and mimic natural water flow patterns to manage rainwater runoff. They also remediate areas on the project site that are already in decline.

In LEED v4, the SS category combines traditional approaches with several new strategies, including the backlight-uplight-glare (BUG) method (Light Pollution Reduction credit), working with conservation organizations to target financial support for off-site habitat protection (Site Development—Protect or Restore Habitat credit), replicating natural site hydrology (Rainwater Management credit), and using three-year aged SRI values for roofs and SR values for nonroof hardscape (Heat Island Reduction credit).

1 UN Environment Programme, State and Trends of the Environment 1987–2001, Section B, Chapter 5,

2 U.S. Forest Service, Quick Facts, (accessed September 11, 2012).

3 Cornwall, W., Stormwater’s Damage to Puget Sound Huge, Seattle Times (December 1, 2007), (accessed September 14, 2012).

WE Overview

The Water Efficiency (WE) section addresses water holistically, looking at indoor use, outdoor use, specialized uses, and metering. The section is based on an “efficiency first” approach to water conservation. As a result, each prerequisite looks at water efficiency and reductions in potable water use alone. Then, the WE credits additionally recognize the use of nonpotable and alternative sources of water.

The conservation and creative reuse of water are important because only 3% of Earth’s water is fresh water, and of that, slightly over two-thirds is trapped in glaciers1. Typically, most of a building’s water cycles through the building and then flows off-site as wastewater. In developed nations, potable water often comes from a public water supply system far from the building site, and wastewater leaving the site must be piped to a processing plant, after which it is discharged into a distant water body. This pass-through system reduces streamflow in rivers and depletes freshwater aquifers, causing water tables to drop and wells to go dry. In 60% of European cities with more than 100,000 people, groundwater is being used faster than it can be replenished2.

In addition, the energy required to treat water for drinking, transport it to and from a building, and treat it for disposal represents a significant amount of energy use not captured by a building’s utility meter. Research in California shows that roughly 19% of all energy used in this U.S. state is consumed by water treatment and pumping3.

In the U.S., buildings account for 13.6% of potable water use4, the third-largest category, behind thermoelectric power and irrigation. Designers and builders can construct green buildings that use significantly less water than conventional construction by incorporating native landscapes that eliminate the need for irrigation, installing water-efficient fixtures, and reusing wastewater for nonpotable water needs. The Green Building Market Impact Report 2009 found that LEED projects were responsible for saving an aggregate 1.2 trillion gallons (4.54 trillion liters) of water5. LEED’s WE credits encourage project teams to take advantage of every opportunity to significantly reduce total water use.

Cross-Cutting Issues

The WE category comprises three major components: indoor water (used by fixtures, appliances, and processes, such as cooling), irrigation water, and water metering. Several kinds of documentation span these components, depending on the project’s specific water-saving strategies.

Site plans. Plans are used to document the location and size of vegetated areas and the locations of meters and submeters. Within the building, floorplans show the location of fixtures, appliances, and process water equipment (e.g., cooling towers, evaporative condensers), as well as indoor submeters. The same documentation can be used in credits in the Sustainable Sites category.

Fixture cutsheets. Projects must document their fixtures (and appliances as applicable) using fixture cutsheets or manufacturers’ literature. This documentation is used in the Indoor Water Use Reduction prerequisite and credit.

Alternative water sources. A project that includes graywater reuse, rainwater harvesting, municipally supplied wastewater (purple pipe water), or other reused sources is eligible to earn credit in WE Credit Outdoor Water Use Reduction, WE Credit Indoor Water Use Reduction, WE Credit Cooling Tower Water Use, and WE Credit Water Metering. But the team cannot apply the same water to multiple credits unless the water source has sufficient volume to cover the demand of all the uses (e.g., irrigation plus toilet-flushing demand).

Occupancy calculations. The Indoor Water Use Reduction prerequisite and credit require projections based on occupants’ usage. The Location and Transportation and Sustainable Sites categories also use project occupancy calculations. Review the occupancy section in Getting Started to understand how occupants are classified and counted. Also see WE Prerequisite Indoor Water Use Reduction for additional guidance specific to the WE section.

1 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Water Trivia Facts, (accessed September 12, 2012).

2 Statistics: Graphs & Maps, UN Water, (accessed July 9, 2014).


4 USGBC, Green Building Facts,

5 Green Outlook 2011, Green Trends Driving Growth (McGraw-Hill Construction, 2010), (accessed on September 12, 2012).

EA Overview

The Energy and Atmosphere (EA) category approaches energy from a holistic perspective, addressing energy use reduction, energy-efficient design strategies, and renewable energy sources.

The current worldwide mix of energy resources is weighted heavily toward oil, coal, and natural gas1. In addition to emitting greenhouse gases, these resources are nonrenewable: their quantities are limited or they cannot be replaced as fast as they are consumed2. Though estimates regarding the remaining quantity of these resources vary, it is clear that the current reliance on nonrenewable energy sources is not sustainable and involves increasingly destructive extraction processes, uncertain supplies, escalating market prices, and national security vulnerability. Accounting for approximately 40% of the total energy used today3, buildings are significant contributors to these problems.

Energy efficiency in a green building starts with a focus on design that reduces overall energy needs, such as building orientation and glazing selection, and the choice of climate-appropriate building materials. Strategies such as passive heating and cooling, natural ventilation, and high-efficiency HVAC systems partnered with smart controls further reduce a building’s energy use. The generation of renewable energy on the project site or the purchase of green power allows portions of the remaining energy consumption to be met with non–fossil fuel energy, lowering the demand for traditional sources.

The commissioning process is critical to ensuring high-performing buildings. Early involvement of a commissioning authority helps prevent long-term maintenance issues and wasted energy by verifying that the design meets the owner’s project requirements and functions as intended. In an operationally effective and efficient building, the staff understands what systems are installed and how they function. Staff must have training and be receptive to learning new methods for optimizing system performance so that efficient design is carried through to efficient performance.

The EA category recognizes that the reduction of fossil fuel use extends far beyond the walls of the building. Projects can contribute to increasing the electricity grid’s efficiency by enrolling in a demand response program. Demand response allows utilities to call on buildings to decrease their electricity use during peak times, reducing the strain on the grid and the need to operate more power plants, thus potentially avoiding the costs of constructing new plants. Similarly, on-site renewable energy not only moves the market away from dependence on fossil fuels but may also be a dependable local electricity source that avoids transmission losses and strain on the grid.

The American Physical Society has found that if current and emerging cost-effective energy efficiency measures are employed in new buildings and in existing buildings as their heating, cooling, lighting, and other equipment is replaced, the growth in energy demand from the building sector could fall from a projected 30% increase to zero between now and 2030. The EA section supports the goal of reduced energy demand through credits related to reducing usage, designing for efficiency, and supplementing the energy supply with renewables.




MR Overview

The Materials and Resources (MR) credit category focuses on minimizing the embodied energy and other impacts associated with the extraction, processing, transport, maintenance, and disposal of building materials. The requirements are designed to support a life-cycle approach that improves performance and promotes resource efficiency. Each requirement identifies a specific action that fits into the larger context of a life-cycle approach to embodied impact reduction.

The Waste Hierarchy

Construction and demolition waste constitutes about 40 percent of the total solid waste stream in the United States and about 25% of the total waste stream in the European Union. In its solid waste management hierarchy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks source reduction, reuse, recycling, and waste to energy as the four preferred strategies for reducing waste. The MR section directly addresses each of these recommended strategies.

Source reduction appears at the top of the hierarchy because it avoids environmental harms throughout a material’s life cycle, from supply chain and use to recycling and waste disposal. Source reduction encourages the use of innovative construction strategies, such as prefabrication and designing to dimensional construction materials, thereby minimizing material cutoffs and inefficiencies.

Building and material reuse is the next most effective strategy because reusing existing materials avoids the environmental burden of the manufacturing process. Replacing existing materials with new ones would entail production and transportation of new materials, and it would take many years to offset the associated greenhouse gases through increased efficiency of the building. LEED has consistently rewarded the reuse of materials. LEED v4 now offers more flexibility and rewards all material reuse achieved by a project—both in situ, as part of a building reuse strategy, and from off site, as part of a salvaging strategy.

Recycling is the most common way to divert waste from landfills. In conventional practice, most waste is landfilled—an increasingly unsustainable solution. In urban areas landfill space is reaching capacity, requiring the conversion of more land elsewhere and raising the transportation costs of waste. Innovations in recycling technology improve sorting and processing to supply raw material to secondary markets, keeping those materials in the production stream longer.

Because secondary markets do not exist for every material, however, the next most beneficial use of waste materials is conversion to energy. Many countries are lessening the burden on landfills through a waste-to-energy solution. In countries such as Sweden and Saudi Arabia, waste-to-energy facilities are far more common than landfills. When strict air quality control measures are enforced, waste-to-energy can be a viable alternative to extracting fossil fuels to produce energy.

In aggregate, LEED projects are responsible for diverting more than 80 million tons (72.6 million tonnes) of waste from landfills, and this volume is expected to grow to 540 million tons (489.9 million tonnes) by 2030. From 2000 to 2011, LEED projects in Seattle diverted an average of 90 percent of their construction waste from the landfill, resulting in 175,000 tons (158,757.3 tonnes) of waste diverted. If all newly constructed buildings achieved the 90 percent diversion rate demonstrated by Seattle’s 102 LEED projects, the result would be staggering. Construction debris is no longer waste, it is a resource.

Life-Cycle Assessment in LEED

Through credits in the MR category, LEED has instigated market transformation of building products by creating a cycle of consumer demand and industry delivery of environmentally preferable products. LEED project teams have created demand for increasingly sustainable products, and suppliers, designers, and manufacturers are responding. From responsibly harvested wood to increased recycled content to bio-based materials, the increased supply of sustainable materials has been measurable over the history of LEED. Several MR credits reward use of products that perform well on specific criteria. It is difficult, however, to compare two products that have different sustainable attributes—for example, cabinets made of wheat husks sourced from all over the country and bound together in resin versus solid wood cabinets made from local timber. Life-cycle assessment (LCA) provides a more comprehensive picture of materials and products, enabling project teams to make more informed decisions that will have greater overall benefit for the environmental, human health, and communities, while encouraging manufacturers to improve their products through innovation.

LCA is a “compilation and evaluation of the inputs and outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle.” The entire life cycle of a product (or building) is examined, the processes and constituents identified, and their environmental effects assessed—both upstream, from the point of manufacture or raw materials extraction, and downstream, including transportation, use, maintenance, and end of life. This approach is sometimes called “cradle to grave.” Going even further, “cradle to cradle” emphasizes recycling and reuse at the end of life rather than disposal.

Life-cycle approaches to materials assessment began in the 1960s with carbon accounting models. Since then, LCA standards and practices have been developed and refined. In Europe and a few other parts of the world, manufacturers, regulators, specifiers, and consumers in many fields have been using life-cycle information to improve their product selections and product environmental profiles. Until relatively recently, however, the data and tools that support LCA were lacking in the U.S. Now a growing number of manufacturers are ready to document and publicly disclose the environmental profiles of their products, and programs that assist this effort and help users understand the results are available.

LEED aims to accelerate the use of LCA tools and LCA-based decision making, thereby spurring market transformation and improving the quality of databases. Recognizing the limitations of the life-cycle approach for addressing human health and the ecosystem consequences of raw material extraction, LEED uses alternative, complementary approaches to LCA in the credits that address those topics.

Cross-Cutting Issues

Required Products and Materials

The scope of the MR credit category includes the building or portions of the building that are being constructed or renovated. Portions of an existing building that are not part of the construction contract are excluded from MR documentation unless otherwise noted. For guidance on the treatment of additions, see the minimum program requirements.

Qualifying Products and Exclusions

The MR section addresses “permanently installed building products,” which as defined by LEED refers to products and materials that create the building or are attached to it. Examples include structure and enclosure elements, installed finishes, framing, interior walls, cabinets and casework, doors, and roofs. Most of these materials fall into Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) 2012 MasterFormat Divisions 3-10, 31, and 32. Some products addressed by MR credits fall outside these divisions.

Furniture is not required to be included in credit calculations. However, if furniture is included in MR credit calculations, all furniture must be included consistently in all cost-based credits.

In past versions of LEED, all mechanical, plumbing, and electrical equipment (MEP), categorized as CSI MasterFormat divisions 11, 21-28, and other specialty divisions, was excluded from MR credits. In this version of LEED some specific products that are part of these systems but are “passive” (meaning not part of the active portions of the system) may be included in credit calculations. This allows flexibility for the optional assessment of piping, pipe insulation, ducts, duct insulation, conduit, plumbing fixtures, faucets, showerheads, and lamp housings. If optional products or materials are included in cost-based credit calculations, such as Option 2 under each Building Product Disclosure and Optimization credits, they must be included consistently across all cost-based credit calculations. Additionally, if optional products and materials are included in product based calculations, such as Option 1 under each Building Product Disclosure and Optimization credits, they are not required to be included in cost-based credit calculations. However, unlike furniture, if some of these products are included in credit calculations, not all products of that type must be included.

Special equipment, such as elevators, escalators, process equipment, and fire suppression, systems, is excluded from the credit calculations. Also excluded are products purchased for temporary use on the project, like formwork for concrete.

For Healthcare projects, the scope of MR Credit Medical Furniture and Furnishings includes all freestanding furniture and medical furnishings. Freestanding furniture items included in this credit cannot be counted in any Building Product Disclosure and Optimization credits, to avoid double-counting. Permanently installed items such as casework and built-in millwork should be included in the Building Product Disclosure and Optimization credits, not MR Credit Medical Furniture and Furnishings.

Defining a Product

Several credits in this category calculate achievement on the basis of number of products instead of product cost. For these credits, a “product” or a “permanently installed building product” is defined by its function in the project. A product includes the physical components and services needed to serve the intended function. If there are similar products within a specification, each contributes as a separate product. Here are a few scenarios.

Products that arrive at the project site ready for installation:

  • Metal studs, wallboard, and concrete masonry units are all separate products.
  • For wallboard, the gypsum, binder, and backing are all required for the product to function, so each ingredient does not count as a separate product.
  • Concrete is a single product as it typically arrives at the site as a mixed product ready to pour.

Products that arrive as an ingredient or component used in a site-assembled product:

  • Lumber for custom millwork.
  • Concrete mix components (admixture, aggregate, and cement) may be considered separate products if they arrive to site as separate products.

Similar products from the same manufacturer with distinct formulations versus similar products from the same manufacturer with aesthetic variations or reconfigurations:

  • Paints of different gloss levels are separate products because each paint type is specified to serve a different function, such as water resistance. Different colors of the same paint are not separate products because they serve the same function.
  • Carpets of different pile heights are separate products because they are used for different kinds of foot traffic. The same carpet in a different color is not a separate product.
  • Desk chairs and side chairs in the same product line are different products because they serve different functions. Two side chairs differing only in aesthetic aspects, such as the presence of arms, are not different products.

Determining Product Cost

Product and materials cost includes all taxes and expenses to deliver the material to the project site incurred by the contractor but excludes any cost for labor and equipment required for installation after the material is delivered to the site.

To calculate the total materials cost of a project, use either the actual materials cost or the default materials cost.

Actual materials cost. This is the cost of all materials being used on the project site, excluding labor but including delivery and taxes.

Default materials cost. The alternative way to determine the total materials cost is to calculate 45% of total construction costs. This default materials cost can replace the actual cost for most materials and products, as specified above. If the project team is including optional products and materials, such as furniture and MEP items, add the actual value of those items to the default value for all other products and materials.

Location Valuation Factor

Several credits in the MR section include a location valuation factor, which adds value to locally produced products and materials. The intent is to incentivize the purchase of products that support the local economy. Products and materials that are extracted, manufactured, and purchased within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of the project are valued at 200% of their cost (i.e., the valuation factor is 2).

For a product to qualify for the location valuation factor, it must meet two conditions: all extraction, manufacture, and purchase (including distribution) of the product and its materials must occur within that radius (Figure 1), and the product (or portion of an assembled product) must meet at least one of the sustainable criteria (e.g., FSC certification, recycled content) specified in the credit. Products and materials that do not meet the location criteria but do meet at least one of the sustainability criteria are valued 100% of their cost (i.e., the valuation factor is 1).

The distance must be measured as the crow flies, not by actual travel distance. The point of purchase is considered the location of the purchase transaction. For online or other transactions that do not occur in person, the point of purchase is considered the location of product distribution. For the location valuation factor of salvaged and reused materials, see MR Credit Building Product Disclosure and Optimization—Sourcing of Raw Materials, Further Explanation, Material Reuse Considerations.

Figure 1. Example material radius

MR5 Overview

Determining Material Contributions of an Assembly

Many sustainability criteria in the MR category apply to the entire product, as is the case for product certifications and programs. However, some criteria apply to only a portion of the product. The portion of the product that contributes to the credit could be either a percentage of a homogeneous material or the percentage of qualifying components that are mechanically or permanently fastened together. In either case, the contributing value is based on weight. Examples of homogeneous materials include composite flooring, ceiling tiles, and rubber wall base. Examples of assemblies (parts mechanically or permanently fastened together) include office chairs, demountable partition walls, premade window assemblies, and doors.

Calculate the value that contributes toward credit compliance as the percentage, by weight, of the material or component that meets the criteria, multiplied by the total product cost.


product value ($) = Total product cost ($) x (%) product component by weight x (%) meeting sustainable criteria


Figure 2. Sustainably produced components of $500 office chair

Overview Chair

Table 1. Example calculation for $500 office chair

Overview for office chair

EQ Overview

The Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) category rewards decisions made by project teams about indoor air quality and thermal, visual, and acoustic comfort. Green buildings with good indoor environmental quality protect the health and comfort of building occupants. High-quality indoor environments also enhance productivity, decrease absenteeism, improve the building’s value, and reduce liability for building designers and owners1. This category addresses the myriad design strategies and environmental factors—air quality, lighting quality, acoustic design, control over one’s surroundings—that influence the way people learn, work, and live.

The relationship between the indoor environment and the health and comfort of building occupants is complex and still not fully understood. Local customs and expectations, occupants’ activities, and the building’s site, design, and construction are just a few of the variables that make it difficult to quantify and measure the direct effect of a building on its occupants2. Therefore, the EQ section balances the need for prescriptive measures with more performance-oriented credit requirements. For example, source control is addressed first, in a prerequisite, and a later credit then specifies an indoor air quality assessment to measure the actual outcome of those strategies.

The EQ category combines traditional approaches, such as ventilation and thermal control, with emerging design strategies, including a holistic, emissions- based approach (Low-Emitting Materials credit), source control and monitoring for user-determined contaminants (Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies credit), requirements for lighting quality (Interior Lighting credit), and advanced lighting metrics (Daylight credit). A new credit covering acoustics is now available for all projects using a BD+C rating system.

1 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Health Buildings Healthy People: A Vision for the 21st Century, (October 2001) (accessed July 25, 2013).

2 Mitchell, Clifford S., Junfeng Zhang, Torben Sigsgaard, Matti Jantunen, Palu J. Lioy, Robert Samson, and Meryl H. Karol, Current State of the Science: Health Effects and Indoor Environmental Quality, Environmental Health Perspectives 115(6) (June 2007).

Cross-Cutting Issues

Floor Area Calculations and Floor Plans

For many of the credits in the EQ category, compliance is based on the percentage of floor area that meets the credit requirements. In general, floor areas and space categorization should be consistent across EQ credits. Any excluded spaces or discrepancies in floor area values should be explained and highlighted in the documentation. See Space Categorization, below, for additional information on which floor areaa should be included in which credits.

Space Categorization

The EQ category focuses on the interaction between the occupants of the building and the indoor spaces in which they spend their time. For this reason, it is important to identify which spaces are used by the occupants, including any visitors (transients), and what activities they perform in each space. Depending on the space categorization, the credit requirements may or may not apply (Table 1).

Occupied versus unoccupied space

All spaces in a building must be categorized as either occupied or unoccupied. Occupied spaces are enclosed areas intended for human activities. Unoccupied spaces are places intended primarily for other purposes; they are occupied only occasionally and for short periods of time—in other words, they are inactive areas. Examples of spaces that are typically unoccupied include the following:

  • Mechanical and electrical rooms
  • Egress stairway or dedicated emergency exit corridor
  • Closets in a residence (but a walk-in closet is occupied)
  • Data center floor area, including a raised floor area
  • Inactive storage area in a warehouse or distribution center

For areas with equipment retrieval, the space is unoccupied only if the retrieval is occasional.

Regularly versus nonregularly occupied spaces

Occupied spaces are further classified as regularly occupied or nonregularly occupied, based on the duration of the occupancy. Regularly occupied spaces are enclosed areas where people normally spend time, defined as more than one hour of continuous occupancy per person per day, on average; the occupants may be seated or standing as they work, study, or perform other activities. For spaces that are not used daily, the classification should be based on the time a typical occupant spends in the space when it is in use. For example, a computer workstation may be largely vacant throughout the month, but when it is occupied, a worker spends one to five hours there. It would then be considered regularly occupied because that length of time is sufficient to affect the person’s well-being, and he or she would have an expectation of thermal comfort and control over the environment.

Occupied spaces that do not meet the definition of regularly occupied are nonregularly occupied; these are areas that people pass through or areas used an average of less than one hour per person per day.

Examples of regularly occupied spaces include the following:

Airplane hangar Hospital operating room Private office
Auditorium Hospital patient room Reception desk
Auto service bay Hospital recovery area Residential bedroom
Bank teller station Hospital staff room Residential dining room
Conference room Hospital surgical suite Residential kitchen
Correctional facility cell or day room  Hospital waiting room Residential living room
Data center network operations center Hospital diagnostic and treatment area Residential office, den, workroom
Data center security operations center Hospital laboratory Retail merchandise area and associated circulation
Dorm room Hospital nursing station Retail sales transaction area
Exhibition hall Hospital solarium School classroom
Facilities staff office Hospital waiting room School media center
Facilities staff workstation Hotel front desk School student activity room
Food service facility dining area Hotel guest room School study hall
Food service facility kitchen area  Hotel housekeeping area Shipping and receiving office
Gymnasium Hotel lobby Study carrel
Hospital autopsy and morgue Information desk Warehouse materials-handling area 
Hospital critical-care area Meeting room
Hospital dialysis and infusion area Natatorium
Hospital exam room Open-office workstation

Examples of nonregularly occupied spaces include the following:

Break room 
Circulation space 
Copy room 
Fire station apparatus bay 
Hospital linen area 
Hospital medical record area 
Hospital patient room bathroom 
Hospital short-term charting space 
Hospital prep and cleanup area in surgical suite 
Interrogation room 
Lobby (except hotel lobby)* 
Locker room 
Residential bathroom 
Residential laundry area 
Residential walk-in closet 
Retail fitting area 
Retail stock room 
Shooting range 

*Hotel lobbies are considered regularly occupied because people often congregate, work on laptops, and spend more time there than they do in an office building lobby.

Occupied space subcategories

Occupied spaces, or portions of an occupied space, are further categorized as individual or shared multioccupant, based on the number of occupants and their activities. An individual occupant space is an area where someone performs distinct tasks. A shared multioccupant space is a place of congregation or a place where people pursue overlapping or collaborative tasks. Occupied spaces that are not regularly occupied or not used for distinct or collaborative tasks are neither individual occupant nor shared multioccupant spaces.

Examples of individual occupant spaces include the following:

Bank teller station 
Correctional facility cell or day room 
Data center staff workstation 
Hospital nursing station 
Hospital patient room 
Hotel guest room 
Medical office 
Military barracks with personal workspaces 
Open-office workstation 
Private office 
Reception desk 
Residential bedroom 
Study carrel 

Examples of shared multioccupant spaces include the following:

Active warehouse and storage 
Airplane hangar 
Auto service bay 
Conference room 
Correctional facility cell or day room 
Data center network operations center 
Data center security operations center 
Exhibition hall 
Facilities staff office 
Food service facility dining area 
Food service facility kitchen area 
Hospital autopsy and morgue 
Hospital critical-care area 
Hospital dialysis and infusion area 
Hospital exam room 
Hospital operating room 
Hospital surgical suite 
Hospital waiting room 
Hospital diagnostic and treatment area 
Hospital laboratory 
Hospital solarium 
Hotel front desk 
Hotel housekeeping area 
Hotel lobby 
Meeting room 
Retail merchandise area and associated circulation 
Retail sales transaction area 
School classroom 
School media center 
School student activity room 
School study hall 
Shipping and receiving office 
Warehouse materials-handling area 

Occupied spaces can also be classified as densely or nondensely occupied, based on the concentration of occupants in the space. A densely occupied space has a design occupant density of 25 people or more per 1,000 square feet (93 square meters), or 40 square feet (3.7 square meters) or less per person. Occupied spaces with a lower density are nondensely occupied.

Table 1 outlines the relationship between the EQ credits and the space categorization terms. If the credit is listed, the space must meet the requirements of the credit.

Table 1. Space types in EQ credits

Table 2 outlines the relationship between the EQ credits and the space categorization terms specific to each rating system (see Definitions). Unless otherwise stated, if the credit is listed, the space must meet the requirements of the credit.

Table 2. Rating system–specific space classifications

*Hotel guest rooms are excluded from the credit requirements.

The following credits are not affected by space classifications:

  • Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control
  • Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies, Option 1 A
  • Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies, Option 1 B
  • Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies, Option 2 A
  • Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies, Option 2 D (no specific spaces; applicable spaces are determined by the project team)
  • Low-Emitting Materials
  • Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plan
  • Indoor Air Quality Assessment, Option 1, Flush-Out (the floor area from all spaces must be included in calculation for total air volume; the flush-out must be demonstrated at the system level.)
  • Interior Lighting, Option 2, strategy B
  • Interior Lighting, Option 2, strategy C
  • Interior Lighting, Option 2, strategy F
  • Acoustic Performance (Healthcare)

Tricky Spaces

Pay extra attention to how the following types of spaces are classified in specific credits.


  • Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance and Environmental Tobacco Smoke have specific requirements and considerations for residential projects.
  • See the Project Type Variations sections in Thermal Comfort and Interior Lighting for guidance on providing appropriate controllability in residential buildings.


  • Exceptions to Daylight and Quality Views are permitted. See the Project Type Variations sections in Daylight and Quality Views.


  • See the Project Type Variations section in Thermal Comfort for guidance on dealing with high levels of physical activity.
  • Exceptions to Quality Views are permitted. See the Project Type Variations section in Quality Views.

Transportation Terminals

  • For Thermal Comfort and Interior Lighting, Option 1, Lighting Control, most of the areas in a transportation terminal can be considered shared multioccupant. Most areas in transportation terminals are also regularly occupied.

Dormitories and Military Barracks

  • These spaces fall in-between a work space and residence.
  • Dorm rooms or military barracks with personal workspaces are considered individual occupant spaces. Military barracks without personal workspaces are considered shared multioccupant.

Industrial Facilities

  • For Thermal Comfort and Interior Lighting, Option 1, Lighting Control, most of the active warehouse and storage areas are considered multioccupant.
  • Most areas in industrial facilities are also regularly occupied.

IN Overview

Sustainable design strategies and measures are constantly evolving and improving. New technologies are continually introduced to the marketplace, and up- to-date scientific research influences building design strategies. The purpose of this LEED category is to recognize projects for innovative building features and sustainable building practices and strategies.

Occasionally, a strategy results in building performance that greatly exceeds what is required in an existing LEED credit. Other strategies may not be addressed by any LEED prerequisite or credit but warrant consideration for their sustainability benefits. In addition, LEED is most effectively implemented as part of a cohesive team, and this category addresses the role of a LEED Accredited Professional in facilitating that process.

RP Overview

Because some environmental issues are particular to a locale, volunteers from USGBC chapters and the LEED International Roundtable have identified distinct environmental priorities within their areas and the credits that address those issues. These Regional Priority credits encourage project teams to focus on their local environmental priorities.

USGBC established a process that identified six RP credits for every location and every rating system within chapter or country boundaries. Participants were asked to determine which environmental issues were most salient in their chapter area or country. The issues could be naturally occurring (e.g., water shortages) or man-made (e.g., polluted watersheds) and could reflect environmental concerns (e.g., water shortages) or environmental assets (e.g., abundant sunlight). The areas, or zones, were defined by a combination of priority issues—for example, an urban area with an impaired watershed versus an urban area with an intact watershed.

The participants then prioritized credits to address the important issues of given locations. Because each LEED project type (e.g., a data center) may be associated with different environmental impacts, each rating system has its own RP credits.

The ultimate goal of RP credits is to enhance the ability of LEED project teams to address critical environmental issues across the country and around the world.

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