LEED v4 | U.S. Green Building Council
Please upgrade your browser. This site requires a newer version to work correctly. Read more


From hotels to healthcare, LEED is everywhere you look. In just under 20 years, LEED revolutionized the green building marketplace, becoming the international standard for the design, construction and operation of high-performance structures.

Benefits of LEED v4

  • Flexibility with strategies to fit the unique aspects of all projects
  • Performance based approach to design, operations and maintenance that calls for measurable results at every stage of a project's life
  • Smart grid thinking to the forefront that rewards projects for participating in demand response programs
  • A more comprehensive approach to water efficiency by evaluating total building water use
  • Expanded focus on materials — in addition to considering usage of materials in buildings, LEED v4 integrates a comprehensive approach to evaluate the impact of materials on human health and the environment
  • Streamlined documentation and even greater alignment between rating systems for a better customer experience

Strategies & Outcomes

LEED v4 credits and prerequisites were designed to raise the bar.

Impact categories developed for LEED v4 underscore how a project can benefit their local communities and our planet. They incentivize pursuing higher-point valued credits and higher certification levels that achieve better environmental economic and social impacts.

The result? Advanced strategies that teams can use to define and achieve their goals.

Integrative thinking

Bringing the right people to the table at the onset and aligning goals can save project teams valuable time and resources.

Requirements in the Integrative Process (IP) section encourage and reward finding connections between different building systems and processes. The strategies built into LEED often accomplish more than just one thing, and with this opening dialogue, projects can capitalize on those synergies.


Starting with a focus on reducing energy demand through guidance related to energy usage and efficiency, and then also rewarding renewables, LEED raises the bar on energy and offers new solutions for achieving goals.

Within the Energy and Atmosphere (EA) section, teams will find:

  • With 20 percent of all points allocated to building energy efficiency, LEED has an increased emphasis on energy and the associated impacts.
  • Emphasis on enhanced building commissioning for greater energy and operational performance.
  • Benefits of smart-grid thinking through an option that rewards projects for participating in demand-response programs.

Every single system in a building is affected by water. It connects and interacts with everything. In the U.S., buildings account for 13.6 percent of potable water use.

The Water Efficiency (WE) section in the newest version of LEED addresses water holistically, taking into account indoor use, outdoor use, specialized uses and metering. It measures all sources of water related to a building, including cooling towers, appliances, fixtures, fittings, process water, and irrigation.

Whole-building-level water metering ensures projects can monitor and control their water use in order to identify opportunities for water savings. LEED v4 also encourages projects to reuse water, including reclaimed wastewater, graywater, condensate, process water, and rainwater, for irrigation, toilet flushing and more.


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 Materials and Resources (MR) section within LEED v4 directly addresses each of these recommended strategies that have been restructured and reprioritized from their original credits in LEED 2009.


LEED changes the paradigm for how decisions are made about materials that go into the buildings we spend so much of our time in by giving new information to decision makers.

  • Usage: Within the Materials and Resources (MR) section, instead of saying a product is good or bad based on one attribute, e.g. recycled content, LEED enables project teams to have a more robust dialogue with manufacturers about optimizing around environmental, social and health impacts and better understand trade-offs. This category is designed to consider the entire life-cycle of the building, from extraction and manufacturing, to transport, operations, and maintenance and eventually the end of life.
  • Life-cycle: Whole building life-cycle assessment encourages the architect to work with the structural engineer to investigate opportunities to reduce the embodied energy of materials by right-sizing the building’s structure. There can be as much as a 20-30 percent positive impact on the life cycle of the building by looking at bay sizing and slab depth. This is important because as buildings become more and more operationally efficient, the embodied impact of materials gets proportionally larger.
  • Transparency: Environmental product declarations and material ingredient reporting tools, like Health Product Declarations, provide architects and designers more information on the contents in products and the manufacturing process. EPDs address how products are made, their material ingredients, and other tools provide information about who makes them. These three together address the triple bottom line and give architects a more complete set of information by which to select products.

By providing this information, manufacturers can better differentiate the progress they’ve made and demonstrate that improvement.

Location & transportation

The first step toward environmental performance is selecting a good location.

For owners, proximity to existing utilities and street networks avoids the cost of bringing this infrastructure to the project site. Locating in vibrant, livable communities makes the building a destination for residents, employees, customers and visitors, and enables the building’s occupants to contribute to the area’s economic activity, creating a good model for future development.

A new section developed for LEED v4, Location and Transportation (LT) includes an emphasis on more advanced performance metrics — walking distance instead of straight line radius, trip counts instead of transit stops, absolute rather than relative parking requirements and bicycle networks in addition to bicycle storage.

Sustainable sites

A building’s impact is not restricted to what is inside it.

Strategies under Sustainable Sites (SS) address impacts by rewarding decisions about the environment surrounding the building, and emphasizing the vital relationships among buildings, ecosystems and ecosystem services. They focus on restoring project site elements, integrating the site with local and regional ecosystems, and preserving the biodiversity on which natural systems rely.

For example, LEED is changing the way we view runoff from precipitation. “Rainwater” is now seen as a resource that provides many environmental and economic benefits. Managing rainwater on site restores natural hydrologic conditions, reduces the possibility of flooding, and creates opportunities for onsite water reuse in applications like irrigation and landscape features.

Another example is found in the streamlined requirements of the Heat Island Reduction credit. A building’s roof and a building’s site area both influence the heat gain and retention of a project’s surroundings. By combining these elements into one credit, LEED holistically addresses microclimates impacted by heat islands.

Health and human experience

Buildings and spaces with good indoor environmental quality protect the health and comfort of building occupants. Going a step beyond, high-quality indoor environments also work to improve the building’s value, enhance productivity, decrease absenteeism and reduce liability for building designers and owners.

Regional impacts

Because some environmental issues are particular to a locale, we, with the help of our community leaders around the world, have identified distinct environmental priorities by area and the credits that address those issues. Teams are rewarded for pursuing and achieving existing LEED credits that address issues specific to the location of their projects.

The Regional Priority (RP) credits encourage project teams to focus on their local environmental priorities and there are six LEED v4 credit for every location.


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 the Innovation (IN) category is to recognize projects for innovative building features and sustainable building practices and strategies.

Global, Regional, Local

LEED has become a common language of best practices in buildings around the world. In the new rating system, there is greater recognition of regional context with the incorporation of regional and local equivalent standards or programs usable to achieve the same credit intent. Additionally, metric units have been included in all tools and resources.

View additional guidance for project teams around the world and let us know what you think. Is there an issue not addressed? We can help.


In LEED v4, project teams find strategies around performance, both at the required (prerequisite) level and at the optional (credit) level.

Our buildings are alive and because of that there's an expanded focus on metering and monitoring, which encourages building owners to track energy, water and ventilation rates. With this, teams consider and work toward higher levels of performance for projects at every stage – design, construction and operations.

Health & Human Experience
  • Requirements and options within the Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) section balance the need for prescriptive measures with more performance-oriented credit requirements.
  • The low emitting materials credit is performance-based and measures the actual emissions form the product instead of only the VOC content
  • Emphasis has been placed on performance-based indoor air quality assessment
  • Minimum of 5 percent energy efficiency improvement over ASHRAE 90.1-2010 – a performance outcome that is 14 percent higher than 2009
  • Minimum ENERGY STAR score raised to 75
  • Installation of meters (through the metering prerequisite and credit) allows teams to meter, monitor and verify their energy use to set and meet building performance goals
  • Improvements aimed at the efficiency of the grid itself though new credits like Demand Response – that look beyond building performance to address utility scale performance
  • As in energy – new metering requirements encourage performance by ensuring that teams have access to and consider data on their water use
  • The “efficiency first” approach to water conservation in each prerequisite is designed to ensure that performance goals are addressed for all LEED v4 certified projects regardless of the source of the water (rainwater, reused or recycled water, etc.)
Materials & Waste
  • A new building life-cycle impact reduction credit rewards project teams for using less or for using a whole building LCA to reduce the building’s impact in key categories
  • Teams are rewarded for using materials with optimized environmental impacts
  • Updates to the waste diversion credit include a new option that rewards teams for creating less waste to divert

Arc is a platform that measures, monitors and scores building performance across five categories: energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience. The generated performance score (out of 100) is updated whenever new building data enters the platform.


Looking to learn about LEED at a glance or need a high level introduction to the rating systems? We have education for you.

Education @USGBC allows you to grow your sustainability and green building knowledge, and also connect and collaborate with building practitioners around the world. Gain unlimited access to webinars, courses, the web-based reference guides and the latest LEED v4 content. Subscribe to Education @USGBC.

Education by topic Introductory level courses Intermediate level courses

The LEED reference guides serve as the first stop for project teams. Completely redesigned for LEED v4, the reference guides have been restructured to focus on the most useful information for project teams.

The guides were evaluated to determine ways to make them function better as full guides, instead of a collection of separate credit-specific explanations. To support this, project teams will find: Getting Started section, navigation tools, and two formats (web-based and traditional). Learn more.

LEED v4 Support

We’re here to help because we care about every LEED project's success.

A network of USGBC staff and committee members serve as subject matter experts coming together to power the LEED support center. Our commitment, led by the Technical Solutions team, is to transform one project at a time because LEED v4 is a quantum leap of design, construction, operations and performance.

All LEED v4 projects can access a LEED coach to help guide teams through the certification process and connect them to valuable resources and tools. Access the LEED toolkit for project teams or contact LEED support team.

LEED Certification

LEED certification steps remain the same and GBCI continues to deliver the high quality review and certification.

LEED addresses all buildings, spaces and communities — regardless of where they're at in their life cycle or location, there is a LEED for every building — including, but not limited to: New Construction and Major Renovations, Existing Buildings, Core and Shell Development, Schools, Retail, Healthcare, Data Centers, Hospitality, Warehouses and Distribution Centers, Homes/Residential, Commercial Interiors, Neighborhoods and Cities.

Registration: Projects can register in LEED Online to get LEED certified. LEED Online provides a seamless user experience to help projects complete and submit their documentation for GBCI review. Register a LEED v4 project.

Certification: Certification is available at the following stages:

  • New construction addresses the design and construction strategies for perspective buildings, spaces and communities – setting the stage for high performance once in-use
  • Existing building rewards decisions made concerning the operations and maintenance strategies of occupied and in use buildings, spaces and communities – these could be previously LEED certified new construction projects or newly certifying projects
  • Ongoing monitors the consistent performance of occupied buildings, spaces and communities. Through this certification, project owners and teams use real-time performance data to set and achieve goals.

LEED includes certification options to support organizations with federal projects, multiple buildings or even entire portfolios.

  • Volume certification is for the certification of entire portfolios of building projects. It streamlines the process by focusing on the similarities in design, operations and delivery.
  • LEED campus and multiple building certification is available for several buildings on a single site and offers a number of options to help project owners determine the best way to reach their goals.
  • The US Federal Guiding Principles Assessment supports projects as they meet the requirements of the Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance in Sustainable Building.

Upgrade to LEED v4: More than 1,000 projects in over 60 countries currently are using LEED v4 to achieve their sustainability and performance goals. Stay ahead of the curve. Connect with GBCI to upgrade your LEED 2009 project to LEED v4 at no cost.

Expanding LEED

Recognizing excellence in green business.

Green Business Certification Inc. is the premier organization independently recognizing global excellence in green business industry performance and practice through the administration of project certifications, professional credentials and certificates. GBCI and USGBC have a number of offerings that reach further for greater impact.