Building Certifications

Building certifications such as LEED® and ENERGY STAR® are gaining recognition and traction in the market space. These brands are being equated to operational efficiency and superior environments for the people using the space. Small to mid-size owners should consider efforts to achieve these credentials for their buildings. Our studies have shown that small to mid-size buildings may already comply with LEED certified status.

Next: LEED® >


The U.S. Green Building Council developed LEED to promote a whole-building approach to sustainability. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it was designed to provide an approach for buildings to reduce their energy use and environmental impact. Many small to mid-range commercial office buildings are likely to pursue various levels of LEED certification as a means of reducing building operating costs and making the building more marketable to potential tenants.

LEED certification for commercial buildings can occur in one of the following areas:

  1. LEED New Construction and Major Renovations™
  2. LEED Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance™
  3. LEED Commercial Interiors™
  4. LEED Core and Shell™

Next: New Construction and Major Renovations >

LEED New Construction and Major Renovations™ certification was designed for buildings that have been newly constructed or have undergone significant renovations. This certification is designed for buildings in which the owner will occupy more than 50% of the leasable space in the building.

Next: Operations and Maintenance >

LEED’s Existing Building: Operations & MaintenanceTMis particularly applicable to the operations of commercial buildings currently in use. It provides a detailed framework for assessing sustainability on a number of factors, including both the human and environmental impact. Each category is broken down into specific items and assigned a certain number of credits or points. Energy consumption plays an important role, as do operating practices related specifically to the site. Most of the sustainability advice offered in this toolkit generally aligns to LEED.

Next: Commercial Interiors >

LEED Commercial Interiorswas designed to provide tenants and designers with the ability to make sustainable choices by creating work environments that are healthier and more productive, as well as having lower operating costs and environmental impact.

As a compliment to LEED Commercial Interiors, LEED Core and Shellrecognizes new core and shell construction that is designed in a sustainable manner. As such, this category is designed for buildings where owners occupy less than 50% of the leasable space in the building.

Next: Categories and Credits >

Categories have the following maximum number of credits:


LEED® Credits

Sustainable Sites


Water Efficiency


Energy & Atmosphere


Materials & Resources


Indoor Environmental Quality


Innovation in Design


Regional Priority


Total Available



Next: Certification Levels >

A building’s LEED certification level, such as Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum, is based on the number of credits earned, as illustrated in the following table.

certification levels

Next: Checklists >

LEED Certification Checklists

The U.S. Green Building Council offers checklists for each area of LEED certification. As a starting point, a building team can go through and see how their property compares to these requirements. Many buildings already operate at a LEED Certified level. The following links correspond with the respective certification webpage where a downloadable checklist is available under “Quick Links.”

  1. LEED New Construction and Major Renovations™
  2. LEED Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance™
  3. LEED Commercial Interiors™
  4. LEED Core and Shell™

Next: Accreditation Process >


The LEED accreditation process can be potentially expensive. Variables driving costs include the extent and depth to which professionals perform building audits and provide consulting services, the number of enhancements required to obtain additional LEED credits, and a fee paid to the United States Green Building Council. Once accreditation is achieved, it lasts for five years before requiring further renewal.



LEED® certification utilizes ENERGY STAR® as part of its certification process and also drives owners to develop a deeper understanding of the energy by end-use and opportunities within their buildings. The ENERGY STAR label was introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for commercial buildings in 1999. It focuses on ongoing monitoring and tracking of energy usage. EPA reports that commercial buildings that have earned the ENERGY STAR label use, on average, 35% less energy than average buildings and cost 50 cents less per square foot to operate.

Next: Getting Started with Energy Star >

If buildings achieve a 75 or higher on a 100-point ENERGY STAR scale, they are eligible for the ENERGY STAR label, indicating that they are among the top 25% in the country for energy performance. ENEGY STAR has many building categories, including “office.” Engaging or enrolling in the ENERGY STAR program is very simple. The process starts by putting energy consumption and building information into the online Portfolio Manageron the ENERGY STAR website. The site will ask for the following information:

  • Zip code
  • Gross floor area
  • Weekly operating hours
  • Number of workers on main shift
  • Number of personal computers
  • Percent of gross floor area that is air conditioned
  • Percent of gross floor area that is heated

Applying for ENERGY STAR is free, but a professional engineer or registered architect must verify the energy consumption data that is submitted in a formal application (if you are in the top 25% seeking accreditation). The ENERGY STAR website provides more information.