LEED v4 Rating System Selection Guidance | U.S. Green Building Council
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You've decided to pursue LEED v4, but you're looking for some guidance to select a rating system before you register your project. Looking for LEED 2009 Rating System Selection Guidance? Access.

Here's how to use the guidance below:

  1. Identify an appropriate rating system
  2. Determine the best adaptation

Please pay close attention to this guidance, because if you select a rating system that doesn't apply, USGBC may request that you change your project's rating system.

Don't forget, your very first step should be to make sure that LEED will work for your project no matter what rating system you choose. Check out the LEED v4 Minimum Program Requirements.

Contact USGBC if you are not clear which rating system you should use


Rating system descriptions

LEED for Building Design and Construction. Buildings that are new construction or major renovation. At least 60% of the project’s gross floor area must be complete by the time of certification (except for LEED BD+C: Core and Shell). Must include the entire building’s gross floor area in the project.

  • LEED BD+C: New Construction and Major Renovation. New construction or major renovation of buildings that do not primarily serve K-12 educational, retail, data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality, or healthcare uses. New construction also includes high-rise residential buildings 9 stories or more.
  • LEED BD+C: Core and Shell Development. Buildings that are new construction or major renovation for the exterior shell and core mechanical, electrical, and plumbing units, but not a complete interior fit-out. LEED BD+C: Core and Shell is the appropriate rating system to use if more than 40% of the gross floor area is incomplete at the time of certification.
  • LEED BD+C: Schools. Buildings made up of core and ancillary learning spaces on K-12 school grounds. LEED BD+C: Schools may optionally be used for higher education and non-academic buildings on school campuses.
  • LEED BD+C: Retail. Buildings used to conduct the retail sale of consumer product goods. Includes both direct customer service areas (showroom) and preparation or storage areas that support customer service.
  • LEED BD+C: Data Centers. Buildings specifically designed and equipped to meet the needs of high density computing equipment such as server racks, used for data storage and processing. LEED BD+C: Data Centers only addresses whole building data centers (greater than 60%).
  • LEED BD+C: Warehouses and Distribution Centers. Buildings used to store goods, manufactured products, merchandise, raw materials, or personal belongings, such as self-storage.
  • LEED BD+C: Hospitality. Buildings dedicated to hotels, motels, inns, or other businesses within the service industry that provide transitional or short-term lodging with or without food.
  • LEED BD+C: Healthcare. Hospitals that operate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and provide inpatient medical treatment, including acute and long-term care.
  • LEED BD+C: Homes and Multifamily Lowrise. Single-family homes and multi-family residential buildings of 1 to 3 stories. Projects 3 to 5 stories may choose the Homes rating system that corresponds to the ENERGY STAR program in which they are participating.
  • LEED BD+C: Multifamily Midrise. Multi-family residential buildings of 4 to 8 occupiable stories above grade. The building must have 50% or more residential space. Buildings near 8 stories can inquire with USGBC about using Midrise or New Construction, if appropriate.

LEED for Interior Design and Construction. Interior spaces that are a complete interior fit-out. In addition, at least 60% of the project’s gross floor area must be complete by the time of certification.

  • LEED ID+C: Commercial Interiors. Interior spaces dedicated to functions other than retail or hospitality.

  • LEED ID+C: Retail. Interior spaces used to conduct the retail sale of consumer product goods. Includes both direct customer service areas (showroom) and preparation or storage areas that support customer service.

  • LEED ID+C: Hospitality. Interior spaces dedicated to hotels, motels, inns, or other businesses within the service industry that provide transitional or short-term lodging with or without food.

LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance. Buildings that are fully operational and occupied for at least one year. The project may be undergoing improvement work or little to no construction. Must include the entire building’s gross floor area in the project.

  • LEED O+M: Existing Buildings. Existing buildings that do not primarily serve K-12 educational, retail, data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, or hospitality uses.
  • LEED O+M: Retail. Existing buildings used to conduct the retail sale of consumer product goods. Includes both direct customer service areas (showroom) and preparation or storage areas that support customer service.
  • LEED O+M: Schools. Existing buildings made up of core and ancillary learning spaces on K-12 school grounds. May also be used for higher education and non-academic buildings on school campuses.
  • LEED O+M: Hospitality. Existing buildings dedicated to hotels, motels, inns, or other businesses within the service industry that provide transitional or short-term lodging with or without food.
  • LEED O+M: Data Centers. Existing buildings specifically designed and equipped to meet the needs of high density computing equipment such as server racks, used for data storage and processing.
    LEED O+M: Data Centers only addresses whole building data centers.
  • LEED O+M: Warehouses & Distribution Centers. Existing buildings used to store goods, manufactured products, merchandise, raw materials, or personal belongings (such as self-storage).

LEED for Neighborhood Development. New land development projects or redevelopment projects containing residential uses, nonresidential uses, or a mix. Projects may be at any stage of the development process, from conceptual planning through construction. It is recommended that at least 50% of total building floor area be new construction or major renovation. Buildings within the project and features in the public realm are evaluated.

  • LEED ND: Plan. Projects in conceptual planning or master planning phases, or under construction.
  • LEED ND: Built Project. Completed development projects.

Choosing between rating systems

The following 40/60 rule provides guidance for making a decision when several rating systems appear to be appropriate for a project. To use this rule, first assign a rating system to each square foot or square meter of the building, and then choose the most appropriate rating system based on the resulting percentages.

The entire gross floor area of a LEED project must be certified under a single rating system and is subject to all prerequisites and attempted credits in that rating system, regardless of mixed construction or space usage type.

  • If a rating system is appropriate for less than 40% of the gross floor area of a LEED project building or space, then that rating system should not be used.
  • If a rating system is appropriate for more than 60% of the gross floor area of a LEED project building or space, then that rating system should be used.
  • If an appropriate rating system falls between 40% and 60% of the gross floor area, project teams must independently assess their situation and decide which rating system is most applicable.
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Total 53 commentsLeave a comment

Instructor/Consultant, Association for Energy Affordability, In
I am reviewing my clients proposals for a new 12 story multi-family building. one item on the proposal is EA Fundamental Commissioning & Verification per LEED v4. In the proposal the company is saying they will use the EPA Multifamily High Rise Program Testing & Verification Protocol. Reviewing the LEED BD&C v4 for a 12 story it say to follow ASHRAE...can you use the EPA's program for a 12 story building?
LEED Specialist, East Tennessee Chapter of the USGBC
Thank you for your question! No, using the EPA Multifamily High Rise Program Testing and Verification Protocol is not acceptable to meet the requirements for LEED v4 EA Fundamental commissioning and verification. The commissioning process scope and activities must follow the guidelines established in these referenced standards: ASHRAE Guideline 0–2005 - The Commissioning Process, and ASHRAE Guideline 1.1–2007 - HVAC&R Technical Requirements for the Commissioning Process. Page 321 of the v4 LEED Reference Guide for Building Design and Construction contains the following guidance: "Complete the following commissioning (Cx) process activities for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and renewable energy systems and assemblies, in accordance with ASHRAE Guideline 0-2005 and ASHRAE Guideline 1.1–2007 for HVAC&R Systems, as they relate to energy, water, indoor environmental quality, and durability. Requirements for exterior enclosures are limited to inclusion in the owner’s project requirements (OPR) and basis of design (BOD), as well as the review of the OPR, BOD and project design. NIBS Guideline 3-2012 for Exterior Enclosures provides additional guidance." The LEED Credit Library has further information and guidance that you may find helpful, here: http://www.usgbc.org/node/2612328?view=language. I hope this helps, but please feel free to reach out to us with further questions at http://www.usgbc.org/contactus.
Designer, innovation Dynamics
The first link above takes me to the LEED 2009 rating system selection guide. Is there a similar document for V4?
LEED Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
For LEED v4 we do not have a similar document but, instead would refer you to use our Discover LEED tool (http://www.usgbc.org/discoverleed/) to determine which rating system is the best fit and then follow up by reading the article above to make sure you've made the right choice. I hope that helps.
MEP Design Engineer, AEC Engineering Consulting
Interesting.
Sustainability / LEED Specialist, LPA, Inc.
Group Approach seems very logical on paper but I keep hearing people having trouble with it once they are already too far in. I have had wonderful success in v2.2 but the complaints I hear are v2009 projects. My two Projects on one site fit all the requirements. The group approach (on paper) would make the site, waste management and materials credits much more logistically realistic to document. (no dividing up trucks at the gate depending on which piece of material is going which direction or came from which project. can ANYONE support GROUP as the way to go? Or council me in running away and registering the Projects as two separate and dealing with all the MRc2, MRC4&5; IEQ4.1thru4.4; MRc7; issues of division and tracking.
LEED Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
Hi Louis, I'm not sure what complaints you have heard so can't comment on them. We typically see few issues with group projects other than the fact that until now, multiple forms are not provided for credits where individual building achievement is necessary. That is one of the improvements we are working on but do not have an expected deadline.
Consultant Engineer, Ingeniero Mario Pedro Hernandez
Hello, I have these two buildings that are going to be University facilities, Medicine University FAcilities. One of the buildings is going to be classrooms and laboratories to teach, and the other one is going to house classrooms and some few administrative offices. As I understand these two buildings may applay to both NC+D or Schools systems, is it right?, Thank you
LEED Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
Yes, while the specifics of your project are not known, in general new buildings and major renovations of higher education and non-academic buildings on school campuses can pursue LEED v4 BD+C: Schools, or LEED v4 BD+C: New Construction.
Principal Civil Engineer- LEED AP BD+C, Amec Foster Wheeler
Hi, I have a question similar to Philippa's one. I am working on a new grass root manufacturing facility project There is more than one new building proposed, at least three, with different use. One is a warehouse. All of them will be occupied by the same Owner. They are located together and as part of the same project.We can consider some / all as a single building for LEED purposes under the MPR guidance? or if we can submit all under a single registration? Do you suggest the Campus application?? Thank you
LEED Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
Given the programmatic co-dependencies such space types have in a manufacturing setting it would seem appropriate to submit these buildings under a single LEED certification as long as each of the buildings will be separately metered and have a single owner. We usually interpret programmatic co-dependency to mean that "spaces – not personnel – within the building cannot function independently without the other building". If the only connections are related workflows and circulation-only connectors (i.e. bridges), these should be considered separate buildings for LEED (pg. 22 of the MPR Supplemental Guidance). All four buildings may be eligible to be consolidated into a single project using the Group approach, as defined in the Campus Guidance document (http://www.usgbc.org/resources/campus-guidance). In the group approach credit compliance is documented for a group of buildings or spaces located within a single LEED project boundary and under a single LEED project registration. The entire group receives a single LEED rating and certification.  All buildings or spaces within a group project certification must use the same compliance paths for all credits and prerequisites pursued.  This approach works best for projects being built simultaneously. This approach would not reduce total LEED fees, but may reduce documentation costs for some credits. As further guidance for your project, you may wish to take a look at LEED-NC EAp2 and EAc2 LEED Interpretations ID#10291 (http://www.usgbc.org/leed-interpretations?keys=10291) and ID#10397 (http://www.usgbc.org/leed-interpretations?keys=10397) that address issues related to new manufacturing facilities or projects with high process loads and limited site conditions.
Architect, CH2M
Hi, we are considering LEED for a school expansion project and I need some guidance on what the most suitable system would be. There is more than one new building proposed and not all are teaching and learning spaces, however they are located together and as part of the same design. I am unsure if we can consider some / all as a single building for LEED purposes under the MPR guidance? or if we can submit all under a single registration?
Principal and Founder, The Green Engineer, Inc.
You have conflicting info on the website. On this page it says that LEED for Homes Midrise goes up to 8 stories. Elsewhere (Table 3. Applying the LEED for Homes Rating System - http://www.usgbc.org/content/leed-certification-guidance-step-2#table-3 ) it says it only goes to 6 stories.
Lighting Designer, Thorn Lighting Ltd.
Hi Christopher, Is your question has been solved?
Principal and Founder, The Green Engineer, Inc.
Nope
LEED Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
Hi Christopher and Nelca, My apologies for the confusion. For LEED for Homes v2008 the top end for the Multi-Family Midrise adaptation is 6 stories, whereas in LEED v4 the top end is 8 stories. I should also note, as alluded to above, it is possible for buildings near (i.e. somewhat taller than) those limits to use Multifamily Midrise if they contact us in advance to verify it is appropriate. Christopher, I apologize for having to ask this, but can you please explain how you navigated to this link (http://www.usgbc.org/content/leed-certification-guidance-step-2#table-3)? That will help us revise it appropriately.
Principal and Founder, The Green Engineer, Inc.
I searched "midrise vs nc" in the search box on USGBC.org. (the wayfinding on the site is so terrible I don't ever bother trying to find things any other way - sorry, but it is true.) It's in the first page of results.
Lighting Designer, Thorn Lighting Ltd.
I see. I looked at their other site and it says it is up to 8-stories. Perhaps the error is the 6.
Architect, Nandon Interior & Trading
Really discussion questions are informative & essential as well for LEED professionals.
good
Sr. Project Architect, ARCHI ETC LLC
I am working on an ADDITION project in Sabetha KS. The existing building is an industrial occupancy (108,000 sf.). I am proposing to ADD on to this existing building with 2 floors of 12,000 sf each floor. this addition will be an administrative office. Can I use BD+C New construction as my rating system? If NO, then which one can I use? thank you.
LEED Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
Hi Todd, most likely you can certify the addition as a separate building. You will have to look at the requirements for attached buildings found starting on page 14 of the Supplemental Guidance to the Minimum Program Requirements, rev 2, Sep 2011 . If that's not possible, O+M would be the approach to take.
Graduate Sustainability Engineer, BuroHappold
Can buildings that are not physically/architecturally connected (i.e. no garage or below ground circulation) earn 1 single rating if they are within the same campus boundary and are architecturally identical (i.e. same building type)? I have a masterplan resort with many hotel villas that are too similar to earn separate ratings but are not physically connected. They are all within 1 master site and 1 campus boundary. Would it be ok to certify them all under a single rating as 1 group?
LEED Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
Hi Menatalla, in some circumstances, a group of buildings such as this can be certified as a single building. LEED Interpretation (LI) allows this for K-12 schools, resorts and a few other building types. If any building is over 25,000 sf, it is considered a separate building but can be included in a group certification.
Director, Green Consult Asia
My understanding was that for LEED CI series, it is required to have a separate leasehold for the interior that is the subject of the certification. (the project is under different ownership than the building ownership). It was done that way so that owners could not just certify parts of their building, pick and choose. Is that no longer the case?
LEED Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
Hi Melissa, I think you are asking whether the applicant must be an entity other than the building owner. No, that's not always necessary. A whole building interior renovation can use CI. Pages 18-19 of the Supplemental Guidance to the Minimum Program Requirements, rev 2, Sep 2011 has a good explanation of 'interior space' and ownership rules.
Global Lead New Facilities, Magna
Hi Megan, can you tell me what is applicable for a manufacturing workshop? Warehouse / Distribution center is close but a manufacturing workshop is much more complex or does LEED do not distinguish?
LEED Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
Hi Nikolaus, For a manufacturing workshop, NC is appropriate if it's new construction or O+M if it's the operation of an existing building. The NC adaptation for a warehouse is not appropriate.
I want to inquire if a 100 storey Residential Highrise can qualify for LEED Core and Shell rating system. This building will have commercial spaces at the bottom 5 floors and remaining 95 floors shall be Residential Apartments. Please suggest
Green Building Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
Hi Vikram - Since the project will only be 5% commercial space, presumably intended to be fit out by the commercial occupant, while 95% of the building would be completely fit-out residential units, as described, this project would not fit the 40/60 rule to qualify for LEED BD&C Core and Shell, and would likely be a better fit for LEED BD&C New Construction. If you have additional questions about your specific project, I would encourage you to submit your questions at usgbc.org/contactus.
Hi Nora, It is compulsory if want to write the leed for home exam i have to write the green associate and BD+C building design construction .Already i have bachelor of civil engineer degree and i don't have any leed certifications .please suggest me
Project Manager, Enertek Sustainable Design & Technology
I am confused by the following statement: " At least 60% of the project’s gross floor area must be complete by the time of certification (except for LEED BD+C: Core and Shell). Must include the entire building’s gross floor area in the project."

So a building don't have to be completed construction and I still can be LEED certified? How about recycle rate in "Construction and Demolition Waste Management" credit? How about energy system commissioning process?

The other issue is the definition of "mid-rise" hone? The floors shall be 4-6 o 4-8? In LEED certification page,: http://www.usgbc.org/certification, mid rise is " four to six stories". In LEED discover page: http://www.usgbc.org/discoverleed/certification/homes-midrise/ it is four to eight storiesWhich one is correct?
We are doing renovations to a section of an existing stadium that affects around 10% of the seating area for the stadium. What are the requirements for Major Renovations to be applicable?
Green Building Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
Hi Mitchell - Thank you for considering LEED for your stadium renovation. To be considered a 'Major Renovation', a substantial part of building would need to be undergoing considerable interior, structural, and/or mechanical renovation. Per the guidance noted above, projects should apply the 40/60 rule listed above to determine the % of gross square footage of their project that is applicable to a given rating system, In the case of your project, if renovation is limited to 10% of the seating area of the stadium, it would likely not qualify for LEED Certification since it is significantly below the minimum of 40% gross square footage to be applied to a given rating system. That said, If there is a broader scope to the renovations, I would encourage you to take a look at the LEED v4 Minimum Program requirements,or try our 'Discover LEED' tool to see what would be a good fit for your project. Finally, if you have additional questions, please feel free to contact us at: usgbc.org/contactus and we would be happy to answer questions about your specific project http://www.usgbc.org/discoverleed/ ---- http://www.usgbc.org/articles/good-know-minimum-program-requirements-leed
We are renovating a 2 story in-town house in Harrisonburg, Va for the purpose of converting it into a commercial building with a sound recording studio in part of the first floor. which LEED rating system is appropriate for ths job?
Intern Architect, AIBC
It's really hazy and dizzy for me!!! I want the references for leed green associate certificate... The site is so dizzy. everywhere i find deference information.. Please Please give me the name or download link of the primary references for the first exam. If rating systems are so important, where can i find the resources? some of the references that this site introduce, refer to the prices!!! are those payment knowledge important or not? for example see this (http://www.usgbc.org/cert-guide/fees) or the previous one (http://www.usgbc.org/articles/prepare-your-leed-green-associate-exam) I'm really become astounding
Director of LEED Support, U.S. Green Building Council
Here a link to the LEED v4 GA exam bundle: http://www.usgbc.org/resources/study-bundle-leed-green-associate-exam-pr... This includes not only the LEED Green Associate Exam Preparation Guide, LEED v4 Edition, but also the LEED Core Concepts Guide.
Sustainable Strategies Consultant & Trainer, SMART Management Consulting LLC
Greetings. Would an existing single family home (2400 square feet) qualify to pursue an EBOM certification?
Director of LEED Support, U.S. Green Building Council
Hi Jenine - We currently don't have guidelines or a rating system for existing homes, just LEED for Homes (for new construction) and ReGreen (for remodels : http://www.regreenprogram.org). (EBOM isn't applicable for single family homes.) Hope that helps - MRS
How can I download this article?
Digital Marketing Manager, U.S. Green Building Council
Hi Rafael, in your browser window go to File > Save Page As to save this article.
Cost Estimator, Beijing Zhongpengcheng Cost Consulting Company
Is there a isolated rating system for homes? Or just included in the BD+C, Homes and Multifamily lowrise system?
LEED Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
Actually, in LEED v4, LEED for Homes has been integrated under the LEED BD+C rating system umbrella in the form of two separate 'adaptations': LEED-BD+C Homes & Multifamily Lowrise and LEED BD+C Multifamily Midrise. That said, it does still have its own separate reference guide (http://www.usgbc.org/resources/leed-reference-guide-homes-design-and-con...), and certification process, which you can review in outline by clicking on the orange "Homes" button on the top right of the Certification page of our website (http://www.usgbc.org/certification).
Director, HnC Construction Institute Co., Ltd.
Thank you for your explanation.. But I’m still confused. Does that mean, in LEED v4, LEED AP with BD+C specialty can perform the certification process for homes? It sounds to me that green homes would be possible to get certified either by LEED BD+C or LEED Homes. If so, what is the main differences between the two?
LEED Specialist, U.S. Green Building Council
The LEED v4 BD+C "Homes & Multifamily Lowrise" and "Multifamily Midrise" rating system adaptations are actually covered by a separate LEED credential specialty, LEED AP Homes, as explained in more detail here: http://www.usgbc.org/credentials#ap . Although similar, the commercial and residential flavors of the BD+C rating system differ in several important respects, not just in terms of the requirements for specific credits, but also in terms of the certification process itself.
Cost Estimator, Beijing Zhongpengcheng Cost Consulting Company
Thanks, Eric. This answer helps a lot.
Verdeco Designs LLC
There is a separate LEED for Homes rating system - look it up!
Principal, NRG-AR
Pro Reviewer
I was revising the Minimum Program Requirements (MPRs) for NC v4 and just realized that MPRs have been reduced from 7 to 3. It seems that reporting energy and water consumption is no longer required under v4, nor abiding by local environmental laws. I wonder what caused this reduction, and I seek clarification if the old MPRs are no longer required. Thank you.
Master Candidate of Environmental Management , Duke University
For metering the energy consumption, I believe this now becomes the prerequisite for E&A credit category.
Principal, NRG-AR
Pro Reviewer
Yes, you are right. The metering and reporting to USGBC is covered by the new Building-Level Energy Metering prerequisite. However, I have not seen yet the ancient prescriptive requirement to abide by local environmental laws. I'll keep searching...
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