LEED for Cities and Communities

LEED for Cities and Communities

A new way forward for resilient, green, inclusive and smart cities

LEED for Cities and Communities helps local leaders create responsible, sustainable and specific plans for natural systems, energy, water, waste, transportation and many other factors that contribute to quality of life.

The certification programs revolutionize the way cities and communities are planned, developed and operated in order to improve their overall sustainability and quality of life. The LEED framework encompasses social, economic and environmental performance indicators and strategies with a clear, data-driven means of benchmarking and communicating progress. The program is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and is influenced by our engagement with hundreds of cities and communities around the globe.

Track progress toward sustainability objectives

LEED for Cities and Communities helps projects credibly track progress toward overall sustainability objectives and allows for comparison with others around the world. The platform serves cities and communities of all shapes and sizes and at all phases of their evolution. Participants can be public or privately managed, new or rapidly developing places, mature or fully built-out places, neighborhoods or districts, counties or even states or countries.

LEED for Cities and Communities helps local leaders to:

Benchmark performance against national and global standards

Projects track and report progress towards local targets, such as GHG emissions, and support goals set by leadership, such as climate action goals. LEED for Cities and Communities helps local leaders to measure and then communicate sustainability performance and goals in a consistent format and also compare progress against similar jurisdictions.

Demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, resilience and social equity

LEED for Cities and Communities helps local leaders to demonstrate a commitment to the environment, human health and economic prosperity. LEED for Cities and Communities benchmarks current performance and helps to educate residents, visitors and business owners that enable continuous improvement and make a community more livable and sustainable.

Develop a culture of data-driven decision making, transparency and leadership

Local leaders use LEED for Cities and Communities certification to commit to data-driven decision making and continuous improvement, establish a central data hub for citywide or communitywide progress and demonstrate responsible stewardship of resources.

Improve the standard of living and quality of life in cities and communities

The LEED for Cities and Communities rating system provides standards and strategies to improve sustainability performance over time. The best practices help to reduce energy, water, waste, pollution and CO2 at the community scale, and in turn improve air and water quality.

Select your priorities to tell your story

LEED for Cities and Communities follows a structure consistent with other LEED rating systems allowing cities and communities to select the focus areas of most import to their local stakeholders through credits and points while setting a baseline through prerequisites. Strategies organized around several categories:

Natural Systems and Ecology

Cities depend on nature and ecosystem services to not only sustain life, but also enhance the quality of life. Ecosystems protect and even regenerate natural systems, thereby increasing the ecosystem services they provide and creating ecologically resilient communities. These are better able to withstand and recover from episodic floods, droughts, wildfires, and other catastrophic events.

Transportation and Land Use

The transport sector is responsible for a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide. Land use is the key driver of mobility in a city, and rapid urbanization has disrupted land use patterns, resulting in urban sprawl and increased dependency on personal, motorized vehicles. This credit category encourages cities to adopt an integrated approach towards urban planning through mixed-use development, efficient transportation, better connectivity and engagement with stakeholders.

Water Efficiency

Water is the lifeline of any city. However, equity and access have been a major challenge in many cities. Water demand has been constantly increasing in urban and peri-urban areas and is stressing freshwater reserves, creating a perennial shortage of water in these cities. This credit category addresses water at multiple levels – meeting demand, maintaining water quality, reducing water losses, capturing stormwater, and managing urban floods. This credit category encourages cities to adopt an integrated approach toward water use management and planning and move towards a net zero water city.

Materials and Resources

Cities are large aggregators and consumers of materials and nutrients, accounting for the highest natural resource consumption affecting the environment and human health. The development of cities, with their high concentration of resources, capital, data and skills over a small geographic territory, provides opportunities to uniquely drive a global transition from a linear to a circular economy. This credit category encourages cities to move towards net zero waste city through recycling, reuse and reduction of waste generation.

Quality of Life

Raising the standard of living and quality of life for all residents around the globe is the program goal for the Quality of Life category. Cities and communities must equitably address the needs of all people, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, socio-cultural and economic status in their pursuits of livability and sustainability. This category encourages leaders to assess their socio-economic and demographic conditions and make improvements to their communities that support social equity, public health, affordability, education, prosperity, and community engagement.

Performance in these categories is tracked two ways: through prerequisites and credits.


Prerequisites are required and include two types: base conditions and the performance score. Base conditions include access to drinking water and power as well as assessments of ecological and socio-economic conditions.

The performance score combines 14 metrics across 5 categories: Energy, Water, Waste, Transportation, and Quality of Life. Nine of the metrics are in the Quality of Life category, across these sub-categories: Education, Equitability, Prosperity, and Health & Safety.

Category Metric Unit
Energy 1. Greenhouse Gas Emissions (CO2 equivalent) Tons per Year per Person
Water 2. Domestic Water Consuption Amount per Year per Person
Waste 3. Municipal Solid Waste Generated Amount per Year per Person
4. Municipal Solid Waste Diverted from Landfill % of Total Amount Collected
Transportation 5. Distance Traveled in Individual Vehicles Daily Distance per Day per Person
Education 6. Population with (at least) a High School Degree % of Population 25 Years or Older
7. Population with (at least) a Bachelor's Degree % of Population 25 Years or Older
Equitability 8. Median Gross Rent as a % of Household Income %
9. Gini Coefficient Number between zero and one
Prosperity 10. Median Household Income US Dollars per Year
11. Unemployment Rate % of Population 16 Years or Older
Health & Safety 12. Median Air Quality Index (AQI) Number between zero and 500
13. Air Quality Days Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Days between zero and 365
14. Violent Crime Per Capita per Year


Credits are optional, but the points earned for each credit is combined with the performance score and contributes to your overall score. Most credits include a combination of outcomes and strategies. Outcomes are quantitative and measure community conditions or results. An example is to demonstrate that at least 60% of households spend less than 45% on housing and transportation combined. Strategies are qualitative and include plans, policies, programs and other actions intended to move the needle on change in outcomes.

Get started

LEED for Cities and Communities is available for new and existing places. The rating system is supported by a full suite of tools and resources.

  • Cities are places with a governing body, and include cities, towns, counties and other local government jurisdictions.
  • Communities are non-city places, such as regions, districts, business improvement districts (BIDs), BIDs, economic development zones, neighborhoods, campuses and military installations.

Examples of LEED for Cities and Communities applicants:

  • A city or county manager representing a jurisdiction
  • A private sector planner developing a new city or community
  • A local developer working on a district or collection of buildings on an urban site/block within a mature city
  • A housing authority or local group measuring the sustainability of a neighborhood

LEED v4.1 for Cities and Communities: Existing is for existing cities and communities ready to measure the performance of their social, economic and environmental conditions at a city-wide scale or at a community level. View credits.

  1. Register in LEED Online. Learn more about registration and certification fees.
  2. Precertify (optional): Submit your project overview, goals, strategies and roadmap.
  3. Certify: Receive initial certification by documenting sustainable strategies and submitting performance data.
  4. Recertify: Submit performance data and receive a score for ongoing certification.

LEED v4.1 for Cities and Communities: Plan + Design is for new cities and communities that are in the planning, design and development stages. View credits.

  1. Register in LEED Online. Learn more about registration and certification fees
  2. Precertify (optional): Submit your project overview, goals, strategies and roadmap.
  3. Certify: Receive initial certification by documenting sustainable strategies during the planning, design and development phase.
  4. Recertify: Submit performance data and receive a score for ongoing certification.

Under both rating systems, once data has been reviewed and approved, the project will receive an official score and certification level. Certification is just the beginning of the journey. With results in hand, staff can support projects as they evaluate gaps and prioritize areas for improvement. Sharing lessons learned helps other projects succeed and supports continuous improvement.

Not ready for full certification? Start small by tracking incremental progress towards your sustainability goals. LEED v4.1 lets cities and communities report building portfolio performance, carbon emissions, policies and incentives. Cities and communities can also benchmark progress against local, regional and global peers. Start tracking your progress.

Who's using LEED for Cities and Communities

Nearly 200 cities and communities across the globe are using LEED for Cities and Communities to communicate continuous performance. More than 110 are certified.

View the full list

Orlando, Florida

LEED Gold | 2019

“As a city we must lead by example. There is still much work to do and we are committed to showcasing how a modern city can protect our environment and our natural resources and still have a robust economy.” - Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

Cincinnati, Ohio

LEED Silver | 2019

"Cincinnati has worked hard to be a sustainability leader and innovator. Our Green Cincinnati Plan, solar energy projects, and investment in public transit all reflect our commitment to building a better future. Obtaining the LEED for Cities certification provides proof that our efforts are working and guidance about where our future projects will have the most impact." - Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley

Savona, Italy

LEED Gold | 2018

"The city of Savona is committed to making measurable progress that we will share with others so that we can serve as a model for other cities that are looking to participate in LEED for Cities." — Mayor of Savona, Ilaria Caprioglio

Phoenix, Arizona

LEED Platinum | 2017

"Phoenix has earned a national reputation for its leadership on sustainability, and this prominent certification validates our incredible progress. We've set ambitious goals, and Phoenix will continue to take more steps to divert waste, increase water efficiency, and reduce carbon emissions, which benefits us, our environment and our economy." — Mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton

Arlington, Virginia

LEED Platinum | 2017

"It is truly an honor, and a validation of Arlington’s commitment to sustainability, to be the first to earn Platinum certification as a LEED community. This has been a community effort, achieved by having a vision of combating climate change and promoting energy efficiency on a local level, and putting in place innovative policies and practices to achieve it. Now, more than ever, the responsibility for progress on climate change rests with local and state governments and with the private sector." — Arlington County Board Chair, Jay Fisette

Washington, D.C.

LEED Platinum | 2017

"It is in the best interest of Washington, DC’s safety, economy, and future to take sustainability and resiliency seriously, and as the nation’s capital, we have a special obligation to lead the way on environmental issues. We are proud to be recognized as the world’s first LEED Platinum city. Our commitment to these issues will not yield, and we look forward to continuing to build a greener, more resilient, and more sustainable DC." —Mayor of the District of Columbia, Muriel Bowser

Tools and resources

Imagine a future where cities are healthy, sustainable and high performing

Cities and communities can lead in prioritizing and enhancing human health, while saving energy, water and waste. Cities can be powered by clean and reliable energy, while teaching children in green school buildings. Cities can be affordable and accessible for all. We see that future within reach, with consistent and clear performance measurement as the path that will lead the way.

Stay engaged: Sign up to receive email about the latest LEED for Cities and Communities updates or email directly at cities@usgbc.org.

Accessibility Tools