How to choose the right materials for a LEED project

How To Choose The Right Materials For a LEED Project? Read to Know!

According to a UNEP report [2], three billion tons of raw materials, which correspond to 40-50% of the total flow in the global economy, are used in the manufacturing of building products and components worldwide each year. The production processes of building materials have environmental impacts.” ~ Procedia Engineering

Some Context

It started in 1989 with an environmentally conscious architect, Bob Berkebile from Kansas City who happened to start an entire movement that revolved around sustainable architecture. In a very bold move consequently, the American Institute of Architects was petitioned to study how architects to potentially exercise optimum integrity with regard to the environment by designing environmentally responsible buildings. Within a few years, the United States Green Building Council (the ‘it’ organization promoting sustainable architecture) developed ‘Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED – known globally as the standard rating system for sustainable buildings.

LEED today is the most widely used & acknowledged rating system in effect worldwide. It applies to all building forms – commercial and/or residential. The certification signifies a building “that creates healthy, highly efficient, cost-saving green buildings”. The framework for every project – new construction & interior fit-outs, to sustainable operations & upgrades, is grouped into five categories mentioned below:-

1. Building Design and Construction (BD+C)
2. Interior Design and Construction
3. Operations and Maintenance
4. Neighborhood Development
5. Homes


Sustainable sites, Water efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environment, and Quality – are the five main categories considered. The certification depends on the total number of points achieved by independent categories i.e., a Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum seal of approval. ‘Innovation and Design’ happens to be an additional category.

Material selection is crucial as far as sustainable projects are concerned for these materials are supposed to minimize environmental contamination. The general theme(s) around the same is to do with using the available, local resources, managing waste, selecting sustainable materials, diversifying to incorporate the alternatives, and storing recyclables. The rightly chosen materials also reflect directly in higher scores when you apply for various certifications– it’s the category 4 in LEED. Look out to integrate the following to avail of the certification: –

1. Storage & collection of recyclables, especially about the absolute elimination of hazardous materials. This also resonates with the Cabinet Resolution No. 39 of 2006 Concerning Prohibiting Import, Production, and Utilization of Asbestos Boards, ASTM E 2356-04 – Comprehensive Building Asbestos Surveys.

2. Planning and construction of waste management can be achieved by first conducting a waste audit to help understand the type and quantities of waste generated by your building and how to best deal with it. Generic advice will NOT get you that certificate. Having said that, here are some of the generic suggestions which are overarching to all themes – reducing paper & ink, inculcating the habit of donating, and recycling whenever you cannot avoid waste production, and lastly, composting.

3. Building life cycle impact reduction which again brings us back to utilizing alternative fuels, using hybrid equipment, and making the most of the green technology (obtaining energy efficiency by digitization & automation) and green energy (capturing carbon) that is available these days. See if you can work toward carbon capture perhaps.

Preparing For The Certification

It is essential that substantial planning and strategizing go into preparing for the certification well before the registration begins. With more than 100,000 commercial buildings that have either been granted the certificate or are awaiting one, stand out by ensuring the following steps:-

1. Start budgeting
The certification can be an expensive deal with minimum charges starting from $2,900 that only shoot up because after all the certification is an investment. For larger projects, the fees alone can be up tp $1 million, along with additional project costs. However, various government incentives and rebates are available too.

2. Know your target level
This is crucial to identify all the resources you will need and evaluate your choices. The objective is part of the initial design phase essentially and it’s recommended to enter the construction information in the management software you use.

3. Have a competent team
You will need a highly skilled team of planners, engineers, and architects who can guide you optimally in this pursuit and develop a tangible certification strategy.

The Process

The whole process of application, review, and certification process is done online. The certification is granted by a LEED accredited third party.

Step 1: Register Online

On the official LEED website, select the rating system most applicable to your building or project type from the choices – Building Design and Construction (BD+C), Interior Design and Construction, Operations and Maintenance, Neighborhood Development, and Homes. The website also gives you various options and resources to successfully submit your application.

Step 2: Uploading Information & Documents

This is also in accordance with the specific points and credits you wish to acquire. It is recommended to double-check that all information entered is accurate. This might seem generic but the checking of estimates, bids, regulatory compliances, etc., needs to be rigorous.

Step 3: Submit The Application

This can be done in one step, using a LEED standard review. It can also be in as many as four separate steps if you are applying for a BD+C and ID+C project (see step 4 above). In these cases, the application can be split into a design review and a construction review, each of which can be further split into a preliminary and a final review. So that makes a total of 4 possible review steps—but only for BD+C and ID+C projects.

We, The Cotocon Group, have a proven history of providing compliance services in New York City to building owners that helps acquire LEED Certifications of all categories. Our highly skilled team ensures building owners meet all the requirements from strategizing, budgeting, and handling documentation along with curating the information that needs to be shared by conducting energy audits and retro-commissioning to generating and submitting the Energy Efficiency Report within the deadline. We will demonstrate that the greatest return on investment for building owners is investing in energy efficiency.