LEED stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" and it is a rating system for the design, construction and operation of "green buildings."
And, a "green building" is a structure that was built and is operated in a way that minimizes negative environmental impacts and improves the health and well-being of the occupants.
The LEED standards and rating system were developed and are administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, which is a nonprofit coalition of building industry leaders. This design and construction trend promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. The LEED rating system consists of four certification levels for new construction - Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. So, if you hear a builder say, they are going for "gold" or "platinum," they are not talking about the Olympics or record sales.
Some green elements or themes include: green roofs, solar panels, water-less urinals, use of gray water, on-site storm water management controls, and situating a building on a site so as to take advantage of light and air.
Sustainable design is a broader term which describes a growing trend within many professions including: architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, industrial design, interior design and more. The goal of a sustainable design is to create a product, packaging, building or even an entire community in a way that minimizes negative environmental impacts, reduces the use of non-renewable resources, and connects people with the natural environment.
Some common principles or themes for sustainable design include:
- Using recycled building materials or materials that are non-toxic and were sustainably produced.
- Incorporating energy efficient designs, heating systems and appliances.
- Utilizing high-quality and durable products that last longer and don't need to be replaced as frequently.
- Designing products and systems that can be reused and recycled after their useful life.
Here are some links to help you learn more about LEED, Green Buildings, and Sustainability: