Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a program that offers certifications for green buildings. The third-party verification program was created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) as a means for healthier, sustainable, environmentally friendly, more efficient, buildings, homes, and neighborhoods. In a nutshell, LEED supplies the guidelines for creating a green building. Using individual points-based rating systems that differ by project type, building projects can achieve Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum statuses. Project types can include new building design and construction, building operations and maintenance, interior design and construction, homes, and neighborhood development. For each project type, LEED has a list of credits with specific requirements regarding anything from building materials to bicycle storage. Points are awarded based on the degree to which the requirements are met. There are several credits that include lighting as a means to a greener building.
LEDs produce the longest-lasting, most energy-efficient lighting available today. Most LED bulbs have a life span of up to 50,000 hours, but LED fixtures are available that last more than 100,000 hours. They consume 80 percent less power than incandescent and high-intensity discharge (HID) lights and 20 percent less than fluorescent lights, which makes them perfect for solar-powered systems or general energy savings. Unless LED lights are specifically infrared (IR) or ultraviolet (UV), they produce little to no (IR) or ultraviolet (UV) radiation. They also contain no mercury, harmful gasses, or toxins like other light sources. With all of these benefits, it’s easy to see why LED lighting is the first choice of any builder trying to achieve an LEED status.
The following LEED credits relate to lighting for new construction:
SSc8 – Light Pollution and Reduction
This credit requires a building to meet interior and exterior lighting requirements that reduce its presence outside of the building. A variety of LED lights are available to help meet these requirements, such as full-cutoff LED wall packs that are designed to reduce glare by emitting illumination downward instead of outward. Many indoor and outdoor LED lights come with or can be used with dusk-to-dawn or PIR motion sensors to prevent wasted light.
EAc1 – Optimize Energy Performance
Buildings must show a reduction in energy consumption compared to a baseline or meet the requirements of the ASHRAE 50% Advanced Energy Design Guide. Builders must also establish an energy performance target. Any comparable LED replacement for an incandescent, halogen, fluorescent, or HID bulb or fixture will be more efficient and will last longer. There are hundreds of LED lights from standard A19 bulbs to powerful LED warehouse lights that can be utilized in buildings or homes to reduce energy consumption while delivering outstanding light output.
EAp2 – Minimum Energy Performance
Buildings must meet a minimum level of energy efficiency to receive points for this credit. The goal is to minimize environmental and economic problems that can be caused by high energy use. As mentioned above, LED lights are extremely efficient and can dramatically reduce a building’s carbon footprint.
EQc6.1 – Controllability of Systems – Lighting
This credit is designed to ensure that the needs and preferences of building inhabitants are met. To receive points for this credit, at least 90 percent of building occupants must have their own controllable lighting. Shared spaces must also have controls for lighting adjustments. This can be achieved by adding dimmable under-hutch LED strip lights with handheld remotes and LED panel lights, bulbs, or other LED fixtures that can be used with dimmers.
EAc6 – Green Power
The purpose of this credit is to get builders to use grid-source renewable energy sources, such as solar panels for at least 35 percent of their building’s electricity. Less energy use means less greenhouse gas emissions. LED lights are an excellent choice for renewable energy sources because they consume such a small amount of power. According to SFGATE, “The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warns that, given the current trends, energy-related emissions will increase by 70 percent by 2050. This can accelerate the negative consequences of climate change, including higher temperatures and a rise in the frequency of extreme weather events.” Lessening energy consumption with LED lights and renewable energy sources will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help prevent that prediction.
On their website, the USGBC states that 92.2 percent of 7,100 LEED-certified new construction projects are improving energy performance by at least 10.5 percent. In addition to other methods of energy improvements, lighting plays a key role. One building can have hundreds of lights. Using LED lights will not only help achieve an LEED status, but they will also contribute to a greener future.