LEED Points and Lighting

a guest post by Lisa J. Reed, Lighting Designer

hotel lighting

As a LEED Accredited Professional, I’ve found a lot of confusion about LEED and how lighting contributes to a LEED Certified project. This is my best shot at simplifying what can be a complex subject.

What LEED is: LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it is a voluntary certification created by the USGBC (US Green Building Council) to elevate buildings especially in the area of sustainability. The first LEED rating system was created in 2000. There are separate LEED rating systems for New Construction (NC), Core & Shell projects (CS), Commercial Interiors (CI), Existing Buildings Operation and Maintenance (EBOM), Schools, Healthcare, Retail, Homes, and Neighborhood Development.

What LEED is not: a government entity or requirement. (USGBC is a private non-profit organization.) LEED is not an energy code. It addresses all kinds of issues, ranging from access to public transportation to water runoff to the use of responsibly forested wood. Energy consumption – and specifically lighting – is only a very small aspect of LEED.

What role can lighting play on a LEED project? It varies slightly depending on which rating system the project is following, but in LEED NC, lighting can impact four separate credits.

SSc8 (Sustainable Sites credit 8) Light Pollution Reduction – This credit establishes interior and exterior lighting requirements to minimize sky glow, eliminate light trespass onto neighboring properties, and reduce glare. Selecting light fixtures with the right distribution and lumen output for the site is the key to achieving this credit.

EAp2 (Energy and Atmosphere prerequisite 2) Minimum Energy Performance – This prerequisite requires the project to exceed certain baseline minimum standards for energy performance. Lighting is one of the systems that can and should be included in the calculation of the project’s energy consumption as compared to a baseline building.

EAc1 (Energy and Atmosphere credit 1) Optimize Energy Performance – This credit gives a graduated number of points based on how much energy the project saves over its baseline equivalent. The more energy saved, the more points the project achieves. The more efficient the lighting is, the more it can contribute to the points in this credit.

EQc6.1 (Indoor Environmental Quality credit 6.1) Controllability of Lighting – This credit requires some form of lighting control for the occupants of a space. People are happier when they have a sense of control over their space. In addition to switches and dimmers for overhead lights, individual control of task lights can help achieve this credit.

There are also credits available for Innovation in Design, so lighting could be a part of this "write-your-own-credit" category, too.

There has always been confusion about a couple of other credits involving the use of Recycled Content and Regional Materials. According to the current versions of LEED, lighting cannot contribute to those points because “mechanical, electrical and plumbing components...and...elevators” cannot be included in the calculations required for these credits. That means for LEED credit, it doesn’t matter where your lights are manufactured. (But it never hurts to be environmentally responsible, right?)

Acuity Brands has this great resource that lists all points and all versions of LEED through 2009. You can also check out this LEED document from Cooper Lighting.

The next version of LEED, LEED v4 is open until March 31 for public comment. It contains a new lighting quality credit for new buildings. Take a look at it and make your comments today!


Lisa J Reed photo - Lighting Blog

Lisa J. Reed has been attracted to lighting (like a moth to a flame) for 20+ years. She is the Founding Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC in St. Louis, where she designs, teaches, and writes about architectural lighting.


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