green home Photo: LincolnSquareInsider/Flickr

The following is a guest post by Jacqueline Ward, Material Selections Coordinator at Ottawa General Contractors, Ottawa’s design and build renovation experts. They specialize in home renovations, new and custom home construction as well as home design.

What Is LEED Certification?

LEED is essentially a rating system for the construction, design, materials and maintenance of green buildings. Its intention is to promote sustainable buildings by granting certifications to buildings that pass the standards.

A little background…

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design and is a standard created by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), which was founded in 1993. In Canada, LEED is regulated by the Canada Green Building Council. The Canadian Green Building Council determines whether a project will gain LEED certification by measuring it through a rating system. Keep in mind, this rating system changes depending on the type of construction as well as the type of building.

More specific information on the LEED certification requirements can be found here.

While the point system varies, LEED is based on five main categories:

  • energy efficiency
  • indoor environmental quality
  • materials selection
  • sustainable site development
  • water savings

Benefits of Obtaining LEED Certification

Obtaining LEED certification on projects brings quite a few tangible benefits. Depending on the level of certification, LEED certification can: reduce operating costs, may increase the sale price, ensures a healthy environment, and provides useful tax incentives.

Reduced Operating Costs

LEED certification means that the building is lean on water and energy consumptions. Reducing consumption not only helps the environment, but can save you money by lowering operating costs. There is hard evidence to substantiate this claim: a 2012 study carried out by the University of Notre Dame showed that LEED-certified branches of the PNC Bank had lower annual utility costs per employee than in facilities that had not been certified.

brown home

Photo: Jeremy Levine Design/Flickr

Healthier Environment

Having LEED certification also ensures that the living or working space is much healthier. Thanks to the USGBC’s efforts, low volatile organic compound paints have become much more popular; these paints contain fewer harmful chemicals. LEED certification also ensures that the area is well ventilated and promotes natural light. As a result, building occupants do not breathe in as many pollutants and have a higher quality of indoor air.

Tax Rebates

While Canada doesn’t yet give tax rebates directly for being LEED certified, there are many incentives for going green. If you’re interested in learning more about the rebates available see


LEED certification has a number of costs associated with it. In order to begin the certification process, projects must be registered with the Green Building Certification Institute. Registration and certification varies per building (see the CAGBC Project Fees page for more details), and can cost anywhere from $1,000-$10,000 depending on the project.

The other costs involved with getting LEED certified vary with each building. There are materials, labour, and design costs to consider.

Why You Need to Know

If you’re looking to buy a home or building that’s LEED certified, it’s important to know why you may be paying a premium for this certification. There are four levels to LEED certification: certified, silver, gold and platinum. The price of a home may rise as the level of certification increases, do research to understand what you’re getting with each level.

If you’re looking to build or renovate a home or building, LEED gives you or your builder standards to follow if you want to go green. Even if you don’t want to pay the costs to get certified, following the benchmarks can lead to health benefits and long-term cost savings.

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