Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a comprehensive, whole-house green building certification created and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED is a widely recognized brand due to strong marketing campaigns and a wide range of certifications. The LEED label applies to operations and maintenance of existing buildings as well as construction of new buildings — from single family homes to high rise, mixed-use buildings. 

The relevant rating system for the Cleveland Street Beach Lofts project is “Building Design and Construction: Multifamily Midrise.” Within this certification system, there are four levels:

  • Certified: 40-49 points
  • Silver: 50-59 points
  • Gold: 60-79 points
  • Platinum: 80 points


There are three prerequisites to applying for LEED certification:

  1. The project has a permanent location on existing land; 
  2. The project observes reasonable LEED boundaries; and
  3. The project fits within minimum and maximum size requirements.

In addition to the prerequisites listed above, LEED requires that certified projects score minimum points within each of the following credit categories:

  • Integrative Process
  • Location & Transportation
  • Sustainable Sites
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy & Atmosphere
  • Material & Resources
  • Indoor Environmental Quality
  • Innovation
  • Regional Priority


Step 1:  Register the project and select the appropriate LEED rating system.

Step 2:  Assemble the Verification Team consisting of:

- LEED for Homes Provider Organization (oversees process and provide QA)

- LEED for Homes Rater (provides onsite verification)

- Energy Rater (provides energy performance testing)

- Owner/Agent

- Project Administrator (project manager ensuring smooth work flow)

- Architect (can also be the Project Administrator)

Step 3:  Hold an initial meeting with verification team to:

- Identify LEED certification level

- Select specific credits to pursue

- Assign tasks necessary for achieving credits

Step 4: Pre-Review (Optional) - Obtain preliminary feedback from USGBC during the design process, prior to submitting for certification reviews.

Step 5: Preliminary Design Review: USGBC will respond with its preliminary review within 20-25 business days, indicating which prerequisites and credits are anticipated to be granted during final review, pending further information.

Step 6: Construction begins.

Step 7: Preliminary Verification - Prior to drywall, green rater and energy rater will verify “behind the wall” systems including framing, duct work, etc.

Step 8: USGBC conducts preliminary construction review.

Step 9: Final Construction Visit / Verification - Green Rater verifies all remaining credit requirements and the energy rater conducts performance testing.

Step 10: Building team assembles and submits application.

Step 11: Certification or Appeal: USGBC will respond with a final LEED certification review report within 25 business days. Final certification is usually granted within 6 to 12 weeks of receiving the application. 

Cost (for Multifamily Project)

  • Registration Fee : $1,200
  • Review: $2,750 to $3,000
  • Provider Fee: $1,500
  • Green Rater Fees: $7,500 +/-
  • HERS Rater Fees: $5,000 +/-
  • Estimated Team Increase: High

Optional Expenses:

  • Pre-Review: $4,500
  • Expedited Review: $10,000 (reduces review by 20-25 business days)

Market Recognition

  • BD+C: Multifamily Midrise in SD County: 0
  • BD+C: Multifamily Midrise in in California : 30
  • LEED BD + C (All Categories) in SD County: 201
  • LEED BD + C (All Categories) in CA: 2,709


Although LEED has set the standard for green building certifications, it quite expensive for many small and midsize construction projects. The hefty price tag is largely attributed to the increase in team expenses, not actual registration fees. The LEED program requires a high level of technical documentation, which is often handled by an architect. Further, the LEED process is lengthy, not only in application procedures, but in the time the USGBC takes to evaluate applications and grant certification. 

A common complaint among builders is that applicants do not always know whether or not they are on track towards achieving certification. Oftentimes applicants can be derailed when issues are raised too late in the construction process to be fixed easily or inexpensively. LEED does, however, enjoy a decent market presence in San Diego County. 

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