LEED Interior Design Guide

November 7, 2014 Interior Design, General 1 Comments

Sustainability has become an important aspect of interior design in recent years, and it is a top priority for many clients. One useful tool for green design is LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system developed by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council. Some clients want the prestigious LEED interior design certification; even if yours do not, you can use the criteria to help guide your work in a green direction.

LEED Interior Design GuideStructure of LEED

From the original standards for general building, LEED has branched into a whole range of distinct rating systems: Building Design and Construction, Interior Design and Construction, Building Operations and Management, Neighborhood Development and Homes — the interior design category is further divided into commercial, hospitality and retail standards, though the requirements are largely the same for each. In every system, certain green features are required, while others add points toward ratings of LEED Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum.

The Cost of LEED Certification

The process for achieving LEED certification adds extra work and cost to any project. The fee for certification is nearly $4,000 at minimum for the registration and review of a commercial project under the Interior Design and Construction criteria. For a single-family home under the Homes criteria, the certification cost is $525.

LEED Interior Design Criteria

The LEED criteria are organized into categories like energy and atmosphere, location and transportation, water efficiency and innovation. Let's take a look at the specific requirements for commercial interior projects.

A number of measures are required, including:

  • Indoor water use reduction: Restrictions such as maximum 1.6 gallons per flush in toilets, and that systems using water for cooling must reuse the water
  • Construction and demolition waste management planning: Diverting waste from landfills
  • Minimum energy performance: Complicated options, including items like using ENERGY STAR-rated devices for at least 50 percent of appliances

In addition to these requirements, projects must earn the requisite number of points for a particular certification level through other green design features:

  • Optimize energy performance in comparison to baseline standards (up to 25 points)
  • Access to quality transit (up to 7 points)
  • Renewable energy production (up to 3 points)
  • Environmentally preferable internal finishes and furnishings (a pilot credit, 1 point)
  • Local food production (1 point)

These are just a few of the many ways to get points toward certification. Whether or not your client wants to go through the certification process, these requirements and credits are a great way to get ideas for green design.

Criticism of LEED

LEED has received some heavy criticism, much of it claiming that those seeking certification prioritize the points over true sustainability. A developer can pursue easy points by adding a bike rack, for example, rather than through large systems changes that have a real impact. LEED is also more about adding green features than about truly minimizing impact, which is generally more easily achieved by downsizing than anything else. A blog post from the National Resources Defense Council draws attention to a Las Vegas-area LEED Platinum home, which contains three bedrooms in 6,721 square feet, that is over a mile from the nearest public transportation and appears to have a large pool in a desert community that is rapidly running out of water.

While the system isn't perfect, that shouldn't stop designers from using the wealth of information contained in the certification guidelines to design more sustainable homes and other spaces.

Photo credit: Flickr


Diane Kitchell November 10, 2014 at 01:14 AM

Good article! LEED 2009 has been extended until 2016 to allow projects to get used to the new LEED V4 points.

What do you think?