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LEED Zero: An Orientation

USGBC’s LEED Zero program provides a path for buildings to distinguish themselves with a net-zero impact for carbon, energy, water, and/or waste. To pursue any of the LEED Zero certifications, a building must already be certified under LEED for Building Design and Construction (BD+C), LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (O+M), or be registered for LEED O+M. So, although it’s a stand-alone program, LEED Zero actually acts more like a complement or extra credential to your building’s standard LEED certification. For buildings with a BD+C certification, LEED Zero presents an alternative to LEED O+M for demonstrating a continued commitment to sustainability in operations.

Here are a few of the basics to keep in mind.

LEEDuser expert

Ben Stanley

WSP - Built Ecology
Senior Sustainability Manager


November 11, 2023 - 4:41 pm

It appears both LEED Zero Carbon and LEED Zero Energy certifications can both be achieved via Carbon Offsets + RECs.  Same with the ILFI Zero Carbon and ILFI Zero Energy certifications with ILFI adding additional performance criteria.  

March 29, 2023 - 4:25 pm

Hello, do you know in detail how LEED Zero works if you have just a registration for O+M? In some materials I read that the minimum program requirement is to have O+M certification. Can this be done parallel? Or does O+M need to be submitted first?

April 3, 2019 - 8:54 am

My issue with this LEED Zero Energy program is the same with the original CaGBC version.  Any Existing building can rubber stamp and claim "Zero Energy".
- New buildings have to achieve LEED certification.  Existing buildings just have to register for LEED O+M.
- There is no minimum standard of energy reduction.  This should require significant energy reductions.  To qualify for this standard a building should be down near 30 EUI.
- This allows normal wasteful construction, but they just write a check for renewable energy credits for 12 months.  An adder of about 10% on the energy bill.

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