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LEED Zero: An Orientation

Custom-built support for LEEDuser members

LEEDuser tip sheets, written by our team of LEED experts, fill gaps in knowledge we’ve observed between the LEED Reference Guide, LEED Online, and LEED Interpretations. We update them regularly so that our members get the most relevant guidance for current issues on their projects.

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


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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