Picking up where my colleague Hallie Busta left off, I’ll jump right into Week Two of our LEED Green Associate Intensive Training (LEEDGAIT, anyone?). The pace has quickened with the realization that our scheduled test date is now merely six weeks away, and that we still haven’t received the study materials we ordered three weeks ago. That said, to quote our shared copy of the Study Guide: “Studying with a partner or group can help you stay on schedule and give you opportunities to quiz and drill with each other.”

Only time will tell, I suppose.

Across all of the LEED rating systems (e.g., LEED for New Construction, LEED for Homes, etc.), there are six certification categories that remain consistent: 

  • Sustainable Sites 
  • Water Efficiency 
  • Energy and Atmosphere
  • Materials and Resources
  • Indoor Environmental Air Quality
  • Innovation in Design/Innovation in Operations
Deane Madsen, Assoc. AIA, is an assistant editor with ARCHITECT and EcoBuilding Pulse.
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Deane Madsen, Assoc. AIA, is an assistant editor with ARCHITECT and EcoBuilding Pulse.

This week, we read the first two—Sustainable Sites and Water Efficiency—which made up 30 pages in the Study Guide and 18 pages of the Core Concepts book in total. Sustainable Sites made up 60 percent of the reading from the Study Guide, and 66 percent of the pages from the Core Concepts, which is a good indication of the relative weight LEED places on the respective categories.

In LEED’s sample checklist for new construction, there are 110 points available across seven categories—the six listed above, plus a Regional Priority category that focuses on credits specific to a project’s location. Within each category are prerequisites—standards that must be met to achieve certification—and credits, which have point values assigned to them based on LEED’s idea of category impacts; some credits also provide a range of points according to how well a project conforms to a particular standard. Of those categories, Sustainable Sites ranks second in possible points with 26 available across eight credits; Water Efficiency ranks fifth with 10 possible points available across three credits. Right off the bat, there’s disparity between the two categories in terms of the amount of weight LEED gives each: almost a quarter of potential points comes from the Sustainable Sites category, with LEED offering up to five points for development density, and another six for access (i.e., less than half a mile’s walk) to public transportation.


The Sustainable Sites chapter is subdivided into four sections: transportation, site selection, site design and management, and stormwater management. From a site-selection standpoint, the chapter emphasizes strategies such as smaller sites with higher density to preserve open space. Citing a 2007 statistic from the U.S. Energy Information Administration that “transportation accounted for 32 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions,” this chapter targets single-occupant automotive traffic as one of the biggest offenders. Points are therefore awarded to buildings that are close to existing public transit systems, which puts buildings not in urban centers at a significant disadvantage. The rating system also rewards projects that offer reserved parking for carpool and electric vehicles. Providing all that parking, however, has its drawbacks in the form of stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces, so further LEED points can be had for introducing such runoff management interventions as permeable pavers and bioswales, as well as limiting the number of parking spots available.


In the Water Efficiency section, the most important, or repeated, takeaway was that indoor, outdoor, and process water usage can benefit from submetering to identify leaks. Metered fixtures have the added benefit of verifying water usage; a 20 percent reduction from baseline is required as a prerequisite. Projects can earn up to four additional points by reducing water usage up to 40 percent. Although the chapter warns that cities will run out of potable water within the next decade, thanks to the U.S.’s daily consumption of 400 billion gallons—enough to fill approximately 606,061 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to a 2004 study—the proposed solutions mostly comprised low-flow water fixtures. Capturing rainwater for reuse in toilets or for irrigation, the most promising solutions in my opinion, offers a maximum of two points under the Innovative Wastewater Technologies credit.

While I’m now able to answer the Study Guide’s post-chapter review questions for both categories, I’m left with several more questions about the structure of the exam itself, such as how we’re going to be tested on Water Efficiency beyond acknowledging submeters. I’m also left with deeper questions about the LEED system for awarding points toward certification – though I should perhaps wait to ask them until after we’ve passed the exam.

Next week, @HallieBusta takes on Energy & Atmosphere, and Materials & Resources. Maybe I got off light?