The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed LEED certification to help promote green building practices and sustainable development. It rates construction projects by awarding points for green building practices in four separate areas: sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and innovation and design process. Points are awarded for each sustainable practice. When the points are added up, a structure or project is assigned a LEED rating of Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum.
In energy use, LEED accreditation requires the building to attain Energy Star as a minimum, but increased insulation values will add points, as will adding renewable energy generation such as photovoltaics or wind generation.
In addition to the added cost of necessary upgrades, the cost for LEED accreditation includes a fee to the USGBC, the cost to document each green or sustainable product, the cost for several meetings of the design team, and a fee to the rating agency.