Quick Guide to LED Lighting Systems for Sustainable Building Design and LEED credits

Acronyms galore.  The letters “L”, “E”, and “D” on my keyboard are going to be worn out after this blog post!

Lighting systems typically constitute the highest energy use in commercial buildings. The USGBC (United States Green Building Council) has recognized the energy savings potential in general lighting systems, and LED lighting systems can be a significant contributor to obtaining Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for a new building. LED lighting systems can contribute to LEED certification in at least three areas: Energy and Atmosphere, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation and Design Process.

Energy and Atmosphere (EA) 35 possible points

Prerequisite 1: Fundamental Conditioning of Building Energy Systems

Prerequisite 2: Minimum Energy Performance

Credit 1: Optimization of Energy Performance (worth 1 to 19 points) is the primary area where LED lighting can have an impact. The proposed building design must demonstrate improved performance as compared to baseline criteria.   The greater the performance from baseline, the more points are awarded.

-Reduced carbon emissions (as compared to incandescent lighting)
-Low operating temperatures reduce heat dissipation into spaces, cutting the strain on the HVAC system and ultimately saving air conditioning costs
-Compatibility with photovoltaics
-Minimize energy usage by integrating LED lighting systems into Lutron or other building management system

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)

Credit 6.1: Controllability of Systems- Lighting
Control of the lighting system by individual occupants or specific groups in multi-occupant spaces can potentially earn 1 point toward LEED certification. LED luminaires provide the opportunity to work as part of a lighting control plan/central building management system. They provide light instantaneously once power is applied, requiring no warm up time. LED lighting systems can also be dimmed to provide variable light output depending upon the needs of the occupant. The efficacy of LEDs efficacy actually increases when they are dimmed due to lower junction temperatures. Continuous, non-stepped dimming provides occupant comfort and increases efficiency.

Innovation and Design Process (ID) worth from 1 to 5 points

Credit 1: The utilization of innovative products and processes may earn between 1 and 4 points toward LEED certification. As LED lighting systems for general lighting represent new, innovative technology, they may qualify for LEED certification credit. LEED does not award this credit if a product is already obtaining points in another category, so design teams must choose where the most impact can be made and pursue credit(s) accordingly.

Other benefits of LED lighting:  
LED (light emitting diode) lighting systems are not only environmentally sustainable, but can be cost efficient as well. Even if your building isn’t striving for LEED certification, there are numerous benefits that are attractive to designers and building owners. While the upfront costs of LED lighting systems and dimming capability are often greater than traditional lighting methods, the life cycle and can even add value to the property in the long run. 

-Fewer building materials required
-Reduced operational costs for electricity and maintenance
-No hazardous materials or wastes (lead and mercury free)
-Longer lifespan= less waste for landfills
-Simpler installation
-Possible commercial building tax deductions 

More information on GPI’s FLAT-Lite™ LED lighting system complete with commercial capacity power supplies and dimming options.

The above summary is based on LEED v3 which was released by the USGBC in April 2009 for LEED New Construction and Major Renovations (NC).  This summary does not include the potential of LED lighting to earn points for exterior applications and light pollution reduction.