LEED certification: what it is, how to obtain it and LEED registered projects in Italy

No, it’s not vehicle traffic or industry: almost half the total global consumption of energy is in the construction sector. And that’s not all: it should be pointed out that buildings also produce 40% of all polluting emissions as well as 38% of waste. These data show us that there can be no big shift to green without significant changes in the construction sector, starting with the smart use of materials and the careful application of the principles of environmental sustainability and the circular economy.

In order to keep abreast of these issues, different bodies have been gradually developing certifications of international validity over recent years with the objective of certifying the level of environmental sustainability of various buildings. One of the most widespread global protocols for sustainable construction is undoubtedly the LEED certification, which is now well-known in Italy, too. But what exactly is the LEED protocol, and how many LEED certifications have been awarded in Italy?

What is LEED certification?

The LEED protocol is the most commonly used certification around the world as regards the construction industry. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED certification only arrived in Italy in 2009, thanks to the work of the Green Building Council Italia, the leading non-profit organization for sustainable building. But the LEED protocol was launched long before that: it was established in the USA in 1993, in fact, by USGBC (the United States Green Building Council). It should be emphasized that LEED certification has been adapted by the various countries on the basis of their own regulations.

One general point that it is important to know is that LEED certification can be assigned to any type of building, from residential to commercial, and it is used to certify the design and construction of the building. It is a voluntary programme, so it is up to the constructors and owners to request and receive the sustainability certification, in order to enhance the building’s green characteristics. Receiving LEED certification obviously confers an added value to the building that is clearly not something to be ignored.

The purpose of the LEED protocol is to increase the energy and water conservation of buildings, while reducing their carbon emissions at the same time. But that’s not all: the LEED protocols also take into consideration the ecological quality of the interiors, the choice of site and so on.

LEED protocol: criteria and points

How can a building obtain the LEED environmental certification? The protocol assigns an overall rating: once the minimum number of points have been achieved, the highly valued certification is awarded. More specifically, there are eight areas that are taken into consideration (under version 4.0 of the US protocol); each area comprises several categories, each of which may receive a different rating. These are the eight areas currently in use:

– Location and Transport (LT)

– Sustainable sites (SS)

– Water Efficiency (WE)

– Energy and Atmosphere (EA)

– Materials and Resources (MR)

– Indoor environmental quality (IEQ)

– Innovation (IN)

– Regional Priority (RP)

The LEED certifying body considers all these areas, allocating different points to each. The minimum number of points for obtaining LEED certification is 40 (in this case the building receives the basic LEED certification), while the maximum score that can be achieved is 110 points, which qualifies for the prestigious LEED Platinum certification. There are also two intermediate levels: silver certification (between 50 and 59 points) and gold certification (between 60 and 79 points).

It should be noted that the weighting of the different areas is not uniform: the proportions change depending on the type of building being certified (residential or a school, a hospital or a commercial building, and so on). However, the most important area is energy, which can receive a weighting of up to 30% of the total score, while the area dedicated to regional priority has a weighting of below 4%.

For a residential building, a maximum of 4 points can be allocated under the Regional Priority section, while the area dedicated to energy sets 3 different prerequisites, with a maximum of 35 points. The sustainability of the site chosen for construction (SS) is also given a very high weighting, with a possible score of 26 points.

LEED certifications in Italy

How many LEED certifications have been awarded in Italy? The number of buildings that have earned this award is growing steadily and rapidly. Until a few years ago, LEED-certified buildings were extremely rare in Italy; now the certification has become quite widespread. According to the most recent data available, published by the Italian Green Building Council, there are a total of 441 LEED-certified buildings in Italy (although it should be noted that in the interim this number will certainly have increased considerably). More specifically, at the time the data were published, 144 projects had already achieved LEED certification, while a further 297 were awaiting receipt of the certification, which was already guaranteed.

The data published by GBC Italia, while not fully up-to-date, enable us to see how the certified buildings are distributed in Italy. Most buildings that have received the LEED certification are new buildings or buildings that have undergone substantial restoration work. There are 10 LEED-certified Schools, 3 Health Care buildings, 32 commercial buildings and so on.


Some examples of LEED-certified buildings in Italy

Most LEED-certified buildings in Italy are in Lombardy, followed at some distance by Trentino Alto Adige, the Veneto and Lazio. It should be added that Italy has the oldest LEED-certified building in the world, that is, the site of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, which was built in 1453 and has recently been restructured. Among the most famous restorations that have enabled a building to achieve LEED certification are those of the former stables in the Abbey of Rocca di Sant’Appollinare, in the province of Perugia, which achieved LEED gold certification in 2018; and we should not forget that there is also a LEED platinum certified building in Casa Monica, Modena, which received the award in 2016.