Graduation Year

Fall 2010

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Char Miller

Reader 2

Bowen Close


Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (or LEED) is the most commonly used green building rating system in the United States, bestowing upon LEED certified buildings the prestige of being considered more sustainable than their non-certified neighbors. The public often assumes that LEED certified buildings are completely sustainable or even net-zero with regards to greenhouse gas emissions, but in actuality buildings certified under the most popular version of LEED are only required to be 15% more energy efficient than required by most state building codes – a far cry from the energy usage cuts needed to stave off global warming. By examining the history of LEED and its parent organization (the United States Green Building Council), contemporary criticisms of the certification system and its widespread adoption, and real-world performance of existing LEED buildings, this thesis seeks to uncover whether the LEED system is an effective tool in the fight against climate change and why it has yet to live up to its name.