When can multiple buildings pursue LEED certification together?

Green Building Team on January 26, 2024

Rating System/Standard
LEED
LEED v4
LEED v4.1
Theme
Certification essentials
Green Building

When a project consists of more than one building sharing a common site and management, project teams often feel it beneficial to apply under a single LEED BD+C or O+M certification, and as well, owners may prefer a single certification branding for their project site. Under LEED v4, these projects generally follow the Group certification pathway, as outlined in USGBC’s LEED Campus Guidance and the applicable reference guides. The Group approach allows project teams to address each prerequisite and credit requirement with one response for the project site, though there are some requirements that must still be met for each building individually within the Group certification, as noted in the guidance. For more information on this pathway, see Group Projects.

However, there are rare occasions where a project site with two or more buildings can be merged into one “individual building” certification without utilizing the Group Path.

When can multiple buildings pursue “individual building” project registration? (adapted from USGBC’s FAQ)

Per Minimum Program Requirement (MPR) #2 ‘Must use reasonable LEED boundaries’, buildings that have no physical connection or are physically connected only by circulation, parking, or mechanical / storage rooms are considered separate buildings and individual projects for LEED purposes, with the following exceptions:

  • Buildings or structures related to the certifying building(s) and containing less than 1,000 square feet (93 square meters) of gross floor area (i.e., buildings ineligible for LEED BD+C certification in their own right) may be included within the LEED Project Boundary.
  • Primary and secondary school projects, hospitals (general medical and surgical), hotels, resorts, and resort properties, as defined by ENERGY STAR building rating purposes, may include more than one physically distinct building in a single LEED project. For new construction projects, each building in the application must be less than 25,000 square feet (2,323 square meters).
  • For other cases, as per the MPR, there may be exceptions for where there are programmatic dependencies (spaces – not personnel – within the building cannot function independently without the other building) or architectural cohesiveness (the building was designed to appear as one building); however, in these cases, project teams should reach out in advance to LEED Coach Canada for approval to streamline certification submission.

As noted above, an exception can be allowed for multiple buildings to be linked together in one “individual building” where they are connected by programmable space (on any level). This is where spaces within the building cannot function independently without the other building. As noted above, connection only for circulation, parking, or mechanical/storage rooms is insufficient to use this path. It additionally is not about shared amenities between the two or more buildings but more where one of the buildings lacks a critical space to operate.

Examples of acceptable connections to merge separate structures into an “individual” building project:

  • Two buildings that are contiguously connected by programmable gross floor area spaces (such as gyms, restrooms, bowling alleys, etc.) that happen to be located underground can be considered a single building. Note, in this case, the programmable connection space must also be part of the project and meet the requirements of the MPRs. 
  • Overhead connections can be used to merge two buildings only where there is programmable space (not just circulation) within that connector (such as space accommodating retail shopping).
  • Ancillary structures/buildings on site that only house technical systems (i.e. utility buildings, etc.) which exclusively serve a certifying building, can be included as part of the certifying building(s) and be included in the certification.

  • Spaces dedicated to circulation (overhead walkway or underground tunnel without programmable space), parking, mechanical, or storage uses.
  • Spaces where the users of one building have to walk through parking, circulation, storage, and/or mechanical spaces to reach the programmable space in the other building.
  • Sharing a common energy centre – simply sharing a common energy center does not influence the decision to merge multiple structures into an “individual” building project.
  • Sharing a single energy/water meter – sharing an energy (or other) meter does not impact whether separate structures can be considered an “individual” building.

Project teams may also wish to consider utilizing the Campus path for individual certifications of buildings that share a common site; this allows some credits to be demonstrated at the campus master site level rather than each individual building needing to separately demonstrate requirements. To use the campus approach, project teams must first register their campus, then a campus master site (or multiple master sites), and then the individual or group project(s) within that site. (Additional information is available within USGBC’s FAQ.)

Note that currently Group and Campus options are not available within LEED Online for LEED v4.1 projects. If you have questions about whether your project should register as a Group project or individual building project, please contact LEED Coach Canada. (Note that CAGBC’s Zero Carbon Building program applies only to individual buildings; ZCB project teams with questions should reach out to CAGBC Zero Carbon for support.)


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