Flooring 101: What is LEED and Why it Matters to Your Interior Design  

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Sustainability-minded interior designers are likely to be familiar with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system—the highest benchmark for achieving green building goals.

The system was created to provide architects and designers with guidelines for developing energy-efficient, environmentally conscious buildings that are healthier for their inhabitants. LEED certification requires an assessment of a range of features, materials, and operating systems. Points can be earned for anything from the landscape to the HVAC system to the flooring.

Benefits of LEED-Certified Projects

Pursuing LEED certification is smart on many fronts. As a globally recognized standard, LEED promises high-performance buildings, which, as a business owner, can attract clients. Among the benefits of “green”designs:

Cost Effective

Maintenance costs and utility bills associated with LEED buildings are typically 20 percent lower than typical those associated with conventional buildings. They also have a higher market value.

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Better Performance

The use of green building materials and design strategies results in buildings with excellent energy efficiency and water consumption profiles.

Positive Environmental Impact

Green building projects help mitigate climate change by reducing energy and resource consumption, air pollution, water pollution, and land use—all of which reduces a building’s carbon footprint.

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Healthier for Inhabitants/Users

Improved air quality, temperature control, ventilation, and lighting strategies as well as the elimination of off-gassing paints make for a healthier indoor environment.

Boosts Company Profile

Showing the ability to design LEED interiors gives you an edge with a niche—and growing—clientele.

LEED Credits for Interior Design

Among the categories considered for LEED certification are Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation in Design. Flooring is considered under all three. To earn credits, designers typically use floors made of materials that are:


Products that contain non-toxic adhesives and solvents are more likely to meet LEED air quality standards.

 Regionally Sourced

These are products that are extracted, harvested, or manufactured within 500 miles of the job site.

Forest Steward Council-Certified (FSC)

Points are awarded for products that come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.

Smart Floors for LEED Credits

Products high in recycled or renewable materials earn LEED credits. FSC hardwoods, cork, and leather are all eligible.

FSC-certified Hardwoods

Sourcing FSC woods supports conservation of forest resources and improvement of management practices. FSC-certified hardwoods are among the most sustainable building materials, which means they factor heavily into LEED credentials.


Cork earns credits in the Materials and Resources category for being a rapidly renewable materials, which LEED defines as having less than a 10-year growth cycle. Because of its unique cellular properties and associated benefits, it also earns points in the Innovation in Design category.

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Recycled Leather 

Credit is earned for recyclability and low-VOC emissions.

Novara Black

By choosing flooring made of materials that qualify for LEED credits, designers help shape a cleaner, smarter built environment—from the inside out.

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