LEED version 4: Alignments with the profession of interior design

Presented by: Amber Ortleib and Amanda Gale

The Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is globally recognized as being committed to the sustainable built environment with over 70,000 sustainable projects worldwide (USGBC, 2013b). Since its establishment by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2001, the LEED rating systems has undergone several iterations. In November 2013, the fifth version, v4, of the LEED rating system was launched and marketed with a stronger focus towards human health and clean materials.  Enhancing occupants’ quality of life in the interior environment through the support of health, safety, and wellbeing criteria is the fundamental responsibility for interior designers (Guerin & Kwon, 2010). Therefore, it is crucial for interior designers and educators in general to be aware of the changes in the latest version of the LEED rating system. 

Interior designers can play a critical role in sustainable design by actively engaging in the integrated design process to ensure their defined responsibilities support the sustainable project goals.  In addition, interior designers communicate design intent and strategies to occupants to change their behavior in support of sustainable operations (Sorrento, 2012). However, out of the 88,767 LEED Accredited Professionals (APs) and Green Associates (GAs), throughout North America less than 5,000 (~5.37%) identify themselves as practicing in the area of interior design (USGBC, 2013b). Interior designers need to take a prominent lead in advocating for the occupant (Sorrento, 2012; Theodorson, 2014). The low number of LEED credentialed interior designers and the significance of interior designers’ role in sustainable design will be discussed in the poster presentation. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to outline the evolution of the LEED rating system, describe the focus of the new version, and identify ways the new version relates to interior designers.  

Content analysis of secondary data was assessed in four themes 1) history of LEED certification, 2) variations of the five versions of the LEED rating system, 3) comparison of LEED rating system to other sustainable crediting bodies, and 4) relating LEED v4 to the interior design profession. From the initial review, subdomains were identified and assessed. Lastly, a discussion of trends was examined and conclusions were drawn.

Within the various iterations of the LEED rating system, the credits have become more complex with alternate paths to achieving points. Increased modeling tools have been integrated into the latest versions with additional testing and monitoring required for indoor air quality and acoustics. While Energy and Atmosphere remains the heaviest weighted credit categories, Indoor Environmental Quality and Materials and Resources have seen the most significant modifications in LEED v4. The focus has shifted from energy efficiency and money savings to occupant health with more credits addressing materiality and transparency.  Life cycle analysis, environmental product declarations, and healthy product declarations have become critical areas within the role of interior designers. 

This poster will illustrate the evolution of the LEED rating system, the goals of v4, and the indispensable role of the interior designer in the integrated design process required during LEED certification. For educators, this means emerging professionals require sustainable education to fully engage in an integrated design team. As a result, sustainability is an emergent area of interior design practice, especially with the emphasis on human factors of the built environment (Theodorson, 2014).


  • Guerin, D. A., & Kwon, J. (2010). Welfare: Can you talk about your specialized knowledge? In C. S. Martin & D. A. Guerin (Eds.), The state of the interior design profession (110-118). New York: NY: Fairchild Books.
  • Sorrento, L. (2012). A natural balance: Interior design, humans, and sustainability. Journal of Interior Design, 37(2), ix-xxiii. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-1668.2012.01075
  • Theodorson, J. (2014). Energy, daylight, and a role for interiors, Journal of Interior Design 39(2), 37-56.
  • USGBC (2013a). LEED v4 reference guide for building design and construction. D.C.: U.S. Green Building Council
  • USGBC (2013b). LEED professionals at a glance: March 2013. Retrieved from http://www.usgbc.org/articles/leed-professionals-glance-march-2013