Project Management Institute

Utilizing project management processes to deliver LEED® certified projects

Project Management Department, University of Alaska Anchorage


The United States has entered the global effort to reduce energy consumption by implementing sustainable practices on a national scale. Combining project management with sustainable building design and construction provides our country with the tools needed to achieve the proposed reduction. Sustainable projects provide continuous environmental and economic benefits while reducing emissions and energy consumption. This paper provides an overview of the 2009 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® rating system and insight for implementing the Project Management Process Groups during the construction and certification of a sustainable project. The first part of this paper is an overview of LEED®. Understanding the requirements for LEED® certification provides the framework for developing a sustainable project and implementing the opportunities to reduce a project’s carbon footprint. The second part of this paper assesses the advantages of integrating LEED® and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Project Management Processes to achieve certification.


Buildings in the United States are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption, 13% of water consumption, and 15% of the gross domestic product per year, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunities. Greater building efficiency can meet 85% of future U.S. demand for energy. A national commitment to green building has the potential to generate 2.5 million American jobs (USGBC, 2010).

When faced with starting a project, the project manager evaluates challenges and generates decisions that shape the project and define the deliverables. A project's Triple Constraint is the balance of the project's scope, schedule, and budget. It is represented by a triangle wherein one of the triangle's corners represents the scope, schedule, and budget of a project. The Triple Constraint is used to gauge whether a project's objectives are being met (PMI, 2004). The project schedule, scope, and budget are defined at the inception of the project at a high level view. The project is then distilled into the five Project Management Process Groups (Initiating Process, Planning Process, Executing Process, Monitoring and Controlling Process, and Closing Process).

Sustainability should be implemented at the inception of a project. In the past, simply defining the Triple Constraint of a project was adequate to determine if a project was feasible to moving beyond the Initiating and Planning Process Groups. However, with further understanding of the environment and the impact people have on it, the focus on sustainability should be at the forefront of a project. The Triple Constraint (Scope, Schedule, and Budget) of a successful project should include the Three R's (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle). The integration of these two triangular planes of management develops a strong foundation on which sustainable projects can be constructed. This paper provides insight for the successful integration of LEED® into the PMBOK® Guide's Project Management Process Groups. This paper does not analyze the costs associated with LEED® certification due to the wide range of construction projects and certification levels.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)®

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a not-for-profit organization committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. With a community comprising 78 local affiliates, more than 20,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 100,000 LEED® Accredited Professionals (LEED® AP), USGBC is the driving force of a sustainable construction industry that is projected to soar to US$60 billion by 2010 (USGBC, 2010). To implement their goals of sustainable construction, the USGBC developed a national rating system called LEED® to rank and certify construction projects. LEED® is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, stewardship of resources, and sensitivity to environmental impacts. LEED® provides building owners and operators with a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions (USGBC, 2010). The 2009 LEED® rating system is separated into six categories of sustainable design and construction. Each category provides an in-depth focus on each part of the project's deliverables.

Achieving LEED® Certification

LEED® is achieved through the successful assembly of Prerequisites and Credits to obtain points. Prerequisites are the minimum requirements for a building to be considered for certification. Once prerequisites have been achieved, a building may earn Credits, which build toward certification. LEED® separates the certification credits into Design Credits and Construction Credits. Once a credit has been reviewed and approved through LEED® it becomes a Point and is added to the total score. The four certification levels of LEED® are Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

There are multiple LEED® rating systems for project types, including:

  • ▪  New Construction
  • ▪  Core and Shell
  • ▪  Commercial Interiors
  • ▪  Homes
  • ▪  Neighborhood Development
  • ▪  Schools
  • ▪  Healthcare
  • ▪  Retail
  • ▪  Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance

The remainder of the paper is based on the LEED® New Construction rating system. Exhibit 1 provides a list of LEED® Prerequisites and Credits and should be used as a reference for the remainder of the paper.


Sustainable Sites (SS)

The initial development of a project is rooted in the selection of a site and the focus on the constraints associated with that site. Proper selection of the building's site and managing that site during construction are important considerations for a project's sustainability. The Sustainable Sites category discourages development on previously undeveloped land, while minimizing a building's impact on ecosystems and waterways. It also encourages regionally appropriate landscaping, rewards smart transportation choices, controls storm water runoff and erosion, light pollution, heat island effect, and construction-related pollution (USGBC, 2010).

Water Efficiency (WE)

The next step toward LEED® certification is to focus on the building and site's usage of potable water. Reductions are achieved through selecting efficient fixtures and appliances, and implementing sustainable site irrigation. A water-efficient project helps to replenish our aquifers by substantially reducing our need for potable water.

Energy and Atmosphere (EA)

The energy and atmosphere category focuses on the building's actual energy usage, requiring a LEED® project to achieve minimum base standards of reduced energy usage. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings use 39% of the energy and 74% of the electricity produced each year in the United States (USGBC, 2010). Reduction in energy usage is achieved through designing highly efficient thermal envelopes and providing mechanical and electrical systems that work in unison and therefore more efficiently reduce the anticipated energy usage. A 10% minimum level of energy usage reduction from published American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE, 2006) s required to achieve LEED® certification. Additional efficiency is awarded with additional credits. The energy and atmosphere category also encourages the use of supplementary energy reduction strategies, including commissioning, energy use monitoring, and the use of renewable and clean sources of energy, generated on-site or off-site (USGBC, 2010).

Materials and Resources (MR)

Construction activities generate approximately 2.5 pounds of solid waste per square foot of construction (USGBC, 2009). The materials and resources LEED® category focuses on the reduction of construction waste through recycling of temporary construction materials. Additional benefits include the use of sustainably grown, harvested, produced, and transported permanent construction products and materials.

Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ)

A focus on the indoor environment places the end users needs first when selecting material and developing the design and layout within a space. Occupants of LEED® certified buildings have improved ventilation, low or no material off gassing of chemicals (also referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds) within the space, improved ventilation and circulation of clean outside air, natural daylight, views to the exterior, individual lighting and temperature controls, and improved overall air quality. Studies show that reducing indoor air contaminants lowers occupant absenteeism and improves comfort levels and productivity (USGBC, 2009).

Innovation in Design (ID)

The Innovation in Design credit category provides up to five additional rating points toward project certification. Innovation and design credits are achieved through the use of new and innovative technologies and strategies to improve a building's performance. One point is also achieved for the inclusion of a LEED® Accredited Professional (LEED® AP) on the project team to coordinate the design and construction phases of work.

Regional Priority (RP)

LEED® developed a national rating system that is flexible and understanding of our nation's multiple climates. Some credits may not be appropriate for all climates. For example, the use of high-albedo roofing is more appropriate in Florida for reducing cooling requirements from solar gain than in northern Alaska, where solar gain is recognized as an environmental advantage in cold climates. By identifying these regional environmental concerns and constraints, the USGBC has provided an additional six LEED® credits that address these local priorities, and up to four extra points can be earned.

LEED® and the Project Management Process Groups

The Project Management Process Groups (Process Groups) are five distinct, phases that incorporate management knowledge into a successful project. The Process Groups, though distinct, overlap throughout the life cycle of the project. The five Process Groups are: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing (PMI, 2004). LEED® does not clearly define the management requirements to implement sustainability into the design and construction of sustainable projects. Utilization of the Process Groups to achieve LEED® certification is outlined in the remainder of this paper.

Initiating Process Group

The Initiating Process Group consists of the processes that facilitate the formal authorization to start a new project (PMI, 2004). A preliminary scope and project charter is developed. The project charter authorizes the project manager to proceed with the project. The charter defines the business need and benefit of pursuing the project. With the charter underway, development of the project objectives, specifics, alternatives, and deliverables form the preliminary scope. It is at this time that the Three R's (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) are incorporated into the project's Triple Constraint (Scope, Schedule, and Budget).

The preliminary scope and project charter are complete, and registering the project with LEED®-Online is the next step. The project manager selects a LEED® administrator to oversee the certification process. The LEED® administrator should be a LEED® AP, although this is not a requirement. If the LEED® administrator is a LEED® AP, the project has successfully achieved its first certification point. If the LEED® administrator is not LEED® AP, then the credit can still be achieved by selecting an accredited team member. By completing the online registration form and submitting payment, the Initiating Process for LEED® certification has commenced.

A site assessment is performed and multiple site alternatives are analyzed. The scope is then further defined by the building occupancy, height, floor plate size, and end use. Multiple sites are assessed and preliminary design and model estimates are developed to determine the best alternative to select. LEED® credits associated with the preliminary stages of the site and design are:

  • ▪  SS credit 1, Site Selection
  • ▪  SS credit 2, Development Density and Community Connectivity
  • ▪  SS credit 3, Brownfield Redevelopment
  • ▪  SS credit 4.1 through 4.4, Alternative Transportation
  • ▪  SS credit 5.1 and 5.2, Site Development
  • ▪  EA credit 2, Onsite Renewable Energy
  • ▪  MR credit 1.1 and 1.2, Building Reuse
  • ▪  ID credit 2, LEED® AP
  • ▪  RP credits 1.1 through 1.4, Regional Priorities

A General Contractor is selected to provide cost estimating and value engineering efforts throughout the Process Groups. Multiple contract types can be entered into with the General Contractor to provide assistance to the project team, including: Design-Build, Construction Manager/General Contractor, or Preconstruction Services (PMI, 2007). A Commissioning Authority should also be procured to provide third-party review of the project objectives and deliverables.

The Initiating Process has a significant impact on the project deliverables and objectives. The Initiating Process Group with the incorporation of our LEED® certification assessment defines the preliminary scope. LEED® credits are assessed and the initial steps toward certification are complete. The project's potential is defined and the benefits of pursuing a sustainable project are analyzed. The project is ready to move into the next step for both the LEED® certification process and the Project Management Process Groups.

Planning Process Group

With the feasibility study complete, the preliminary scope defined, LEED® registration processed, and preliminary LEED® credits assessed the Planning Process Group is entered into. The Planning Process identifies and further defines the project's Triple Constraint. The development of a Project Management Plan occurs in the Planning Process Group. The Project Management Plan refines the scope, creates the Work Breakdown Structure, schedules activities, establishes budgets, defines quality requirements, develops communication plans, allocates resources, and identifies potential risks. The nature of the Planning Process Group is iterative and requires redevelopment and reworking of the project deliverables as further definition of objectives is achieved. This is the most in-depth Process Group. It will be revisited throughout the project as changes occur.

The design of the structure takes shape during the Planning Process Group. Additional resources are procured to develop the project deliverables, and consultants are sought for their specialized knowledge. LEED® design prerequisites and credits are incorporated into the project in the Planning Process Group. Project stakeholder involvement is significant in the development of the deliverables and selection of project certification credits. A project should adhere to LEED's® Minimum Program Requirements (MPRs). These requirements define the categories of a building that the LEED® rating system was designed to evaluate. Together, they serve three goals: give clear guidance, protect the integrity of the LEED® program, and finally to minimize challenges that occur during the LEED® certification process (USGBC, 2009). The incorporation of these MPRs into the building's design and Project Management Plan, as well as achieving the LEED® Prerequisites are the next steps toward certification. LEED® separates the certification credits into two areas: Design Credits and Construction Credits. Design Phase Credits

The Planning Process Group defines the majority of the credits attempted for LEED® certification. Credits associated with the Initiating Process Group are reanalyzed to verify that scope development has not provided a negative project impact. Sustainable Site prerequisites and credits are reviewed and points are separated into three potential outcomes: Yes, No, and Maybe.

The civil design for the site is developed with the intent to maximize potential credit achievement. LEED® prerequisites and credits associated with the civil design are:

  • ▪  SS prerequisite 1, Construction Pollution Prevention
  • ▪  SS credits 6.1 and 6.2, Storm Water Design – Quality and Quantity Control
  • ▪  SS credits 7.1, Heat Island Effect – Non-Roof
  • ▪  SS credits 8, Light Pollution Reduction
  • ▪  WE credit 1, Water Efficient Landscaping
  • ▪  EQ prerequisite 2, Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control

The civil design nears completion and definition of the building's core and shell begins. The core and shell consists of the building's structural components, exterior envelope, mechanical systems, plumbing, electrical components, fire protection, and safety components. Reuse of existing building structure is assessed and compared with the costs associated with full demolition and new construction.

The structural design is finalized and the exterior façade is defined through thermal envelope efficiency and interior day lighting and view requirements. High-efficiency mechanical and electrical systems are engineered and an energy model of the building is performed to further define cost-saving and energy-efficiency potentials. Interior plumbing systems are engineered, and fixtures and trim are selected to reduce potable water usage while maintaining user comfort levels. LEED® credits are continuously revisited to insure that incorporation of new ideas and developments do not adversely affect existing features and designs. LEED® prerequisites and credits associated with the core and shell design include:

  • ▪  SS credit 7.2, Heat Island Effect – Roof
  • ▪  WE prerequisite 1, Water Use Reduction- 20% Reduction
  • ▪  WE credit 2, Innovative Wastewater Technologies
  • ▪  WE credit 3, Water Use reduction – Above 20%
  • ▪  EA prerequisite 1, Fundamental Commissioning
  • ▪  EA prerequisite 2, Minimum Energy Performance
  • ▪  EA prerequisite 3, Fundamental Refrigerant Management
  • ▪  EA credit 1, Optimize Energy Performance
  • ▪  EA credit 3, Enhanced Commissioning
  • ▪  EA credit 4, Enhanced Refrigerant Management
  • ▪  EA credit 5, Measurement and Verification
  • ▪  EA credit 6, Green Power
  • ▪  MR credit 3, Materials Reuse
  • ▪  MR credit 4, Recycled Content
  • ▪  MR credit 5, Regional Materials
  • ▪  MR credit 6, Rapidly Renewable Materials
  • ▪  MR credit 7, Certified Wood
  • ▪  EQ prerequisite 1, Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance
  • ▪  EQ credit 1, Outdoor Air Delivery Monitoring
  • ▪  EQ credit 2, Increased Ventilation
  • ▪  EQ credit 4.1 through 4.4, Low-Emitting Materials
  • ▪  EQ credit 5, Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Source Control
  • ▪  EQ credits 6.1 and 6.2, Controllability of Systems
  • ▪  EQ credit 7.1 and 7.2, Thermal Comfort
  • ▪  ID credits1.1 through 1.5, Innovation in Design

Upon completion of the core and shell, focus is turned to the building's interior and the tenant improvement spaces. Tenant Improvements are compromised of the upgrades associated with the occupancy and end purpose of the space. Spaces that comprise tenant improvements for office buildings include: conference rooms, office, open work areas, storage rooms, break areas, and circulation paths. Special attention is paid to the end users’ comfort and interior environment. Individual controllability of lighting, heating, air conditioning is incorporated into habitable areas. Materials and finishes are selected for aesthetics, volatile organic compound (VOC) levels, regional availability, recycled content, sustainable harvesting and manufacturing qualities and rapidly renewable properties. LEED® prerequisites and credits associated with tenant improvements, as well as reassessment of the prior credits and prerequisites, include:

  • ▪  MR prerequisite 1, Storage and Collection of Recyclables
  • ▪  EQ credits 8.1 and 8.2, Day lighting and Views

The majority of the LEED® Design credits are complete; planning is shifted to the Construction Credits.

Construction Phase Credits

Prior to the execution of construction activities, plans to achieve Construction Credits are developed. A Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) is created to reduce ground water contamination. The SWPPP defines the approach for sequencing the project and incorporating best management practices throughout construction. A Site Protection/Restoration Sequencing Plan is developed to minimize environmental impact from construction clearing and maximize vegetation replacement efforts. Installation, Procurement, and Documentation Plans are created to track building and materials reuse, roofing installations, construction waste management efforts, recycled content, regional materials, rapidly renewable materials and certified wood. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) plans During Construction and Before Occupancy are also developed. Commissioning, training, and turnover schedules are developed to assist with the transmission of information and to track successful achievements of project goals. LEED® credits associated with construction activities and reassessment of the prior credits and prerequisites include:

  • ▪  MR credit 1, Construction Waste Management
  • ▪  EQ credits 3.1 and 3.2, Construction IAQ Management Plans

All LEED® credits and prerequisite are assessed in the Initiating and Planning Process Groups. The next step toward LEED® certification is the execution of the project and implementation of LEED® credit requirements.

Executing Process Group

The Executing Process Group consists of the processes used to complete the work defined in the Project Management Plan to accomplish the project requirements (PMI, 2004). The design and engineering of the project is complete. Construction sequencing, scheduling, and planning activities are also finalized. The project team is assembled and roles are defined, including those responsible for the completion and submission of LEED® credit templates. A Responsible, Accountable, Consult, Inform (RACI) model is extremely useful in developing and coordinating roles and responsibilities, as shown in Exhibit 2.

RACI Model

Exhibit 2 - RACI Model

LEED® design credits are submitted to the USGBC for review and anticipated approval notifications are received. The project team manages the execution of the project deliverables during the Executing Process Group. Continual monitoring of quality requirements and a well-defined Project Scope and Project Management Plan allow the project to move forward smoothly.

Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

The Monitoring and Controlling Process Group is where the execution of the Project Management Plan and subsequent plans are implemented. These plans help identify potential problems and the associated corrective actions. Construction phase credits are documented and achievement of credits is recorded. The Triple Constraint is monitored throughout this process. The potential for scope creep is reduced through the implementation of a well defined scope and complete construction documents. The scope is controlled through the Integrated Change Management Plan. This plan provides for control of changes through determining that a change has occurred, when it occurred, assessing benefits, and managing the approval requirements (PMI, 2004). The project schedule is monitored to verify that milestones are achieved and critical path activities remain on schedule.

Specific to LEED®, is the verification of Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) through commissioning of building components and systems. Commissioning and QA/QC should occur throughout the installation activities. LEED® required fundamental commissioning is incorporated to verify that the project's energy-related systems are installed, calibrated, and perform according to the project design requirements. Systems that require commissioning include: heating ventilation, air conditioning, lighting and day lighting controls, hot water systems and renewable energy systems (USGBC, 2009). Incorporating the IAQ plan and verifying goals are met to reduce material VOCs, and off-gassing is measured and documented.

Construction Waste Management Diversion efforts are controlled through the recycling of materials, diversion through donations, and onsite salvaging. The tracking and reporting of diversion efforts require an analysis of proposed jobsite waste and quantities, disposal methods, handling procedures, available landfill options, and landfill tipping fees. Salvaged, reused, or recycled material lists are updated throughout the Monitoring and Controlling Process. Regular meetings are scheduled to address waste management and tracking diversion quantities to assess the achievement of diversion goals for the project. Continuous monitoring during this project phase insures project deliverables are successfully achieved. Plans are updated and efforts are monitored.

With the completion of the execution of project deliverables and the achievement of phased milestones the project nears completion and is ready for the final Project Management Process Group.

Closing Process Group

The final phase for both LEED® certification and the Project Management Process Groups is the Closing Process Group. This group includes the processes used to formally terminate all activities of a project or a project phase and hand off the completed product (PMI, 2004). The Execution and Monitoring and Controlling Process Groups are complete and the remaining construction phase credit templates are submitted to the USGBC for final project review. Formal closeout of the contracts and subcontracts occur. Lessons learned meetings are held and potential strategies for future project implementation are recorded.

Additional credit clarification may be requested from the USGBC and LEED®-Online during this phase. Adequate management resources should remain in order to complete and properly respond to these requests. Once the final Construction Review comments have been accepted, the project will either be LEED® certified or denied. Projects that earn Certification will be contacted by the Green Building Certification Institute via email with instructions regarding LEED® recognition. Projects that are denied certification will be closed and are no longer eligible for review (USGBC, 2009).

Final Consideration

Sustainable buildings are healthier and safer buildings for occupants; they provide environmental and economic benefits while reducing energy consumption. Sustainable projects demonstrate an owner's commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility. To successfully achieve LEED® certification, sustainability should be planned into a project from concept to completion. The Integration of LEED® into the Project Management Process Groups increases potential to achieve certification.


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Project Management Institute. (2004). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® guide) —3rd Edition. Newtown Square, PA: Author.

Project Management Institute. (2007). Construction extension to the PMBOK® guide, 3rd Edition, 2nd Edition. Newtown Square, PA: Author.

USGBC. (2010, February 16). About USGBC. Retrieved from U.S. Green Building Council, Inc. website:

USGBC. (2009). Green Building Design and Construction. LEED Reference Guide for Green Building Design and Construction. Washington, DC, USA: U.S. Green Building Council, Inc.

USGBC. (2010, February 16). Intro - What LEED Is, Measures, Delivers. Retrieved from U.S. Green Building Council, Inc. website:

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2011, Luke A. Blomfield
Published as part of Proceedings PMI Global Congress 2011 – Dallas/Ft Worth, TX



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