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What is LEED Certification?

LEED certification is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability. Achieving
LEED certification demonstrates the building project as truly green. The LEED rating system,
administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, is designed to promote design and
construction practices that reduce the buildings negative environmental impacts. LEED
certification, which includes a rigorous third-party commissioning process, offers four
certification levels for new construction and major renovation projects Certified, Silver, Gold,
and Platinum that correspond to the number of credits accrued in five categories: sustainable
sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor
environmental quality. Learn more about the LEED rating system on the U.S. Green Building
Council website.

The County of Los Angeles is committed to greener spaces and environment.

Explore each section to learn about the sustainable practices incorporated in our
library buildings. In January 2007, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
adopted rules to require that all new County buildings greater than 10,000 square feet and
funded on or after February 15, 2007 be certified LEED Silver, Gold or Platinum.



Green Building 101: What is indoor environmental quality?

What is indoor environmental quality?

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) encompasses the conditions inside a
buildingair quality, lighting, thermal conditions, ergonomicsand their
effects on occupants or residents. Strategies for addressing IEQ include
those that protect human health, improve quality of life, and reduce stress
and potential injuries. Better indoor environmental quality can enhance the
lives of building occupants, increase the resale value of the building, and
reduce liability for building owners.

Why is this important for buildings?

Since the personnel costs of salaries and benefits typically surpass
operating costs of an office building, strategies that improve employees
health and productivity over the long run can have a large return on
investment. IEQ goals often focus on providing stimulating and comfortable
environments for occupants and minimizing the risk of building-related
health problems.

To make their buildings places where people feel good and perform well,
project teams must balance selection of strategies that promote efficiency
and conservation with those that address the needs of the occupants and
promote well-being. Ideally, the chosen strategies do both: the solutions
that conserve energy, water and materials also contribute to a great indoor

What are common sources of indoor air contaminants?

People smoking tobacco inside the building or near building entrances or air

Building materials such as paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants, and furniture

that may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), substances that vaporize at room
temperature and can cause health problems
Combustion processes in HVAC equipment, fireplaces and stoves, and vehicles
in garages or near entrances

Mold resulting from moisture in building materials

Cleaning materials

Radon or methane off-gassing from the soil underneath the building

Pollutants from specific processes used in laboratories, hospitals, and factories

Pollutants tracked in on occupants shoes

Occupants respiration, which increases carbon dioxide levels and may introduce

The best way to prevent indoor pollutants is to eliminate or control them at

the sources. The next line of defense is proper ventilation to remove any
pollutants that do enter. Both approaches need to be considered at all
phases of the building life cycle.

What are effective strategies improving occupants comfort

and control?
Use daylighting.

Install operable windows.

Give occupants temperature and ventilation control.

Give occupants lighting control.

Conduct occupant surveys.

Provide ergonomic furniture.

Include appropriate acoustic design.

Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)

by the WBDG Sustainable Committee

Last updated: 09-04-2014

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) is most simply described as the conditions inside
the building. It includes air quality, but also access to daylight and views, pleasant
acoustic conditions, and occupant control over lighting and thermal comfort. It may
also include the functional aspects of space such as whether the layout provides
easy access to tools and people when needed and whether there is sufficient space
for occupants. Building managers and operators can increase the satisfaction of
building occupants by considering all of the aspects of IEQ rather than narrowly
focusing on temperature or air quality alone. Americans spend the majority of
their time indoors; not surprisingly, studies have shown an increase in
worker productivity when improvements are made to a spaces IEQ.
Related Topics


A space with good acoustics allows for confidential conversations among

collaborating workers without affecting those engaged in individual, focused work. It
is not too loud, does not echo too much, and controls excess noise pollution from
both indoor and outdoor sources.

Adequate Ventilation and Exhaust

Adequate ventilation and exhaust is important to prevent build-up of odors, carbon

dioxide, allergens and toxins in indoor air. Provide separate exhaust for copy,
printing, break rooms, and food preparation areas. Flush out occupied spaces prior
to occupancy. Use energy efficient or variable drive fans for enhanced air
movement. Consider bringing in more fresh air into the building. Ensure the building
management staff is conducting preventive maintenance on all building exhaust
systems (restrooms, garage exhaust fans, etc). Seal ventilation duct opening during
construction or renovations to reduce dust and particle build-up.


Adhesives are substances used to bond one surface to another. They include
bonding primers and adhesive primers for plastics. Adhesives often emit high levels
of harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), so care must be taken to ventilate
spaces when using them. Many low or no-VOC adhesive products are also available
and should be used where feasible.

Air Delivery Monitoring

It is important to provide adequate ventilation for occupied spaces. However, care

should be taken to prevent energy waste by over-ventilating. Monitoring systems
can be installed to generate alarms when unhealthy levels of carbon dioxide are
detected a sign that additional fresh, outside air needs to be brought in to restore
healthy indoor air quality.


ASHRAE (formerly, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-

Conditioning Engineers) is the governing body which creates and releases the
standards regarding indoor air quality, thermal comfort, and energy efficiency.


Binders are used to hold together two or more ingredients. They are similar to
adhesives and must also be used with care. Binders can have high levels of harmful
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which can be dangerous to human health and
the environment. Lower VOC binders are preferable, and all spaces where binders
are applied should be well ventilated.

Building cleanliness is both the process of removing dirt and contaminates from the
building as well as the process of maintaining this state. Keeping the facility clean
decreases the occurrence of sick building syndrome and uses less toxic chemicals
in the process. Occupants are also more likely to express satisfaction and lose less
productivity due to absenteeism in a well-cleaned building.

Combined Sewer Overflow

A combined sewer system conveys both sanitary sewage and stormwater in one
piping system. During normal dry weather conditions, sanitary wastewater collected
in the combined sewer system is diverted to the wastewater treatment plant before it
enters natural waterways. During periods of significant rainfall, the capacity of a
combined sewer may be exceeded. When this occurs, excess flow, a mixture of
stormwater and sanitary wastewater, is discharged at CSO points, typically to rivers
and streams.


The process that focuses on verifying and documenting that the facility and all of its
systems and assemblies are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated, and
maintained to meet the Owner's Project Requirements. This means testing all
systems (HVAC, lighting controls, domestic hot water systems, etc.) to ensure they
function as intended. Proper commissioning saves energy, reduces risk, and creates
value for building operators. It also serves as a quality assurance process for
enhancing the delivery of the project.

Construction Air Quality Management

Construction activities can threaten the indoor air quality of an occupied space.
Precautions should be taken to protect the health of construction workers as well as
the health of occupants. These precautions include ensuring that airborne particles
from construction activities are isolated from the permanently installed HVAC
equipment; flushing out toxins before occupancy; ensuring absorptive materials are
kept dry and that the facility is kept free from mold; and using construction materials
low in harmful VOCs.


Daylighting uses natural daylight as a substitute for electrical lighting. While it will
likely be counterproductive to eliminate electrical lighting completely, the best proven
strategy is to employ layers of light - using daylight for basic ambient light levels
while providing occupants with additional lighting options to meet their needs.

An effective daylighting strategy appropriately illuminates the building space without

subjecting occupants to glare or major variations in light levels, which can impact
comfort and productivity.

In order to provide equitable access to daylight ensure the space is optimized to

disperse daylight well. Locate private offices toward the core of the space and
specify low workstation panels. Use glass walls and light-colored surfaces on walls
and desks to disperse daylight throughout the space. In all daylighting strategies, it
is important to consider glare and to take steps to minimize it. Find more strategies

Saving Energy through Lighting and Daylighting Strategies PDF

Tips for Daylighting PDF

Entryway Systems/Walk-off Mats

Toxins are tracked into a building on occupants shoes. Entryway systems, like
grates, grills, and walk-off mats can greatly reduce the amount of outside dirt, dust,
and particulates brought into the building. This makes for a cleaner environment,
and cuts down on the amount of cleaning necessary to maintain a high level of
cleanliness in the facility.


Ergonomic workspaces are designed to facilitate work while minimizing stress and
strain on the body. They also accommodate user preferences and comfort. They
include height-adjustable desks that can be easily moved around on casters, fully
adjustable chairs, monitor arms, keyboard trays, footrests and document holders. It
is important to train employees on how to adjust their workspaces to maximize
comfort and health.

ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke) Control

ETS is another term for secondhand smoke. It consists of cancer-causing airborne

particles emitted from the burning end of cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, and is
exhaled by smokers. Good indoor air quality is assured by not allowing ETS to enter
the air breathed by non-smokers. This is often achieved by banning smoking within
the facility and within a certain distance from openings in the building envelope
(often 20-25 feet). Buildings can also install separate HVAC systems to isolate areas
within a facility where smoking is allowed.


A finish is the final covering material in an arrangement of building components. It

can refer to the finish on the floor, countertop, wall, or piece of furniture. Similar to
adhesives and binders, finishes must also be used with care. They can emit high
levels of harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which can be dangerous to
human health and the environment. Lower VOC finishes are preferable, and all
spaces where finishes are applied should be well ventilated.
Flush Out

The odors and toxins released from recently installed building materials and finishes
such as flooring, paints, caulks and sealants, cabinets and work surfaces made
from composite lumber products reduce indoor air quality. To increase indoor air
quality, large amounts of outdoor air can be forced through a recently completed
building for a period of 3 to 90 days so that the majority of emissions from the newly
installed materials can be removed from the building before occupancy.


Tinted glass and glass with a reflective coating are glazing alternatives that reduce
heat gain. One example, low-e glass, has a thin metal coating to allow light to pass
through the glass; heat remains on the side where it is originating (it keeps the
suns heat out of the building and mechanical heating inside the building). Low-e
coatings contribute to energy efficient window assemblies.

Green Cleaning

A good green cleaning program uses processes and products with a low-
environmental impact while still being effective at removing dirt and contaminants
from the building. In addition, it protects the health of the cleaning staff. Green
cleaning encompasses the use of non-toxic, biodegradable chemicals and recycled
cleaning products, and uses cleaning equipment that has little to no environmental
impact. It may also include daytime cleaning, the training of employees, use of
microfiber cleaning cloths, and the use of concentrated cleaning chemicals that
require less packaging.
Human Health

Healthy people are free of disease and are otherwise well. Buildings with good IEQ
support the health of occupants via high quality lighting, thermal conditions, air
quality, acoustics, ergonomic and functional features.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the state of the air within a space. A space with
good indoor air quality is one that is low in toxins, contaminants and odors. Good air
quality possible when spaces are well ventilated (with outside air) and protected
from pollutants brought into the space or by pollutants off-gassed within the space.
Strategies used to create good IAQ include bringing in 100% outside air, maintaining
appropriate exhaust systems, complying with ASHRAE Standard 62.1, utilizing high
efficiency MERV filters in the heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system,
installing walk-off mats at entryways, prohibiting smoking with the space and near
operable windows and air intakes, providing indoor plants, and using only low-
emitting / non-toxic materials and green housekeeping products.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Integrated Pest Management is is a process used to reduce or discourage the

growth of pest populations. IPM protects human health and the surrounding
environment and improves economic returns by employing the most effective, least-
risk management option. It uses non-toxic products such as cleaning and physical
barriers to entrance before resorting to chemical means. Pests include plants, fungi,
insects, and/or animals.


VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are toxins found within products (paints,
adhesives, cleaners, carpets, particle board, etc) and that are released into a
spaces indoor air, thus harming its quality. Low VOC products are those that meet
or exceed various standards for low-emitting materials. Low-emitting standards
include Green Seal, SCAQMD, CRI Green Label Plus, Floor Score, etc.


Materials used in buildings often contain compounds that have a negative effect on
indoor air quality (IAQ) and the earths atmosphere. These compounds can be
present in adhesives, sealants, paints, flooring, carpets, composite wood and
agrifiber products, furnishings, and in ceiling and wall systems. Low-emitting
materials release only small amounts of these compounds into the surrounding air
over time. Strategies for selecting low-emitting options include ensuring material
compliance with the ANSI/BIFMA X7.1-2007 standard for furniture emissions. Non-
profit certification programs that verify conformance with the standard including but
not limited to Indoor Advantage, Certified Green, Greenguard, and any other
program that uses the open ANSI standard.

MERV-rated Filter

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) is a rating from 1 to 16 that

indicates the effectiveness of air filters. The higher the MERV rating, the denser the
filter and the more efficient it is at removing small particles in the air. However, a
higher MERV rating creates more resistance to airflow, thus requiring additional
energy to push air through the filter. For the cleanest air, a user should select the
highest MERV filter that their unit is capable of handling based on the limit of the
units fan power.

Moisture Control

Moisture control is the process of regulating where, when and how much water and
water vapor collect in a building. Mold and other air borne contaminates develop
when there is too much moisture.

Noise Pollution

Noise pollution is the presence of unwanted or unpleasant noise. Noise pollution

comes from improperly functioning HVAC equipment, street noise, or the
conversations of others. Besides the fact that it is obnoxious and distracting, noise
pollution can be detrimental to human health. It is therefore important to consider
ways to eliminate noise pollution in project planning.
Occupant Comfort

Workspaces should be designed and operated to support the functional and

environmental needs of occupants. Design for thermal comfort should be based on
ASHRAE Standard 55. Design for air quality should be based on ASHRAE 62.
Occupant comfort should be assessed frequently once a building is occupied, using
ASHRAEs Performance Measurement Protocols for Commercial Buildings.

Occupant Control

Workspaces should be designed to allow for occupant control over lighting (light
switches, occupant or daylight sensors with override capability, etc) and thermal
comfort (operable windows, individual thermostats, and underfloor air
diffusers). Building operators should provide information about control use to


Many office buildings are being overcooled, particularly during the

summer. Overcooling has both negative energy and occupant comfort


Overheating refers to the accumulation of warmth in a building to the

extent where it causes occupant discomfort. It can also affect worker
productivity and health. Overheating can occur during winter months, as
well as in summer months.


Plants not only contribute to the appearance of the office and provide aesthetic
value but they can help reduce air pollutants and introduce more oxygen to increase
air quality.

Recirculated Air

Air that is removed from a space by mechanical means and reused again as supply
air. Using a mix of recirculated air and fresh air is efficient because it maintains
healthy levels of oxygen at healthy levels but doesnt require excessive amounts of
conditioning (heating or cooling).

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)

When occupants feel sick at work, but not elsewhere, they likely have
SBS. SBS often manifests as cold or flu-like symptoms after breathing
stale or contaminated air. It harms worker productivity and morale. It may
also increase absenteeism and worker turnover.

Speech Privacy

Speech privacy is the inability to overhear other peoples conversations

and the ability to have a conversation without others overhearing. Poor
speech privacy is the most widespread problem in commercial buildings.

Supply Air

Supply air is air delivered to a space by mechanical ventilation. It can be 100%

outside air, or it can be a combination of outdoor air, recirculated air and / or transfer
air. Although it may seem like a good idea to use 100% outside air, the air needs to
be conditioned (heated or cooled) before it can be circulated, so it makes sense to
use only as much as is necessary to keep the circulating air fresh and the energy
use down.

Thermal Comfort

Workspaces should be designed to provide the optimum level of thermal comfort for
the occupants. Occupant comfort should be based on ASHRAE Standard 55.

Thermal Comfort Criteria

Comfort criteria are the specific original design conditions that at a minimum include
temperature, humidity, and air speed as well as outdoor temperature design
conditions, outdoor humidity design conditions, clothing, and expected activity.
Comfort criteria should be based on ASHRAE Standard 55.


Ventilation is the process of "changing" or replacing air in any space to control

temperature; remove moisture, odors, smoke, heat, dust, airborne bacteria, and
carbon dioxide; and to replenish oxygen. Ventilation includes both the exchange of
air to the outside as well as circulation of air within the building. It is one of the most
important factors for maintaining acceptable indoor air quality in buildings.

Views (to the Outside)

Building occupants with access to outside views have an increased sense of well-
being. Keeping employees happy and healthy is good for business, as happy
employees show higher productivity and increased job satisfaction, resulting in less
employee turnover. In order to provide equitable access to views, it is recommended
that private offices are located toward the core of the space and that low workstation
panels are installed to allow for maximum daylight penetration. Use glass walls and
partitions to enable views out from interior spaces.

Worker Productivity

Productivity is the quality and/or quantity of goods or services produced by a worker.

Good indoor environmental quality access to views, comfortable temperatures,
comfortable lighting, good acoustics, and ergonomic design, etc. supports
employees ability to do a good job. On the other hand, compromised IEQ hinders
their ability to work. It makes good business sense, then, to keep employees happy,
healthy, and productive. This, in turn, creates more and higher quality output for