Individual LEED Certified Buildings

Schools can use this module to quantify GHG emission reductions in individual Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings. The module can be applied to projects involving LEED-certified New Construction (NC) as well as projects targeting emission reductions in LEED-certified Existing Buildings (EB).

This funding opportunity is open to all U.S. universities, colleges, and K-12 schools. Projects can readily determine their eligibility for LEED certified buildings reductions based on energy/CO2 emission profiles that have already been derived from their LEED building certification documents. The carbon emission profiles are then determined through entering the LEED certified energy data into the EPA Target Finder tool.

Basic LEED Eligibility

Here’s how to determine initial eligibility for VCS carbon credits for LEED certified individual buildings on campuses. First, the new VCS methodology has established three approaches for LEED certified buildings each of which has specific performance benchmarks, which projects must surpass, including:

New Construction: NC

In order to surpass the performance benchmark for eligibility, the building must qualify within the top 50% of LEED buildings’ EUI improvements over regulatory code design performance, likely placing them beyond the LEED average Energy Star 86 performance achievements.

  • The top 50% of LEED certified buildings typically achieve a 21-26% EUI (BTU/sq ft) improvements vs. code-based EUI, based on USGBC’s historical analysis by sector.
  • For 2012 projects, going forward, this would be a percent improvement in EUI (BTU/sq ft) over relevant building code (e.g. ASHRAE Standard (ASHRAE Code) including: 90.1-2004 (ASHRAE 2004), 90.1-2007 (ASHRAE 2007)), as specified in the building’s LEED certification documentation, of at least:


LEED CertificationRegulatory Code/Former LEED StatusLEED Building TypeValue
New ConstructionASHRAE 2004Higher Education BuildingPBNC = 25%
Higher Education LaboratoryPBNC = 21%
K-12 SchoolPBNC = 24.5%


Higher Education BuildingPBNC = 26%
Higher Education LaboratoryPBNC = 26%
K-12 SchoolPBNC = 24%
Existing BuildingsPreviously Eligible for LEED Existing Building (EB-B)Higher Education BuildingPBEBB = 86
Higher Education LaboratoryNot Eligible
K-12 SchoolPBEBB = 86
Previously Not Eligible for LEED Existing Building (EB-A)Higher Education BuildingPBEBA = 20%
Higher Education LaboratoryPBEBA = 20%
K-12 SchoolPBEBA = 20%

Exiting Buildings: EB-A and EB-B

The LEED EB certified buildings will have EITHER:

EB-A: Consistent with LEED credit 67, in order to surpass the performance benchmark, the eligible building will have achieved a 20% reduction in EUI (BTU/sq ft) in a single year, while starting historically from a baseline performance level that would not render the building eligible for LEED certification.


EB-B: In order to surpass the performance benchmark, the eligible building will have met at least the LEED building average Energy Star performance rating (currently ES 86) in practice as monitored through EPA’s Portfolio Manager (Excluding US higher education campus laboratories).

There are other eligibility criteria which campuses must also fulfill that are outlined in the project summaries which must be completed and submitted for consideration. Key project eligibility criteria include:

  • Be a US-based college or K-12 school
  • Comprise a LEED certified building as NC or EB with opening/operational date after Q1/2 2011 so long as the projects are validated by Feb 2016; otherwise project start dates could not be grandfathered
  • Use EPA Target Finder (TF) tool to calculate CO2 reductions, derived from LEED energy inputs from the building’s LEED certification documents, meeting simple operating requirements for the EPA TF tool
  • Demonstrated actions on at least two energy strategies, as derived from the building’s LEED certification approach, which may not have been conducted as a result of regulatory requirements
  • Ensure rights of ownership to the resulting carbon reductions to avoid double counting/claiming, consistent with campus’ own GHG reporting

Using their LEED performance data, campuses can readily estimate the total CO2 reductions that might qualify for carbon credit funding using the Excel Template. Chevrolet was open to consider funding purchases over several years, spanning mid-2011 through December 2014 and paid a premium in terms of $/ton over the prevailing voluntary carbon market pricing. Going forward, inquiries from campuses can be made to Second Nature to explore future funding prospects.

Interested campuses can e-mail to learn more about funding opportunities and eligibility criteria.

How to Apply:

What are the key steps involved in putting a project forward for carbon credit funding?

  1. Complete initial due diligence (drawing upon information in your LEED building’s certification documents) to evaluate project eligibility and performance parameters, inputting further data to the excel templates sheets. Evaluate attractiveness of project funding investment from campus’ point of view.
  2. Engage with Second Nature to explore how your campus might best sell the carbon credits provided from your project and review any technical questions you might have
  3. Typically, carbon purchasers enter into contracts directly with a campus in order to transact for the carbon reduction tons it wishes to provide: transactions can be coordinated and supported through Second Nature.
  4. Fully complete project certification materials (the excel template, the project development document and the monitoring report) which are ultimately submitted to carbon credit validators/verifiers for VCS certification.
  5. Participate in a third-party project validation review of the project’s carbon credentials and verification of its credits in order to get them issued. In order to achieve VCS certification all carbon projects are reviewed by a designated third-party VCS reviewer. Second Nature can also supply further information regarding the VCS project certification process and steps required to get projects VCS approved and credits verified.
  6. Having secured VCS credit issuance, transfer carbon credits to purchaser (which can be facilitated through Second Nature’s registry account) and receive payment.

Tools and Resources:

LEED Buildings can be certified on an individual or grouped basis. The grouped basis is typically more cost effective. The Project Development Document and Monitoring Report templates are provided for both individual and grouped projects.

Chevrolet developed Excel Templates that can be used to easily estimate whether a campus would qualify based on its GHG performance. This tool will also help estimate the size and value of resulting CO2 reductions. Schools can enter their STARS or Second Nature emissions reporting data directly into these templates.

This template has check boxes to complete that mirror the Excel Template’s results. The completed PDD provides a summary of the project for VCS’s certifiers to review for validation purposes (conducted once up-front). The document also provides details of the project’s credentials for VCS’s accredited certifiers to evaluate in order to secure project validation.

–This report (with check boxes to complete) provides a summary of the project for VCS’s certifiers to review for credit verification purposes, conducted regularly throughout the project lifetime as credit issuance from VCS is sought. The monitoring report also provides details of the project’s credentials for VCS’s accredited certifiers to evaluate in order to secure credit issuance.

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