Question: John asks: Hello, I’m thinking about starting my own restaurant and I want it to be LEED certified. It will most likely be in an existing building, but I do not have a set location for it yet.

I was wondering if and how I should get started on my certification or do I need to have a place before I get started on my project?


Hi John, if you’re new to LEED and green building, you can download this free guide to get started. For your LEED certified project, your rating system would most likely be LEED for New Construction (BD+C Reference Guide) or LEED for Retail Commercial Interiors (LEED ID+C Reference Guide)… My guess is that it would be LEED for Retail Commercial Interiors, unless your restaurant is freestanding and you want to certify the entire building.

You would want to read about LEED for Commercial Interiors and access the LEED v4 for Retail Commercial Interiors rating checklist. Take a look at the list of credits and the points that can be achieved within the rating system. LEED awards certification levels according to points earned and mandatory prerequisites fulfilled:

  • LEED Certified: 40-49 points
  • LEED Silver: 50-59 points
  • LEED Gold: 60-79 points
  • LEED Platinum: 80+ points

Find an architect, preferably a LEED AP, or a LEED consultant to identify what certification level (certified / silver / gold / platinum) are you targeting and what possible credits seem feasible in your specific project. Or, if you are on a very tight budget and like to do things yourself, you could learn to consult on your own LEED project.


For every category, there are prerequisites and credits. The prerequisites are mandatory and do not count toward earning points and all prerequisites must be fulfilled.

Each of the LEED credits are optional, you just need enough to reach the total of your desired certification, i.e. 40 + for certified, 80+ for platinum (mentioned at the bottom of the checklist).

Though there are no prerequisites for Location and Transportation, the weighting of credits is quite high. Generally speaking, a sustainable site, e.g. a previously developed site located in a densely developed urban area with access to diverse uses, would be able to help you achieve some of these credits.

An already LEED certified building or a building within a LEED Certified Neighborhood Development would be an ideal choice, but not mandatory.

A LEED Retail project also needs to conduct a waste stream study to identify the top recyclable waste streams

You might also want to check some other retail projects which are LEED certified like Coldwater Creek (Certified LEED Rating), KFC/Taco Bell, Northampton, MA (Gold LEED Rating), Pizza Fusion, Weston, FL (Gold LEED Rating).

Since, restaurants have high energy requirements for their processes, you would also need to strongly consider energy efficient appliances, LED lightings, water conservation and waste reduction.

– Claire


imageClaire Moloney

A recent graduate of Cornell University, where she studied Environmental Science and concentrated in Sustainable Development. Her interest in green building and LEED stems from her project-based coursework at Cornell, where she proposed design strategies for sustainable developments in Helena, MT and Ithaca, NY. Claire also exercised her passion for sustainability and energy conservation through extracurricular activities at Cornell, such as Solar Decathlon, Lights Off Cornell and Sustainability Hub. For the last three summers, she worked on energy projects at a town government, including an on-site hydrogen station and EECBG-funded activities.

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