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How is LEED different from HQE?

LEED and HQE are both environmental building certifications. HQE is the French version while LEED is the American system. Both are based on a similar basis of environmental and social criteria.

HQE is structured around 4 categories divided into 12 objectives developed into 26 sub-themes:

  1. Quality of life

  2. Respect the environment

  3. Economic performance

  4. Responsible management

LEED is structured around 8 categories divided into 58 prerequisites and credits:

  1. Site

  2. Transport and Location

  3. Water Management

  4. Energy management

  5. Indoor environmental quality

  6. Materials

  7. Innovations

  8. Regional Priorities

LEED and HQE certifications have six similar prerequisites on the following themes:

  1. Site waste management

  2. Minimum energy performance

  3. Hydro-saving equipment

  4. Establishment of a waste room

  5. Installation of energy meters

  6. Minimum air renewal rates

LEED and HQE are obtained according to the performance of the building with respect to these criteria and the relative points obtained. The total score gives a performance level.

What does one bring more than the other?

From a general point of view, LEED leans slightly more on the environment, while HQE leans more on the social side.

The majority of the requirements concerning energy, water, waste, transport and biodiversity are relatively similar or more demanding on the LEED side.

The major differences lie in the criteria for comfort, health and well-being. Although both standards take these concerns into account, HQE puts more focus into these, namely:

  • Thermal comfort

  • Acoustic comfort

  • Access to daylight and access to views

  • Water quality

HQE also has requirements on topics such as water quality and exposure to electromagnetic waves which are absent in LEED.

LEED, on the other hand, places a greater emphasis on materials. In particular, it rewards projects that take a building life cycle approach. To do this, it will prioritize the recovery of demolition materials, the choice of materials and locality of manufacturers, the recyclability of the materials chosen, their naturality and the absence of toxic components.

So why choose one certification over the other?

In France, HQE remains the dominant certification. The main reason is that it is made in France and conducted in the French language. There has also been a lot of marketing done by the certification bodies behind HQE to promote it in nationwide. HQE is often sought after for its very contextual approach to the site and to the urban integration of the project. However, from a reach and image point of view, it remains very little known outside of France.

LEED is present in 132 countries and recognized worldwide as the mark of excellence in terms of building performance.

LEED is therefore the most well-known, widespread and sought-after certification in the world, which makes it a first choice when building owners seeks to keep up their reputation and demonstrate an international standard, to attract investors or to establish themselves on an international market.

There are also other interesting certifications that can support your environmental ambitions and international standards like WELL and EDGE.

Consult our comparison matrix of LEED, WELL et EDGE certifications to choose the one that best suits your project.



Our LEED Blog series have been developed for project managers and architects who work on projects with a LEED certification objective. This LEED Blog summarizes everything you need to know about LEED for a good implementation and a successful certification process. Don't forget to go through our numerous resources to help you guide your clients towards a successful LEED certification!

See our next post: What are LEED's MPRs ?


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