LEED for Cities and Communities: Surat as a case study


Surat holds a significant place in Indian history dating back to the 15th century as a vital trading port. Over the year, through epidemics, floods, and earthquakes, the city has experienced much, but after each calamity, it came back shining bright and standing true to its name: Surat- the sun city. Today, the city ranks among the world’s fastest-growing urban centers are recognized as both the ‘diamond capital of the world and the ‘textile capital of India’. It is also one of Prime Minister Modi’s 100 smart cities.

The city’s LEED journey started when it won the LEED Performance Challenge held back in 2016. It was an initiative that enabled Indian cities to share their performance data across a few parameters and benchmark against other cities locally, nationally, and globally. 14 Indian cities submitted their comprehensive data across 4 performance parameters- energy, water, waste, transportation, and human experience to benchmark themselves and the city of Surat got recognized at Greenbuild 2016 as the winner. The city added another milestone in its journey towards the path of sustainability when it became India’s first city to earn LEED platinum certification in 2018. Surat achieved a score of 87 out of 100 points on Arc. Using Arc as a digital platform, the city was able to benchmark itself against similar cities locally and globally on 14 metrics based on their energy, water, waste, transportation, and human experience performance.


LEED for Cities and Communities framework: 

The LEED for Cities and Communities framework revolutionizes the way cities and communities are planned, developed, and operated to improve their overall sustainability and quality of life. It helps cities credibly track their progress toward overall sustainability objectives and allows for comparison with others around the world. It encompasses social, economic, and environmental performance indicators and strategies with a clear, data-driven means of benchmarking and communicating progress. In addition, it helps local leaders, planners, and developers create cities and communities with responsible, sustainable, and specific plans for natural systems, energy, water, waste, transportation, and many other factors that contribute to the quality of life.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) was launched in India in 2008. The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), which is a part of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), brought the LEED rating system to India and began offering certification for green buildings. Since then, the IGBC has certified over 3,000 projects across India, making it one of the largest green building certification programs in the world. LEED India was tailored to the Indian context, taking into account the country’s unique climate, culture, and building practices. It is also integrated with other Indian rating systems and building codes. The Indian market for green buildings has grown rapidly in recent years, driven by increasing awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of sustainable construction.

The platform serves cities and communities of all shapes and sizes and at all phases of their evolution. Participants can be public or privately managed, new, or rapidly developing places, mature or fully built-out places, neighborhoods or districts, counties, or even states or countries. It helps local leaders to:

– Benchmark performance against national and global standards

– Demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, resilience, and social equity

– Develop a culture of data-driven decision-making, transparency, and leadership

– Improve the standard of living and quality of life in cities and communities.

The performance of each city is tracked through a digital platform that provides tools to collect, manage and score data needed for LEED for Cities and Communities framework. Any city can measure and score its real-world performance, and improve overall performance through custom modeling tools. The platform combines 14 metrics across 5 credit categories across which a city’s performance is measured.


Surat learnings and way forward: 

Surat stands proud next to cities like Washington DC Surat has much lower per capita emissions in comparison to Washington DC. It had been an ongoing journey of transformation wherein the government and people have joined hands to bring their city to heights of success and make it an example of how India LEED cities could be.

During the certification process, the city was awarded full points in Arc under the energy, water, and transportation categories. It has undertaken crucial initiatives to address the increase in energy demand due to growth in the commercial and industrial sectors, making it one of the most progressive cities in India. These initiatives are based on a committed target of a 10% reduction in energy demand by 2016 and entail energy efficiency measures like adopting the ESCO model, smart grid application, and demand response as well as an increase in renewable energy production from solar PV installation, windmills, and biogas-based power plants.

Additionally, it was successful in providing quality water to 96% of its population and treats millions of gallons of wastewater to meet water demand in industries and landscaping. It has also taken initiatives for the efficient use of water and reduction in losses by a water audit and leakage mapping. It has been very conscious in managing waste produced in the city and aims to divert almost 80% of its waste from landfills by composting, vermicomposting, bio-methanation, and using waste derive fuel.


Key accomplishments: 



–         4.46 tons of CO2 emissions per capita one of the lowest in the country.



– Reduce water supply to 135 lit per capita per day to meet the government mandate through service level benchmarking and regular leakage mapping.

–         40 million lit per day capacity tertiary plant installed to treat domestic sewage which is converted into industrial grade water.

– Installed 10 sewage treatment plants and 60 sewage pumping stations.

– Almost 94% of the population has been covered under the sewage network and the plan is to cover the entire city in the coming years.



– Surat has been maintaining high standards of public health and sanitation by effectively managing the city’s waste while diverting about 3% of total municipal solid waste from landfills and is preparing for 80% diversion soon through initiatives such as composting and bio-methanation.

–         42 urban health centers catering to a 50 lakh population. They are also doing vector-borne disease surveillance activity around the clock.

– After the plague, Surat is the pioneer in door-to-door garbage collection activities. At present, 227 major roads are being swept during night hours.

– Created a separate system for construction and demolition waste, plastic waste, and biomedical waste.


Human Experience: 

– Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) has undertaken initiatives like slum up-gradation and rehabilitation housing for the urban poor.

– Several steps contributing to the quality of its 5 million citizens’ human experience were undertaken by the corporation.

– Ensured easy access of citizens to civic authorities and became the first in India to launch a mobile app for citizen-centric information and service delivery.

– SMC had also started to put in place safety initiatives. It had been the first city in the country wherein citizens decided to have security of their own. There is a reduction of 20% in the crime rate in the city.

– A smart city center has been developed to provide instant updates that help authorities manage civic services or even rescue relief operations in case of a disaster.



– Paving way for sustainable urban transportation full focus was given to technology for maintaining the public transport system and rapidly scaling the bus rapid transit system. To date, the 106km corridor has been in operation for the last 2 years which will grow in the coming future.

– Introduced city buses, with 450 buses on road, and have reached up to 800 in number.

A future where cities are healthy, sustainable, and high performing: A new way forward for resilient, green, and inclusive, and smart cities. 

Cities and communities can lead to prioritize and enhance human health while saving energy, water, and waste. Cities can be powered by clean and reliable energy while teaching children in green school buildings. Cities can be affordable and accessible for all. We see that future within reach, with consistent and clear performance measurement as the path that will lead the way.

LEED for Cities and Communities framework can help local leaders, planners and developers create cities and communities with responsible, sustainable, and specific plans for natural systems, energy, water, waste, transportation, and many other factors that contribute to the quality of life.

Cities like Surat can use their certification results to


  • Increase transparency and accountability to investors, funders, and constituents.
  • Attract grants, business development, and economic activity.
  • Strengthen plans and policies and guide planning processes.
  • Identify and implement high-impact best practices.
  • Increase community buy-in for sustainability efforts.
  • Create opportunities for collaboration.
  • Demonstrate measurable sustainability progress and global leadership.
  • Communicate and brand triple-bottom-line sustainability.
  • Direct resources to the greatest areas of need.
  • Commit to continuous improvement.
  • Influence other India Cities to evaluate their performance.


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