LEED v4 Set To Debut Later This Month With Major Changes

photo2The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) will officially launch the latest iteration of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system dubbed LEED v4 at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo taking place November 20 – 22 in Philadelphia. The LEED certification program began back in 2000 and has undergone a number of changes throughout the years resulting in newer versions of the rating systems along with the addition of a number of market sector adaptations being introduced. The latest version was tested on over 100 projects through the LEED v4 Beta Program to refine the rating system. LEED v4 will be phased in over time with participants having the option to register projects under the newer version or its predecessor, LEED 2009, until June 1, 2015 after which LEED v4 will become the sole option.

In order to accommodate the increasing usage of the LEED rating system on a growing number of project types, new market sector adaptations have been added. These new market sector adaptations include hospitality, new and existing data centers, new and existing warehouses and distribution centers, existing schools, existing retail and mid-rise multifamily residential. This brings the total number of market sector adaptations to 21 and is intended to meet the challenges faced when applying LEED certification to these individual building types. This is a smart move because different building types have different needs when it comes to things such as energy and water usages. By acknowledging the fact a warehouse is going to be uniquely different than say an existing school and addressing that fact by having different credit requirements for each building type’s unique needs it opens the door for a larger number of projects to pursue LEED certification.

In addition to the new market sector adaptations there have been a number of new credits and prerequisites added that makes LEED v4 certification more rigorous and stringent than LEED 2009. Changes have been made to a number of the LEED rating systems including Building Design and Construction, Interior Design and Construction, Building Operations and Maintenance, Neighborhood Development and Building Design and Construction: Homes and Midrise. In order to highlight some of the changes over LEED 2009 we’ll focus on LEED v4 for Building Design & Construction and discuss the new credits and prerequisites in each category.

A new credit for Integrative Process has been added to encourage early analysis of water and energy systems to better inform design. The Sustainable Sites category found in LEED 2009 has been split into two separate categories: Location and Transportation and Sustainable Sites.

Location and Transportation

This new category was spun off from the Sustainable Sites category and focuses on credits dealing with site selection and alternative transportation options. A new credit was created that encourages selection of a site in a LEED for Neighborhood Development Location. Most of the credits in this category have been renamed with additional requirements added.

Sustainable Sites

The prerequisite for Construction Activity Pollution Prevention has been changed to update the EPA Construction General Permit from version 2003 to version 2010. A credit for Site Assessment has been added for site condition analysis to better inform design. Additional requirements were added to some of the credits along with other changes.

Water Efficiency

The prerequisite for Water Use Reduction was renamed Indoor Water Use Reduction and perquisites for Outdoor water Use Reduction and Building-Level Water Metering were added. Two new credits, Cooling Tower Water Use and Water Metering, were added while the Innovative Wastewater Technologies credit was removed and will have a nutrient recovery option added to be tested in the Pilot Credit Library. Some of the credits in this category were renamed and had requirements added or changed.

Energy & Atmosphere

In this category a Building-Level Energy Metering prerequisite was added. Credits for Advanced Energy Metering and Demand Response were added the latest version. The credit for Measurement and Verification was removed since it was covered in the new prerequisite and the Advanced Energy Metering credit. Some of the other changes included updated the referenced standard dealing with energy performance to ASHRAE 90.1-2010 and the allowance of carbon offsets for scope 1 or 2 emissions.

Materials & Resources

The Materials and Resources category underwent the most radical changes of all the categories with three new credits aimed at adding a high level of transparency when it comes to the disclosure and optimization of building materials. A new prerequisite for Construction and Demolition Waste Management Planning was added. The three new credits are for Building Product Disclosure and Optimization and include Environmental Product Declarations, Sourcing of Raw Materials, and Material Ingredient Reporting. The goal is to get building material manufacturers to provide information on the processes and practices that go into raw material sourcing, as well as providing information on environmental life-cycle impacts through Environmental Product Declarations, which is a standardized way to quantify and report the environmental impact of a building product, as well as listing the ingredients that go into building materials. These new credits are structured into disclosure and optimization options.

A good comparison for these new credits is to look at the way food is labeled. The FDA requires that food products list all the ingredients   Food products also have the option of being certified organic or Kosher as well as being labeled locally-sourced. The same type of transparency is being applied. You might not want to organic, locally-sourced food all the time the same way that you may not want to have all of your building materials be sustainably-sourced, eco-friendly products based on your needs, budget, etc. but it’s nice to know what’s in it and where it came from if you are. The goal appears to focus more on full disclosure so informed decisions can be made when it comes to selecting building materials.

Indoor Environmental Quality

The prerequisite for Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control removed the allowance for designated indoor smoking areas with the exception of residential projects and prohibited smoking on entire site for school projects. A new credit for Interior Lighting was added with an option addressing lighting quality and incorporates controls requirements from the Controllability of Systems-Lighting credit. As with the other categories, a number of credits have been renamed with additional requirements.

LEED certification is by no means the most stringent or rigorous of the available green and sustainable building rating systems but it is the most widely recognized and used. One of the reasons for this is the long range vision that continues to evolve and improve as construction industry continues to move toward greener and more sustainable buildings. With each new iteration LEED implements stricter requirements nudging the green building movement a little further ahead with each new version.

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