Monday, March 4, 2013

LEED v4: It'll be here before you know it!

By: Becky Moriarty, Sustainable Building Associate

LEED version 4 is slowly, but surely on its way. USGBC surprised the industry when it announced last June that it was postponing the release of its latest version of LEED. According to an article published by Environmental Building News, building industry professionals complained that the new program was too much, too fast, the credits needed more refinement, and the resources needed to achieve certain credits were not readily available.[1] Appropriately, the name changed from LEED 2012 to LEED v4.

Despite the slight uproar, development of the program is moving along. In comparison to the updates for LEED version 3, this iteration will be much more technically rigorous than the foundational changes of the past. USGBC intends to simplify the process while simultaneously raising the bar for the building industry. As part of development, there have been multiple public comment periods (mark your calendars for the March 1st – March 31st 6th public comment session), responses from USGBC member committees, a beta testing period, and a ballot vote that will take place in the summer of 2013 among USGBC members. Click here to check out the 5th public comment responses. When the ballot is approved by the USGBC members, LEED v4 will become available to project teams, which is anticipated in the late summer or fall of 2013. USGBC has promised that LEED 2009 will also remain available for new registrations until June 2015.

So what exactly are the changes? The first is new credit categories, including new prerequisites and credits across all credit categories and rating systems. These new standards are strengthening what it means for a building to be LEED certified. USGBC is aiming beyond net-zero into net-positive and the new credits, prerequisites and categories will help the building industry to achieve this ambitious charge. The new categories include Integrative Process, Location and Transportation and Performance. New credits are currently being tested in the Pilot Credit Library and project teams’ experience and feedback has helped to improve and refine new credits. For a comprehensive look at the changes to specific credits in LEED v4, check out the "New Concepts in LEED v4" article published by Environmental Building News and the "LEED v4" article published by HPAC Engineering. Additionally, here is a look at the latest version of the LEED for New Construction scorecard, with stars next to the credits in which substantive changes are proposed.
LEED v4 Draft Scorecard

The next major change is to the technical content. In an effort to reduce CO2 emissions more than any other version of the LEED rating systems, LEED v4 has substantially improved the standards for building performance. The changes include: emphasis on integrated project teams, rewarding development in existing built environments, low-impact development, expansion of water efficiency, and promotion of lifecycle analysis of materials, just to name a few. Furthermore, impact categories were developed to help determine not only the technical requirements of the rating systems, but also the reallocation of points assigned to each credit. LEED 2009 focused on decreasing damage caused by the built environment whereas the impact categories for LEED v4 strive to promote projects that contribute positively to the environment and to the community. 
LEED v4 Impact Categories

In addition to the rating system changes, the website has been updated. In an effort to create a better online experience, the new USGBC website is simplified, informative and easy to navigate. It provides the languages of the rating systems in one place. Rather than the paper editions of the past, the website will have the most up-to-date information regarding the various rating systems, credit resources, and a forum for discussion, streamlining services for LEED practitioners.

USGBC's New Website
Finally, LEED v4 will reach new market sectors including data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality facilities, existing schools, existing retail and mid-rise residential. For updates on the changes being made to the LEED rating systems, check out:

With that, I challenge all building industry players to become familiar with the new rating systems and invest in the positive mission USGBC is promoting. We have a responsibility to our communities and to the planet to provide safe, viable and sustainable built environments and LEED v4 is helping to pave the way for our industry.

Lastly, be proactive and participate in the development process; don’t forget to submit your comments to USGBC between now and March 31st during the 6th public comment period.