Wednesday, May 15, 2013

LEED v4 Materials & Resources: Building Product Disclosure & Optimization -- In Layman's Terms

Samala Hartley, Sustainable Building Associate

There are three Materials and Resources credits that focus on the disclosure and optimization of materials used on a project. The intent of these credits is to encourage the use of products where manufacturers are forthright with all the material and chemical ingredients used and their practices to procure raw materials.

LEED v4, MRc4, “Building product disclosure and optimization – sourcing of raw materials” places preference on manufacturers who publicly report information about their raw material suppliers and on responsible harvesting and extraction. In the point system, these two ideas are not exclusive to one another.

In addition to specifically emphasizing the sourcing of raw materials, this credit also combines a variety of other v3 materials credits into one. The following credits from v3 show up within v4 MRc4:
  • MRc3 - Materials Reuse 
  • MRc4 - Recycled Content
  • MRc5 - Regional Materials
  • MRc6 - Rapidly Renewable Materials
  • MRc6 - Certified Wood

Now, let’s dissect that credit title.

Building Product Disclosure & Optimization: Sourcing of Raw Materials

Building product: the permanently installed products of a building, separate from the installation costs. 
Disclosure: exposing information about a manufacturer’s products and processes. The rationale behind this is that when companies start disclosing this information they are held accountable for their practices and will be incentivized to improve.  This will result in greater, and faster, positive change in the marketplace.
Optimization:  Optimizing informed and sustainable decision making.
Sourcing of raw materials: “Sourcing” not only refers to the location of raw material extraction/harvesting, but also the use of recycled content and even the use of salvaged materials.

What are the options?

Option 1: Raw material source and extraction reporting 

This option requires the use of materials from manufacturers that publicly disclose information about their product’s raw material suppliers and their commitment to ecological and environmental responsibility.

1 point is earned by specifying 20 products that meet the requirement (from at least 5 different manufacturers).
  • Products from manufacturers who disclose their practices through a third party verified corporate sustainability report qualify as 1 full product.
  • Products from manufacturers who create their own, unverified, report qualify as ½ a product.

Option 2: Leadership extraction practices

This option is a compilation of all the MR credits from version 3. In combination you must show that at least 25% of the materials cost has some sustainable value, including:
  • Extended producer responsibility (50% of the product value can contribute)
  • Bio-based materials: Meet Sustainable Agriculture Network’s Sustainable Agriculture Standard (verifies sustainable harvesting)
  • Wood products: Meet FSC certified
  • Materials Reuse: salvaged, refurbished, & reused products
  • Recycled Content: sum of post-consumer plus ½ pre-consumer recycled content
Regional location of a material becomes a valuation factor that can add value based on the proximity of the source material. The distance has decreased from 500 miles in v3 to 100 miles from the project site in v4.

USGBC is taking a new approach to the materials credits by emphasizing the greater transparency of manufacturers. Thus the new credits award more points for this disclosure, and less for the material content.