Since the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC®) upgraded its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) program from LEED v4 to LEED v4.1, LEED continues to deliver on the vision of ”Green Buildings for All”. This was a crucial evolutionary step, making the rating system more accessible to projects, based on lessons learned from previous LEED v4 project teams.
With v4.1, the standards, LEED’s market transformation, and its usage as a benchmark of green building have all come a long way since USGBC introduced the LEED New Construction (NC) v1.0 pilot program, which ran until December of 1999. That program was primarily based on strategies to improve new building performance, including credit categories like “Planning Sustainable Sites” and “Safeguarding Water”, and resulted in LEED Certification of the first 12 buildings in 2000. LEED v2.0 was released in 2000 after extensive modifications, with LEED v2.1 following in 2002. By the time LEED v2.2 was introduced in 2005, the credit categories and strategies had become much more comprehensive, and rating system options had evolved to include not only LEED NC, but also Existing Buildings (EB), Commercial Interiors (CI), and Core & Shell (CS) projects.
LEED certification really impacted the building design and construction industry with the more analytically weighted LEED v3, introduced in 2009. This new version offered a wide variety of customizations for diverse projects in different sectors of the architecture, engineering, and construction market. Rating System options now included LEED for Healthcare, Homes, Neighborhood Development, Retail, and Schools. LEED’s tailored applicability to a wide variety of building types gave it much more widespread market appeal.
Furthermore, LEED 2009 signified USGBC’s relationship with the independent Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), founded the previous year with USGBC’s support. Since then, GBCI has administered multiple credentialing and certification programs to support development teams in the application of proven strategies.
Driving market transformation even further was the release of LEED v4 in 2013, a more outcome-oriented building rating approach that certified a project with an emphasis on performance that called for measurable results. This strategy included an expanded focus on materials and their impact on human health and the environment. It encouraged building owners to track their energy and water usage regularly. Concurrently, it supported the evaluation of total building water use, and a project’s smart grid participation was recognized. In addition, v4 increased the rating system’s flexibility in customizing sustainability strategies to suit individual projects or building types. It also streamlined the documentation process and created better rating system alignment.
GBCI’s role in this grew, too, with its introduction of Arc, an advanced metrics technology platform that collects and analyzes data from utility bills, meters, and occupant surveys to determine levels of building performance in different categories, including electric, gas and/or oil energy usage, water consumption, waste management and disposal, transportation modes such as bikes, cars, and public transportation, and the human experience of users in the building. Arc is thus a more detailed yet streamlined way to assist in the qualification of buildings for LEED Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M) certification of existing buildings.
On January 22, 2019, USGBC released the Beta version of LEED v4.1 for Building Design and Construction (BD+C), and Interior Design and Construction (ID+C). This new beta version is scaled back in stringency but is still above code and encourages participation. The updates make the credits more accessible and achievable than in the previously released LEED v4, while still driving market transformation. You may now register projects under LEED v4.1, upgrade your LEED v4 registered project to LEED v4.1, or if registered under LEED v4 you may substitute LEED v4.1 credit requirements as necessary.
LEED v4.1 BD+C and ID+C updates include:
- Adoption of ASHRAE 90.1-2016 as the building performance baseline, to maintain USGBC’s standing as a building efficiency leader.
- The addition of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as costs, to serve as energy metrics for performance measurement and evaluation.
- A new Electric Vehicles credit replacing v4’s “Green” Vehicles credit, to encourage the use of electric cars.
- Amendment of the Renewable Energy credit to better address methods of energy procurement, including through on-site renewables and both new and existing off-site renewables.
- Credits for improved indoor air quality through air-testing options and use of the latest referenced ventilation standards.
- Restructuring of Materials and Resources credits to award product disclosure, material optimization, and waste reduction efforts at varying levels. This reconciles the market’s current standing with the goals previously identified in LEED v4.
- Availability of free access to the Arc platform for all LEED certified projects. This provides a channel for recertification via LEED v4.1 O+M. This performance-based recertification could potentially give a project a higher credit score with a three-year validity. Arc performance scores, which are based on a one year evaluation of a project’s Energy, Water, Waste, Transportation and Human Experience metrics, are now an option for v4.1 O+M rating system initial certification and re-certification.
LEED has evolved from a prescriptive-based strategy (heavy on process and light on outcome) to a performance-based strategy (light on process and heavy on outcome). The evaluation tools have been improved so that new buildings, interiors, and existing buildings can better meet desired goals for cleaner, greener, and healthier environments.
Note: USGBC/GBCI is still accepting feedback on LEED v4.1 based on the real-world application of its Beta version by development teams and building owners. Currently, LEED v4.1 O+M, BD+C, and ID+C are available for registration within LEED Online. For more information on LEED v4.1, visit https://new.usgbc.org/leed-v41.
Anonymous. “More Than a Decade of High-Performing Buildings: Out Now in EDC’s February Issue.” USGBC.org, February 21, 2013. https://www.usgbc.org/articles/more-decade-high-performing-buildings-out-now-edcs-february-issue
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Pyke, Chris. “Learn More About Arc.” Arcskoru.com, March 4, 2019. https://arcskoru.com/learn-more-about-arc
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U.S. Green Building Council. LEED for New Construction & Renovations, Version 2.2. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Green Building Council, 2005. https://www.usgbc.org/resources/leed-new-construction-v22-rating-system
U.S. Green Building Council. “LEED v4 is the LEED of the future.” USGBC.org, 2013. https://new.usgbc.org/leed-v4
U.S. Green Building Council. “LEED v4 to LEED v4.1 Credit Mapping.” USGBC.org, 2019. https://www.usgbc.org/resources/leed-v4-leed-v41-credit-mapping
U.S. Green Building Council. “LEED v4.1: Who knew ‘.1’ could deliver so much.” USGBC.org, April 2, 2019. https://new.usgbc.org/leed-v41
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