Latest Version of LEED Marks New Era in Sustainable Building

Newly updated eco-friendly building standards made their debut at the 2013 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, held in Philadelphia from November 20–22. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) well-established LEED program (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) has reached its fourth version. LEED v4 is more user-friendly, and the LEED certification program is more open and ready to handle a wider variety of green construction projects, according to officials.

Project teams seeking LEED certification are now beginning to register using LEED v4. In addition to “simplified and clarified LEED Online forms and easier to read Reference Guides,” the program now has greater flexibility, USGBC’s Web site says. Work was put in to ensure that new projects are “not limited by location or building type.” LEED v4 has provided avenues for existing schools, existing retail, data centers (new and existing), warehouses and distribution centers (new and existing), hospitality and mid-rise residential structures to become certified. Standards are now also said to be more easily adaptable to the different regional and local contexts faced by international building projects, such as the need for metric units of measurement.

Commentators on the new standards are also noting the increased role of transparency, as compared with the last version of LEED from 2009. For example, one major change is that points toward LEED certification levels (such as LEED Platinum or LEED Gold) can now be earned by having a building materials supplier disclose information about the environmental and health impacts of their materials. Points can be accrued in this way even if the materials disclosed about or not necessarily healthy for people or the planet. The points for disclosure can be accompanied by additional points for “optimizing” materials in an eco-friendly way.

Previously, emphasis was placed on the use of specific types of eco-friendly raw materials, such as recycled or bio-based material. Now, third-party verified life cycle assessments (LCAs) are being given more weight in gaining credit toward certification.

Efforts to educate decision makers, architects and sustainability managers on the new version are underway, in the form of online presentations and through direct exposure beginning at the Greenbuild Expo. USGBC is a non-profit that was established in 1993, and LEED was originally launched in 2000.


Published in December 2013 (online 10/28/13)