LEED: Evolution and Expansion

11/01/2013 | By Janelle Penny

The top 10 biggest changes to the leading green rating system

More than 4.3 million people live or work in a LEED-certified building. Does that include your building occupants?

If you’ve been considering a green building designation, know that the path to LEED certification is about to change. This month, the USGBC premieres LEED v4; while it’s not quite a departure from previous versions, v4 is nonetheless a sizable step forward for the most widely recognized green building certification.

Start your journey by checking out these 10 landmarks on the new roadmap to LEED certification.

1) Major Reorganization
The LEED umbrella hasn’t just expanded – it’s been restructured. Users can now choose from four broad categories that include 21 building types (see graphic at right). Though the number of choices has increased, most actually target a narrower field of buildings.

The New LEED Layout

The four rating systems now cover 21 specific building types in addition to catch-all categories for existing buildings, new construction, and neighborhood development projects. Where does your facility fit?

Building Design & Construction

  • New Construction& Major Renovations
  • Core & Shell
  • Schools
  • Retail
  • Data Centers
  • Warehouses & Distribution Centers
  • Hospitality
  • Healthcare
  • Homes & Multifamily Lowrise
  • Multifamily Midrise

Interior Design & Construction

  • Commercial Interiors
  • Retail
  • Hospitality

Neighborhood Development

  • Plan
  • Built Project

Building Operations & Maintenance

  • Existing Buildings
  • Retail
  • Schools
  • Hospitality
  • Data Centers
  • Warehouses & Distribution
  • Centers
“You get to eliminate all of the noise from the project types that don’t apply to you,” explains Brad Pease, director of signature buildings practice for Paladino and Company, which served as a technical editor for the upcoming LEED v4 Reference Guides. “In past rating systems, they tried to write requirements that encompassed all building types from warehouses to office buildings to freeway rest stops. When you do that, you run into a number of gray areas and it’s hard to tell whether some things apply to your building type. It appears more complex, but it’s actually simpler in that if you have a warehouse, you have a different set of requirements that are actually applicable to you vs. trying to interpret an office requirement for unoccupied space.”

Offerings for O&M have grown especially quickly. LEED 2009 included one option specifically for existing structures, LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. Users can now choose from a broader selection under the general “LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance” menu, which is intended for existing buildings undergoing improvement work with little to no construction. Specialty O&M systems are available for retail, schools, hospitality, data centers, and warehouses or distribution centers, as well as a general Existing Buildings rating for other types of existing facilities.

“For schools, for example, there were a number of new credits in LEED 2009’s Building Design & Construction for Schools that weren’t viable for existing schools, which had to use the general O&M rating system written with commercial offices primarily in mind,” explains Chrissy Macken, assistant program manager for LEED v4. “The same was true for existing retail – in the BD&C retail adaptation, we included specific calculations for how to address transient occupants like customers and how to address certain supply chain issues. We wanted to move those over into the existing building adaptations.”

2) New Category
The basic structure of each rating system remains the same – you’ll fulfill the prerequisites and then add optional credits as you’re able, with each certification level requiring the same number of points as in previous versions.

However, when you look at a sample scorecard, you’ll see a new category – Location & Transportation. This essentially splits the Sustainable Sites category into two pieces, explains Macken.

“Any credits related to the context of where a project is located, such as amenities and infrastructure available because of the attributes of a particular location, are now in the Location & Transportation category,” says Macken. “That includes density, quality of transit, bike networks, and high priority sites that incorporate brownfields. Sustainable Sites is now limited to how you can maximize your design in terms of the ecosystem and habitat that exists there.”

This development marks the biggest organizational change in LEED v4, Macken notes.

“In general, we tried to combine and streamline credits,” Macken explains. “For example, reducing the heat island effect used to be two separate credits – now it’s one credit assessing both roof and non-roof. The same is true with the two stormwater credits from 2009 for quantity and quality control – we’ve combined them into one rainwater management credit that looks more holistically at the design for utilizing rainwater as a resource on-site. That has allowed us to streamline the calculations and documentation.”

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