The LEED rating system is the most widely used green building rating system for commercial buildings. Last year, at the
Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, the USGBC announced the launch of LEED v4, the newest update to the rating system.
While users familiar with previous versions will recognize the new version, several important tweaks have been made. For example, credits have been consolidated in several areas, such as Rainwater Management and Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction. New credits have been added to address other issues, like cooling tower water use reduction and Integrated Design.
The changes in the rating system accompany other administrative and resource changes, like the new Dynamic Plaque, that tracks ongoing performance throughout a building’s operations. These changes are a regular update to the rating system, but they have far reaching impacts for a LEED product that has become a de facto standard through local standards in many parts of the country.
LEED v4 is a concerted attempt to raise the ceiling for buildings that are recognized as top performers. The rating system itself also pushes the industry to advance its common practice, which is most evident in the Materials section. LEED v4 moves away from the previous methodology of using certain factors like recycled content and certified wood content as proxies for measuring the sustainability of different materials. Instead, the new version of LEED is pushing for product disclosure and transparency, rewarding buildings that use materials from manufacturers who disclose their environmental impacts – even if those impacts are bad. Essentially, the USGBC is betting that greater transparency through reporting will lead to an improvement in materials manufacture due to public awareness and engagement. As we’ve seen with previous versions of LEED, once the market leaders pursue certification, certain performance criteria start to become industry standard, even making their way into local building codes. A great example is the recycling of at least 50% of construction and demolition waste, which is now required for all buildings in the State of California. By pushing market leaders to continuously pursue higher standards, LEED can help elevate the floor of what is considered minimum performance.
The LEED v4 metering requirements have changed somewhat, which is a good thing for building energy performance. Building-level energy metering is required for both Building Design + Construction and Operations + Maintenance. This may seem to be obvious depending on the local energy market, but it has been a problem in the past for campuses and other properties with a master meter. LEED 2009 contained credits for Measurement and Verification based on IPMVP protocols, but it provided an exception for projects that shared their Portfolio Manager data with USGBC. In LEED v4, the specific requirements for advanced energy metering are spelled out in the rating system, which more specifically addresses which system-level energy sources must be metered, and how the data and communications for those meters must be handled.
Even though sub-metering systems are not directly addressed, having these systems in place will contribute to other LEED v4 credits for Ongoing Commissioning and Demand Response. It’s clear that the focus of LEED is moving from design to operations with the transition to v4. Building owners are interested in protecting the investment they’ve made in a high performance buildings by getting real time building energy intelligence that is easy for their facility managers to use.
LEED v4 is raising the bar and placing more emphasis on having intelligent building energy management systems in place to enable low performance building to grow and to ensure high performance buildings maintain their quality.