Raise the Bar and Start Using LEED v4 Now

Guest author: Meredith Marsh, Green Building Consultant for Baumann Consulting
Now that 2015 is well under way (and your New Year’s resolutions have perhaps already been broken), it’s a great time to set up some more permanent goals for the future. Here’s why you should pursue the LEED Version 4 rating system with your next green building project.

Launched in November 2013, the LEED v4 rating system is an update to the previous LEED v3 (2009) system. Although LEED v4 was originally slated as mandatory for all new project registrations beginning in June 2015, last fall the US Green Building Council (USGBC), which administers the standard, pushed that date back to October 2016, causing a stir within the industry and leaving project teams unsure whether they should switch to the tougher standard or not. USGBC cited their reasons for the delay as giving the industry more time to adapt to the changes. However, they’ve tried to insist that even though LEED v4 is not yet mandatory, switching now would greatly benefit your projects.

LEED v4 ups the ante from the previous LEED v3 rating system in a variety of ways. Aimed at promoting market transformation, LEED v4 has revamped existing credit categories (now called “impact categories”) and added new ones: climate change, human health, water resources, biodiversity, green economy, community, and natural resources.


Sure it’s harder, but if you start with LEED v4 now, you’ll be on the leading edge and will have the skills and expertise ready once everyone is forced to switch over in October 2016. That’s value you can offer your clients, and they’ll be glad you did.


LEED v4 Will Help You Grow Professionally

Switching to LEED v4 now doesn’t just have a big impact on the projects seeking certification; it also significantly affects myriad design firms, consultants, contractors, owners and other professionals who are part of the project teams working on these projects. For each new LEED v4 project started, dozens, if not hundreds, of professionals are given the hands-on opportunity to work with the new standard and push their skill sets to the leading edge.
I personally work as a consultant on LEED projects every day, and even though I myself want to learn the new strategies that come with LEED v4, the opportunity only comes once clients choose to go above and beyond what’s required and opt to pursue LEED v4. Waiting another 21 months for this to become a requirement is setting the whole industry back and stunting the professional growth of countless professionals working on these projects day in and day out. It touches so many people that it has the potential for bigger impact and multiplier effect if we all start now.


Just a Few Ways LEED v4 Raises the Bar:


  • New market sectors have been added (bringing the total to a whopping 21!) to engage a greater swath of the market, particularly existing buildings including schools, retail, hospitality, data centers, warehouses, distribution centers, and mid-rise residential
  • Overhaul of sustainable sites credits into the new location and transportation category to encourage sustainable communities and better land use practices
  • Greater emphasis on human health, including updated indoor environmental quality requirements to improve the air we breathe
  • Material and resource credits in step with new industry norms of life cycle assessment, environmental product declarations (EPDs), and material ingredient reporting aimed at building transparency in the industry
  • Greater focus on the impact of the building enclosure on overall performance, culminating in new requirements for building enclosure commissioning (BECx)
  • Integrative design process aimed at targeting synergies between credits and design teams for better overall outcomes
  • Increased focus on demonstrated building performance, including energy and water metering
  • International focus recognizing that 50% of new LEED users are located outside of the U.S., including the new option to use imperial or metric measurements and greater flexibility with region-specific standards


So why does it make sense to make the switch to LEED v4 for your next project? Sticking with LEED v3 until October 2016 will cause your project to be outdated before it’s even complete. By the time LEED v4 finally becomes mandatory, LEED v3 projects will still be referencing a nearly decade-old standard. Demonstrate to your clients and colleagues that you have what it takes to go further. We can do better.
The professional credentialing exams for LEED Green Associates and LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED APs) already switched over to LEED v4 in June 2014. Now is the time to get engaged and learn the new rating system, upgrade your professional credentials if you haven’t already, and take the plunge with LEED v4.


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