LEED Gets New Look

October 22, 2008
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The U.S. Green Building Council is updating its LEED Green Building Rating System, effective in the first half of 2009, with three main initiatives.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Sam Pobst, a LEED accredited professional. “There are a number of things it’s going to do.”

The new initiatives include a revision and evolution of the LEED certification process; LEED Online Version 3; and LEED 2009, an updated and revised rating system. The update as a whole is called LEED Version 3, or LEED v3.

Pobst was on the founding board of the U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter, serving two terms as chairman. He also chairs the council’s Heartland Regional Council, and is a member of the USGBC National Chapter Steering Committee, where he serves on the CSC LEED Schools Committee and the Capacity Committee.

Pobst founded Eco Metrics in 2005, which provides a variety of services in sustainability.

There are three components under the LEED 2009 umbrella. LEED 2009 changes consist of a credit alignment; a weighted point system; and regionalization, which recognizes regional specific environmental priorities.

The credit alignment has reorganized all existing LEED Rating Systems to consolidate credits across the different rating systems that have spread in different directions.

“The credit alignment recognizes that we need to consolidate those directions, and approximately half of the credits in LEED are virtually identical,” said Pobst. “So the credit alignment is going to reconfigure those credits so they’re all the same across all of the different LEED platforms, which is great for people with gray hair who can’t keep them all straight, like me.”

LEED has multiple rating systems for new construction, existing buildings, commercial interiors and other categories.

Along with the credit alignment, LEED 2009 will implement a new weighting structure point allocation for LEED credits. According to the USGBC, the intent of weighting credits is “so that a given credit’s point value more accurately reflects its potential to either mitigate the negative or promote the positive impacts of a building.”

Some factors will not change: existing credits remain the same; all credits receive a minimum score of one; credits are positive, whole numbers; credits have one set of “static weights” regardless of location or potential connections between credits.

The total number of points, however, has changed. Under LEED 2009, 100 points are available without including innovation and regional credits. The points have also been allocated between credit categories to put an emphasis on certain ones.

The third arm under LEED 2009 is regionalization, which Pobst said is a whole new category.

“The U.S. Green Building Council has asked us to develop environmental zones for the entire United States, and in those environmental zones, we will link green building credits we think are important to achieve in those zones. We can identify as many zones as we want in our state.”

Each chapter of the USGBC is responsible for identifying the zones in that particular chapter’s region. Those zones are then sent back to national “by zip code.”

“For example, in Michigan it is of crucial importance to us that the Great Lakes watershed be one of those environmental zones,” said Pobst. “Our entire state is in that watershed and there are nine chapters around us that are in that watershed, and so we are coordinating the effort of getting all those other nine chapters involved including that watershed in their environmental zone.

“Then we will work with them to identify the credits that we feel are of paramount importance for any construction that happens in that watershed to include as bonus credit in LEED 2009. This is the first time we’re linking an environmental concern one-to-one with a LEED credit, and that is just mind-blowingly exciting.”

LEED v3 will also include updates on the submittal process with LEED Online v3.

“They’ve made some fairly significant progress on the hardware and software side of the submittal process that will significantly streamline the submittals,” said Pobst. “I’ve seen some of what we can expect from that and am really looking forward to significant reductions in the amount of time it takes to prepare and submit some of the documentations. That will be a cost savings for the building owners.”

Pobst said that in the submittal process a number of credits require the submitter to input the same information. In LEED Online v3, there will be a place for the submitter to input that information once for each credit. Pobst believes it will save both time and errors that often are cause for a credit review.

Finally, there will be a revision and evolution of the LEED certification process. This involves a shift in who is doing the actual certification. Currently, third parties in the building, design and construction industries conduct certifications on the side, said Ashley Katz, USGBC communications coordinator.

Under the new process, third-party organizations will conduct certification as their main job.

“Once you have acquired a LEED certification, nobody can take it away from you,” said Pobst. “It’s the holy grail of sustainability.” CQX

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