The US Green Building Council (USGBC) is revamping the LEED rating system this year. LEED 2012 will focus on improving the rating system’s clarity (providing more precise technical criteria) and making the system more user-friendly. Some may consider these competing notions, so i’’s quite a lofty goal to meet. There will be revisions of prerequisites and point systems. LEED 2012 is going through a third public comment period, and has a proposed launch date in October. A FAQ document developed by the USGBC highlighting the changes may be downloaded from their website.
One major proposed change is to not only to establish that the key equipment and procedures are implemented (i.e., energy meters, plans), but to ensure that performance will remain excellent in the long term. There are separate sections for Establishment and Performance. Building owners will need to perform and record recurring activities (audits, measurements of energy usage) to demonstrate performance. And the emphasis will be to ensure that LEED certified buildings are actually achieving the performance that USGBC wants them to attain, not to just “check off the box” that they made the attempt or procured the technology.
Another interesting change contained in LEED 2012 is the use of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to determine environmental impacts of material usage and waste disposal. This is used in the Materials & Resources (MR) credit category, which addresses such environmental impacts. LCA is an analytical tool used to assess the environmental impacts (such as greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, waste generation) associated with all the stages of a product’s life, including the processing of the raw materials that comprise the product, its manufacture, its transportation to markets, its consumer or end use, and any recycling, reuse, and final disposal. LCA is a recognized tool with two ISO standards (ISO 14025 and ISO 14040). For example, it is already recognized that performing an LCA is critical to making a wise and accurate Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) about a product. It is not just the environmental impacts of the product as used by consumers that is important, but the impacts throughout its life cycle. LEED 2012 takes these concepts and applies them to the building environment. For example, a product that may be beneficial for a building, but uses a lot of energy in its production or cannot be recycled may be considered an environmental liability in an LCA. This may open the door to a product that may appear to be less beneficial, but is recyclable, lightweight, or have other positive environmental impacts. LEED 2012 requires all product life cycle phases to be considered.