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USGBC To Revamp the LEED Program

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.

Marc Karell
Marc Karell is the owner of Climate Change & Environmental Services. Get more useful information in our blog: www.CCESworld.com/blog.
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3 thoughts on “USGBC To Revamp the LEED Program

  1. In practice and in results, LEED has overall been a good thing. One can applaud USGBC for striving to remain cutting edge, and the new iteration of guidelines for 2012 reflects this effort.
    However, there are troubling aspects to USGBC’s vision, and in its efforts to promote LEED as the only viable way to sanction green initiatives, it is failing the objectivity and ultimately the-most-successful-process tests. In my field, I remain dubitative as to the motivation behind acknowledging Only FSC (Forset Stewardship Council) lumbers and wood products qualify for LEED points; Why? This leaves about 75% of US forests out of the program, encourages specifiers to look for alternatives overseas and in exotics (carbon footprint!), and in my empirical experience drives up the price of wood-based materials and construction as a whole.
    This is once again a race to monopoly, or at least predominance status; if left unchallenged and the USGBC-FSC cartel has its way, will the construction industry, the buildings themselves, the corporations that use them, the people and consumers that inhabit them, the communities on which they sit, and ultimately society and the nation as a whole be able to rest assured that the best methodology and materials were used, and provided the greatest results?
    Let’s not just take their word for it.

  2. Clearly the ruling decison is that the standard of living in the USA has reached its peak. Drop a word like “sustainablity” and its go for every political extremism and every vested interest. There is no “what the heck are we trying to achieve”, how to pay for armies of environmental administration police. What’s the benefit of these new regulations? What chance of USA commerce competing with the world? Most of earth’s materials supply used in construction will “outlast” hundreds of years way beyond the next new technologies to produce all kinds of hybrids. Existing energy sources likewise have hundreds of years supply, again generations in future time will have no use for fossil fuels and will have developed their own (like hundred years ago they didn’t embark on sustainability to save horses and steam for us of today!). But again there is an opportunity going now, momentum is on, I don’t think it can be stopped. Best place to begin a fad is the USA.

  3. As an all day every day LEED consultant and project manager I find myself defending the intents and goals of the whole LEED proposition regularly – for instance the Forest Stewardhip Council is the only certification allowed because they do not allow logging interests on their council. However the USGBC and GBCI do not currently manage the rating and online systems they have already and they are proposing (and assuming they will pass)massive overreaching impediments to even basic project tasks. The architects in the US are still not even close to being able to deliver reasonable LEED design and specifications and continue to sacrifice sustainable choices for aesthetics because it’s “hard” to do both. Vendors and contractors have finally started to make progress with documentation and even manufacturing choices only to find nearly everything abandoned or totally changed in the proposed LEED 2012. LEED 2012 brings some small improvements with massive, onerous, and really expensive changes and I predict if passed, it will bring down the entire LEED effort for good.

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