LEED 2012: Why Now?
LEED is a living document. Its evolution is critical to the transformation of the buildings industry, connecting the market to innovative ways of thinking about the design, construction and operation of green buildings. The power of LEED is its ability to transform.
We recently opened the third public comment for LEED 2012, a key step in compiling industry feedback and finalizing the next update to LEED. Many people ask us: Why have we chosen to update the rating system in 2012 when LEED 2009 was released just a few years ago? LEED is on a continuous improvement cycle that keeps us moving toward not just “less bad,” but “more good” in terms of the environmental impact of our buildings. But how do we define that? How do we know when we’ve gotten there?
These questions are critically important. We’ve spent years thinking through them. In order for the market to better absorb rating system changes over time, and in order for manufacturing and services to keep up with the increased demand for green products and technologies, we must be able to communicate where we are going and why. For LEED 2009, U.S. EPA Environmental Impact Categories were used to address what we want LEED projects to accomplish. For LEED 2012, USGBC has developed its own impact categories that are even more closely aligned with our mission and vision. They are:
- Reduce Contribution to Global Climate Change
- Enhance Individual Human Health and Well-Being
- Protect and Restore Water Resources
- Protect and Restore Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
- Promote Sustainable and Regenerative Material Resource Cycles
- Build a Green Economy
- Enhance Community: Social Equity, Environment Justice and Quality of Life
By establishing impact categories, we get to a point where we are all marching toward a common vision. A critical step toward achieving these goals is intricately linked to the launch of LEED 2012. The technical changes associated with LEED 2012 are focused around transparency and performance in order to build a better understanding of how projects are performing around these impact categories (to the extent that we are able to assign metrics to them).
For Location and Transportation, there is great emphasis on rewarding existing buildings projects that aggregate, report and reach certain performance requirements on their occupants’ transportation behavior. Curbing single-occupant vehicle travel in favor of public or human-powered transit is one of the most effective ways to address a number of impact categories.
Sustainable Sites credits improve performance by rewarding projects for conducting a site assessment that aids in the understanding of the unique characteristics, opportunities and challenges on-site. Gaining this understanding will help project teams achieve other sites credits at higher levels of performance.
Transparency from a Water Efficiency perspective means requirements for building metering and further rewards for additional sub-metering, so that project teams understand how their building is actually performing from a water use perspective. The same is true for Energy Efficiency, where analogous energy metering requirements sets the foundation for improved energy performance throughout operations.
In the Materials and Resources section, transparency is addressed through requirements around manufacturer reporting, in regards to product ingredients, and using building materials with Life Cycle Assessment based Environmental Product Declaration labels. Valuing transparency now allows us to pursue improved performance requirements from a materials perspective in the future.
Indoor Environmental Quality better addresses performance through rewarding air testing in addition to flush outs; we are also actively pursuing alternatives to the indoor air quality prerequisite and credit to be integrated after the launch of 2012. New credits about acoustical design and substantial improved credits for daylight, views, and interior lighting are intended to improve the health, productivity, and performance of occupants using LEED buildings.
This is just a brief overview of how LEED 2012 will drive industry change, and why the 2012 update to LEED is necessary to push our collective movement forward. Think of LEED as a Google Doc: One that you log in to and edit, track changes, and provide feedback. We’re asking you to participate in public comment, open until March 20, if you haven’t already. Help drive the change.