News & Events

Part One: LEED® Now and What’s to Come

Apr 15, 2014


Green Building Certification systems have been around since the earlynineties and are
hardly a new thing. However much has changed over the years. There were only LEED®,
Green Star and BREEAM® 10 years ago.Now we have a greater variety of green building
certifications. LEED®, which was established by the US Green Building Council in 1998, is now
used worldwide in over 150 countries and 40% of their new registrations are non-US projects. 

In the US, LEED® has had a huge influence on the construction and real estate market. This is had led to changes in manufacturing of construction products, new innovations, new products and better energy efficiency of construction products, equipment and appliances. Even if you aren’t in the building industry or thinking about getting a LEED® certification, but you provide services or manufacture products for the construction and facility management industry, knowing about LEED® and the new version 4 is important. For example, LEED® certified projects can gain points from using local materials. This is documented by showing each product and its component’s location of manufacturing and raw material extraction. A few years ago that information was not readily available. Now companies locate strategically and source strategically based on those LEED® requirements. The increase of recycled and recyclable products is also largely fueled by the demand of it from LEED® projects. Public and private entities have discovered LEED® as a tool to further their sustainability, save resources, reduce operating costs and also to control quality across the nation and worldwide. 

LEED® isn’t static either. The new version 4 of LEED® will come into effect with sweeping changes, introducing a range of new requirements and criteria, some of which are highly controversial. I will discuss some selected changes, which impact most real estate professionals and also manufacturing, since the related documentation will come from product manufacturer. This post will focus on water and energy efficiency and the next post we discuss materials, resource use and indoor air quality.

Outdoor irrigation is now mandatory.

Start getting familiar with the EPA’s WaterSense Budget Tool, because this will determine the efficiency of your irrigation systems. Irrigation efficiency is now a prerequisite in LEED® v4 and on longer a credit. Besides the widely known systems such as drip irrigation weather-based irrigation controller systems are also recognized with 15% efficiency improvements. Those controllers take into consideration not just that it rained yesterday but also that it is supposed to rain tomorrow. They will optimize the day and time irrigation that is taking place to minimize the loss of water by evaporation and can protect plants from sunburn due to wet leaves. For any property with irrigation, an advance and upgraded irrigation system can save as much as 70% of the consumption and cost on your water and sewer bill. Look forward to seeing more of that on Green Building projects and in your local Home Depot.

Indoor water efficiency adds equipment and appliances to the list with added performance requirements. International projects need to watch out!

So far LEED® has really put a great emphasis on the reduction of gallons per minute or flush. This led to the development of ultra-low flow fixtures or as a lot of us may know it, the toilet accompanied by the sign “Please flush twice.” In retrofit situations low flow fixtures often result in trouble with the existing piping being designed for much more water. A good engineer should tell you right away, if this may be a problem and if the toilet flush valve and toilet bowl won’t work together. With LEED® v4 and the now mandatory WaterSense labelfor toilets, urinals, showerheads and spray rinse valves are also tested for performance rather than just water consumption. 

Another change is that metered or automatic faucets will no longer be especially beneficial for water efficiency. In the past a short cycle would have given a project team an advantage in efficiency but it turns out that often people just have the water run repeatedly.

Appliances are also going to have to comply with efficiency standards set by ENERGY STAR®. This includes; dishwashers, ice makers, and washing machines. Process water consumption will also have to follow efficiency requirements. Potable water cannot be used for once-through cooling for any equipment or appliance. Cooling tower or evaporative condenser must have makeup water meters, overflow alarms, etc. Also a chemical-free cooling tower management system is becoming more and more popular, due to greatly reduced maintenance costs and better efficiency of the systems. This will also gain you point in the new LEED® v4, while saving money. 

International projects may find some of those new requirements challenging, since the US based WaterSense certification is rarely or not at all available on other continents. This challenge has been recognized and therefore local certifications are allowed. If there is none existent, certain countries are exempt from the WaterSense requirement altogether. In Europe the Well label is gaining more popularity, which can be used instead. As for ENERGY STAR® appliances, the CEE label can be used in lieu of ENERGY STAR® or appliances will need to meet the requirements set by ENERGY STAR® as it relates to water efficiency. Europe for instance uses the A-D rating, which includes water efficiency and would be a great starting point for these projects.

Water meter is now mandatory.

Certainly part of the overall big push by the US Green Building Council to measure performance is to add water meters for building water use and monthly and annual reporting as a prerequisite. Most buildings have a meter already in place. Although a campus building or commercial complex may not have individual meters in place or planned as part of project. Even if it not required to have automatic meters, it’s highly recommended to reduce time spend on reporting as well as be able to gain points elsewhere.


Building envelope commissioning is a new credit.

Commissioning has always been part of a LEED building process for new and existing buildings. It has so far just concentrated on the MEP scope of work. The building envelope has been neglected, even though it is often the source of problems not just in new buildings with new envelope systems and unproven materials, but also in existing buildings with problems accruing over time often as a result of water penetration due to insulation issues. LEED® v4 new has finally added a formal process to the rating system, which will address that problem. The issue for building owners often is to find an expert on the subject, one that can truly evaluate performance and consult on construction of the building envelope. Building Envelope Commissioning (BECx) is new and only a handful or professionals and qualified service providers exist throughout the US. The knowledge required is also quite extensive. Building envelope professionals will perform building pressurization test (blower door tests), test for water leaks, inspect insulation, and perform infrared thermography, to name a few. Predictive Service has Level 3 Thermographers on staff and certified building commissioning professionals for new, existing building and building envelope. They are currently working on the commissioning of the  Huntington Federal Building in Huntington WV, a new and experimental façade system designed to resist the impact of an explosion.


Envelope commissioning is not just gaining popularity in the green building industry, but it’s also increasingly being used as a true quality management tool to ensure a working envelope without failure for architect, the construction company and the owner. The increasing amount of lawsuits related to envelope failure show that managing the quality of your envelope by engaging a Building Envelope Professional is much less costly.

Meter your energy consumption.

Not just water but energy will also be required to be metered for the whole building, for all energy types including biomass, propane, etc. On a monthly basis the consumption will need to be reported back to the USGBC for at least 5 years. This again is to show that the USGBC is getting more serious about measuring performance. But don’t worry, if your newly certified LEED   building is under performing, you can keep the plaque.

If you have any suggestions for a topic you’d like to see discussed in a future post, feel free to contact me@susann_gt or connect with me on Google+. Learn more about LEED® v4 on their official USGBC website.Read Part Two of the LEED® v4 series here. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter andGoogle+ to know when all our other blog content is released.