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


LEED® v4 is open for projects to join and you also have the option of registering your project under both version v3 and v4, if you are not sure you’ll be able to meet the new requirements. Starting June 2015 version 3 will no longer be available. So get ready for the changes ahead.

In the last blog entry I was talking about LEED® v4 and the changes ahead for water efficiency and the energy and atmosphere category. This time I’ll take a look at material and resource credits, as well as indoor air quality.

Recycling of batteries, mercury-containing lamps and electronic waste.

The prerequisite in LEED® v3 for providing recycling facilities already covered mixed paper, corrugated cardboards, glass, plastic and metals. You now also have to address two of those three wastes with v4: batteries, mercury-containing lamps and electronic waste. The recycling of mercury containing lamps is already required in some states for larger commercial buildings and you’ll find a recycling provider easily. However making sure they don’t get discarded into trash is more difficult and often a matter of educating occupants and facility personnel.

The recycling of batteries can also easily be handled by providing containers and sending them off by mail to recycling facilities or to a local provider. European projects may find that new requirement easy, since the recycling and diversion of batteries from regular waste is often required by law and battery recycling is easily accessible.

Electronic waste recycling usually includes IT equipment, printers, PCs, cables, etc. Remember that more often than not a LEED reviewer will asked to see a contract for the recycling of each recyclable. Do your research and ask providers, what happens with the electronic waste. Unfortunately a lot of them end up in third world countries on large open pits, letting heavy metal leak into the ground water.

For your LEED® v4 project this means to provide some extra room for battery and fluorescent light bulbs recycling or a dedicated program for collection of those wastes, e.g. electronics.

Construction and demolition waste recycling is now a prerequisite.

If you have worked on a LEED® project before you probably have done this before and it has become a go-to credit for many projects. However in certain regions in the US and other countries construction and demolition waste recycling may not always be so accessible. The prerequisite only requires you to setup a waste management program, a certain recycling percentage is not required.

In order to increase your recycling rate you want to make sure you reduce waste, which is being delivered to the construction site, in the first place. Especially in packaging, which can’t be recycled or is simply time consuming to separate on site.

Also don’t discourage construction companies from taking steel or other valuable materials for sale or recycling. This is often an income source for the companies, which sometimes is calculated into the construction costs or an unspoken bonus for construction workers. As long as it is clear for everyone, that a documentation needs to be provided, those practices are okay.

Recycling, reuse and local material credits completely reworked.

Recycled content and local materials were the must haves for building materials under past versions. If you have followed the LEED® v4 development you know that those credits have changed completely and are replaced by others. Life-cycle impact, third-party verification of content, sustainable sourcing took their place, much to the dismay of a lot of product manufacturers and architects who are LEED® users. It has gotten a lot more complex, which means a lot more learning on the part of architects and product manufacturers.

Here is what to expect:

You will need to do more explaining to the client and the contractors. The industry is not there yet with the documentation required and if you are planning on working with mostly local materials, you will have trouble getting several credits for materials. What used to be often mutually exclusive (you either have renewable content or recycled material) is now overlapping greatly. For example a material should have:

  • LCC assessment (Life Cycle Cost Assessment) or LCA

  • Third party verified EPD

  • Either an extended producer responsibility, bio-based content, FSC certified, reused or recycled content

  • Material ingredient reporting (e.g. Cradle to Cradle, GreenScreen, REACH)

  • Product manufacturer supply chain optimization

  • This does not even include credit requirements under “Indoor Environmental Quality."

Points for historic building reuse

Under the Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction Credit you can now gain up to 6 points depending on the rating system, if you maintain the historical importance and protected structure of a building. So if your building is listed as a historic place on a local, state or federal register, you can gain points just for keeping it.

Whole-Building Life-Cycle Assessment

This has been around for a while predominantly in Europe and has found its way into LEED® v4 through the pilot credits. In case you aren’t familiar, Life Cycle Analysis is looking at a building’s materials cradle to grave, their interaction with each other and a wide range of effects including:

  • Global warning potential

  • Stratospheric ozone depletion

  • Acidification of land and water sources

  • Eutrophication

  • Formation of tropospheric ozone

  • Depletion of nonrenewable energy sources

In essence your building will have to perform 10% better in global warming potential and two other categories without increasing the other categories by more than 5%. Life Cycle Analysis tools need to used, either concentrated on design, such as ATHENA, Envest 2, LCADesign, or a product-by–product basis like, SimaPro, GaBi. This often requires a Life Cycle Analysis specialist, which small projects may find hard to fit in the budget. Assessing Life Cycle Certification during design may be more appealing. However check first to see, if there is software available for your region.

There is a lot more to know about Life-Cycle Assessments (LCA), which will be part of another blog post.

Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)

So instead of doing the Life Cycle Analysis for the whole building you can also look at the materials. You can now also gain points for building materials, which have:

  • Product-specific declaration: LCA conforming to ISO 14044 that included cradle to gate. So you need to analysis your stream of raw materials and suppliers all the way to the finished product.

  • Environmental Product Declarations conforming to ISO 14025, 10040, 14044 and EN 15804 or ISO 21930 and have at least cradle to gate scope: Industry-wide (generic) EPD with third-party certification or product-specific Type III EPD with third-party certification.

Material demonstrating impact reduction below industry average.

If a building product can provide third party certification which shows a reduction in the following categories, one credit point can be gained:

  • Global warming potential (CO2e)

  • Depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer in kg CFC-11

  • Acidification of land and water sources, in moles H= or kg SO2

  • Eutrophication, in kg nitrogen or kg phosphate

  • Formation of tropospheric ozone in kg NOx or kg ethane

  • Depletion of nonrenewable energy resources in MJ

One thing of note regarding the last two topics, a third-party certification is required. That is usually something you’ll only find for larger companies, since this costs money and has to be updated periodically. Small local producers most likely won’t have this sort of certification and are more likely to be unfamiliar with those requirements.

Disclosure of what, where, by whom, and at what cost to the environment.

This has been and continues to be a big issue in the industry. For instance companies don’t want to disclose where exactly they get raw materials from, due to this being part of their competitive advantage. Now LEED®v4 is pushing for more transparency on a variety of credits. This means for building product manufacturers to find ways to be more transparent and disclose certain information.

One of the credits targeting raw materials and extraction looks specifically to disclosure of supplier’s extraction location. This is a commitment to long-term ecologically responsible land use, a commitment to reducing environmental harms from extraction and manufacturing processes and a commitment to meeting applicable standards or programs voluntarily. Self-declaration is good, however third-party verified reporting such as GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) and ISO 26000:2010 Guidance on Social Responsibility are better and valued higher in LEED®.

A greater focus is also on content of materials. Up to 2 points can be earned for reporting the complete content of a product following CASRN (Chemical Abstract Service Registration Number) guidelines. Similarly materials with GreenScreen Benchmark, Cradle to Cradle Certificate and for international projects, the REACH Optimization will gain points and product manufacturer supply chain optimization.

Where are all the old material credits?

Regional materials: This can be found in several credits, if the materials were extracted, manufactured and purchased within 100 miles of the project site will be valued at double of their costs. So this will help to achieve a total of 2 points, if the materials also meet other criteria.

Recycled content: Can contribute to 1 Point, if the total value of qualifying materials is more than 25%. The definition and applicability of pre-consumer (valued at half) and post-consumer (valued 100%) remains the same.

Under the same point as recycled content, FSC wood, reused materials and bio-based materials will count. So what once were a total of 6 points is now only one point.

PBT Reduction in Health Care Projects

Mercury, Lead, Cadmium and Copper are also being tackled by LEED® v4, but it only applies to healthcare projects. Mercury in lamps, lead in plumbing system, on the roof, in wire and cable, paint, cadmium in paint, copper corrosion are to be reduced.

Enhance Indoor Air Quality Strategies

This used to be IEQ c2 increased ventilation, IEQ c1 outside air monitoring and IEQ 5 Pollutant Source control. It combines those credits into one while adding, requirements for monitoring outside air and use VOC sensors instead of just CO2 sensors.

Low VOC also for exterior products.

VOC’s Volatile Organic Compounds, or also known as the stuff that makes paint stink, are now also restricted for exterior materials. Furthermore all the low emitting material credits form LEED® v3 have been combined into one credit and materials now need to meet the following testing standards:

  • The California Department of Public Health (CDHP) Standard Method v1.1 – 2010

  • The German AgBB Testing and Evaluation Scheme (2010)

  • ISO 16000-3:2010, ISO 1600-6:2011, ISO 16000-9:2006, ISO 16000-11:2006 either in conjunction with AgBB or with French legislation on VOC emission class labeling

  • The DIBt testing method (2010)

For paints and coatings, as well as adhesives and sealants, things have stayed the same. Although no methylene chloride or perchloroethylene can be added and any other added compounds must be disclosed. Wood composites can now meet the CARB’s ultra-low formaldehyde requirements (ULEF). What is also of note is that at least 50% of the surfaces need to meet the requirement in order to get a credit.

Control and Quality of interior lighting

Control of lighting does now include three-step lighting (on, off and midlevel) and regarding the quality of lighting four of the following strategies have to be implemented:

  • glare is to be avoided by reducing the luminance of fixtures (cd/m2),

  • achieve an CRI of at least 80

  • rated life of lamps of at least 24,000 hours

  • use direct-only overhead lighting for 25% or less of the lighting load

  • increase your surface reflectance to 85% for ceilings, 60% for walls, 25% for floors

  • furniture surface reflectance of 45% for work surfaces and 50% for movable walls

  • meet 1:10 ratios of average wall surface luminance to average work plane luminance; same for ceiling to work surface

This of course does not include all the changes in the rating system. I listed the important ones and some difficult changes. Besides the rating system, the guide book and LEED® online are going to look much different, a very positive change as far as I can tell. With some projects already using LEED® v4 I’m sure we will see a lot more adjustments to the rating systems especially, when those project go into construction. I’ll probably blog about that too.

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.Did you miss the first post in the series, read it here. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to know when all our other blog content is released.

About the Author:

Susann Geithner is an expert in LEED® design and energy auditing. Susann is a LEED® Accredited Professional (AP) for Existing Buildings, Operations and Maintenance, as well as a LEED® AP for Building Design and Construction. Susann has worked on LEED® projects in almost every building category and led the certification of the first LEED® CS Platinum building under the 2009 version of the standards, for which won Real Estate Manager Award for Sustainability in 2011. She has also led LEED® certification of Germany’s largest office building. Susann Geithner is also actively involved within the industry on a local and global level. She serves as Vice Chair for the Cleveland 2030 District, an organization committed to reducing the carbon footprint of area buildings. *All images used in this post are from USGBC.

Recycling of batteries, mercury-containing lamps and electronic waste.

The prerequisite in LEED® v3 for providing recycling facilities already covered mixed paper, corrugated cardboards, glass, plastic and metals. You now also have to address two of those three wastes with v4: batteries, mercury-containing lamps and electronic waste. The recycling of mercury containing lamps is already required in some states for larger commercial buildings and you’ll find a recycling provider easily. However making sure they don’t get discarded into trash is more difficult and often a matter of educating occupants and facility personnel.

The recycling of batteries can also easily be handled by providing containers and sending them off by mail to recycling facilities or to a local provider. European projects may find that new requirement easy, since the recycling and diversion of batteries from regular waste is often required by law and battery recycling is easily accessible.

Electronic waste recycling usually includes IT equipment, printers, PCs, cables, etc. Remember that more often than not a LEED reviewer will asked to see a contract for the recycling of each recyclable. Do your research and ask providers, what happens with the electronic waste. Unfortunately a lot of them end up in third world countries on large open pits, letting heavy metal leak into the ground water.

For your LEED® v4 project this means to provide some extra room for battery and fluorescent light bulbs recycling or a dedicated program for collection of those wastes, e.g. electronics.

Construction and demolition waste recycling is now a prerequisite.

If you have worked on a LEED® project before you probably have done this before and it has become a go-to credit for many projects. However in certain regions in the US and other countries construction and demolition waste recycling may not always be so accessible. The prerequisite only requires you to setup a waste management program, a certain recycling percentage is not required.

In order to increase your recycling rate you want to make sure you reduce waste, which is being delivered to the construction site, in the first place. Especially in packaging, which can’t be recycled or is simply time consuming to separate on site.

Also don’t discourage construction companies from taking steel or other valuable materials for sale or recycling. This is often an income source for the companies, which sometimes is calculated into the construction costs or an unspoken bonus for construction workers. As long as it is clear for everyone, that a documentation needs to be provided, those practices are okay.

Recycling, reuse and local material credits completely reworked.

Recycled content and local materials were the must haves for building materials under past versions. If you have followed the LEED® v4 development you know that those credits have changed completely and are replaced by others. Life-cycle impact, third-party verification of content, sustainable sourcing took their place, much to the dismay of a lot of product manufacturers and architects who are LEED® users. It has gotten a lot more complex, which means a lot more learning on the part of architects and product manufacturers.

Here is what to expect:

You will need to do more explaining to the client and the contractors. The industry is not there yet with the documentation required and if you are planning on working with mostly local materials, you will have trouble getting several credits for materials. What used to be often mutually exclusive (you either have renewable content or recycled material) is now overlapping greatly. For example a material should have:

  • LCC assessment (Life Cycle Cost Assessment) or LCA

  • Third party verified EPD

  • Either an extended producer responsibility, bio-based content, FSC certified, reused or recycled content

  • Material ingredient reporting (e.g. Cradle to Cradle, GreenScreen, REACH)

  • Product manufacturer supply chain optimization

  • This does not even include credit requirements under “Indoor Environmental Quality."

Points for historic building reuse

Under the Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction Credit you can now gain up to 6 points depending on the rating system, if you maintain the historical importance and protected structure of a building. So if your building is listed as a historic place on a local, state or federal register, you can gain points just for keeping it.

Whole-Building Life-Cycle Assessment

This has been around for a while predominantly in Europe and has found its way into LEED® v4 through the pilot credits. In case you aren’t familiar, Life Cycle Analysis is looking at a building’s materials cradle to grave, their interaction with each other and a wide range of effects including:

  • Global warning potential

  • Stratospheric ozone depletion

  • Acidification of land and water sources

  • Eutrophication

  • Formation of tropospheric ozone

  • Depletion of nonrenewable energy sources

In essence your building will have to perform 10% better in global warming potential and two other categories without increasing the other categories by more than 5%. Life Cycle Analysis tools need to used, either concentrated on design, such as ATHENA, Envest 2, LCADesign, or a product-by–product basis like, SimaPro, GaBi. This often requires a Life Cycle Analysis specialist, which small projects may find hard to fit in the budget. Assessing Life Cycle Certification during design may be more appealing. However check first to see, if there is software available for your region.

There is a lot more to know about Life-Cycle Assessments (LCA), which will be part of another blog post.

Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)

So instead of doing the Life Cycle Analysis for the whole building you can also look at the materials. You can now also gain points for building materials, which have:

  • Product-specific declaration: LCA conforming to ISO 14044 that included cradle to gate. So you need to analysis your stream of raw materials and suppliers all the way to the finished product.

  • Environmental Product Declarations conforming to ISO 14025, 10040, 14044 and EN 15804 or ISO 21930 and have at least cradle to gate scope: Industry-wide (generic) EPD with third-party certification or product-specific Type III EPD with third-party certification.

Material demonstrating impact reduction below industry average.

If a building product can provide third party certification which shows a reduction in the following categories, one credit point can be gained:

  • Global warming potential (CO2e)

  • Depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer in kg CFC-11

  • Acidification of land and water sources, in moles H= or kg SO2

  • Eutrophication, in kg nitrogen or kg phosphate

  • Formation of tropospheric ozone in kg NOx or kg ethane

  • Depletion of nonrenewable energy resources in MJ

One thing of note regarding the last two topics, a third-party certification is required. That is usually something you’ll only find for larger companies, since this costs money and has to be updated periodically. Small local producers most likely won’t have this sort of certification and are more likely to be unfamiliar with those requirements.

Disclosure of what, where, by whom, and at what cost to the environment.

This has been and continues to be a big issue in the industry. For instance companies don’t want to disclose where exactly they get raw materials from, due to this being part of their competitive advantage. Now LEED®v4 is pushing for more transparency on a variety of credits. This means for building product manufacturers to find ways to be more transparent and disclose certain information.

One of the credits targeting raw materials and extraction looks specifically to disclosure of supplier’s extraction location. This is a commitment to long-term ecologically responsible land use, a commitment to reducing environmental harms from extraction and manufacturing processes and a commitment to meeting applicable standards or programs voluntarily. Self-declaration is good, however third-party verified reporting such as GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) and ISO 26000:2010 Guidance on Social Responsibility are better and valued higher in LEED®.

A greater focus is also on content of materials. Up to 2 points can be earned for reporting the complete content of a product following CASRN (Chemical Abstract Service Registration Number) guidelines. Similarly materials with GreenScreen Benchmark, Cradle to Cradle Certificate and for international projects, the REACH Optimization will gain points and product manufacturer supply chain optimization.

Where are all the old material credits?

Regional materials: This can be found in several credits, if the materials were extracted, manufactured and purchased within 100 miles of the project site will be valued at double of their costs. So this will help to achieve a total of 2 points, if the materials also meet other criteria.

Recycled content: Can contribute to 1 Point, if the total value of qualifying materials is more than 25%. The definition and applicability of pre-consumer (valued at half) and post-consumer (valued 100%) remains the same.

Under the same point as recycled content, FSC wood, reused materials and bio-based materials will count. So what once were a total of 6 points is now only one point.

PBT Reduction in Health Care Projects

Mercury, Lead, Cadmium and Copper are also being tackled by LEED® v4, but it only applies to healthcare projects. Mercury in lamps, lead in plumbing system, on the roof, in wire and cable, paint, cadmium in paint, copper corrosion are to be reduced.

Enhance Indoor Air Quality Strategies

This used to be IEQ c2 increased ventilation, IEQ c1 outside air monitoring and IEQ 5 Pollutant Source control. It combines those credits into one while adding, requirements for monitoring outside air and use VOC sensors instead of just CO2 sensors.

Low VOC also for exterior products.

VOC’s Volatile Organic Compounds, or also known as the stuff that makes paint stink, are now also restricted for exterior materials. Furthermore all the low emitting material credits form LEED® v3 have been combined into one credit and materials now need to meet the following testing standards:

  • The California Department of Public Health (CDHP) Standard Method v1.1 – 2010

  • The German AgBB Testing and Evaluation Scheme (2010)

  • ISO 16000-3:2010, ISO 1600-6:2011, ISO 16000-9:2006, ISO 16000-11:2006 either in conjunction with AgBB or with French legislation on VOC emission class labeling

  • The DIBt testing method (2010)

For paints and coatings, as well as adhesives and sealants, things have stayed the same. Although no methylene chloride or perchloroethylene can be added and any other added compounds must be disclosed. Wood composites can now meet the CARB’s ultra-low formaldehyde requirements (ULEF). What is also of note is that at least 50% of the surfaces need to meet the requirement in order to get a credit.

Control and Quality of interior lighting

Control of lighting does now include three-step lighting (on, off and midlevel) and regarding the quality of lighting four of the following strategies have to be implemented:

  • glare is to be avoided by reducing the luminance of fixtures (cd/m2),

  • achieve an CRI of at least 80

  • rated life of lamps of at least 24,000 hours

  • use direct-only overhead lighting for 25% or less of the lighting load

  • increase your surface reflectance to 85% for ceilings, 60% for walls, 25% for floors

  • furniture surface reflectance of 45% for work surfaces and 50% for movable walls

  • meet 1:10 ratios of average wall surface luminance to average work plane luminance; same for ceiling to work surface

This of course does not include all the changes in the rating system. I listed the important ones and some difficult changes. Besides the rating system, the guide book and LEED® online are going to look much different, a very positive change as far as I can tell. With some projects already using LEED® v4 I’m sure we will see a lot more adjustments to the rating systems especially, when those project go into construction. I’ll probably blog about that too.

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.Did you miss the first post in the series, read it here. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to know when all our other blog content is released.

About the Author: Susann Geithner is an expert in LEED® design and energy auditing. Susann is a LEED® Accredited Professional (AP) for Existing Buildings, Operations and Maintenance, as well as a LEED® AP for Building Design and Construction. Susann has worked on LEED® projects in almost every building category and led the certification of the first LEED® CS Platinum building under the 2009 version of the standards, for which won Real Estate Manager Award for Sustainability in 2011. She has also led LEED® certification of Germany’s largest office building. Susann Geithner is also actively involved within the industry on a local and global level. She serves as Vice Chair for the Cleveland 2030 District, an organization committed to reducing the carbon footprint of area buildings. *All images used in this post are from USGBC.


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