LEED 2009

Doug Widener, Executive Director, U.S. Green Building Council – Chicago Chapter

After over two years’ work, thousands of member comments, and suggestions from across the building industry, LEED® 2009 is slated for its national debut at USGBC’s annual conference and expo, Greenbuild, to be held in Boston, Massachusetts November 19-21, with official launch of the rating system to the marketplace in early 2009. While LEED 2009 isn’t a complete overhaul of the LEED rating systems, it is both a reorganization of those systems so that credits and prerequisites mesh across the various rating systems as well as an advancement of the entire rating system to better address key environmental and regional issues. A summary of the major changes to LEED 2009 include:

–    Prerequisite and Credit Alignment—To date, the various LEED rating systems have been developed independently, at different times, and in response to various market needs. While effective, this process led to certain instances where credits or prerequisites across the various rating systems weren’t aligned or in some cases, actually contradicted each other. LEED 2009 synchronizes credits and prerequisites across the various LEED rating systems to increase the utility of LEED in the marketplace and to allow for more rapid updating of the rating systems as market and environmental trends change. Additionally, all LEED rating systems will have the same number of eligible points, with the same thresholds to reach the various certification levels, providing further simplification and correlation between the various LEED rating systems.
–    Weighted Credits—While LEED has been and will continue to be a multifaceted rating system that addresses a wide variety of strategies to reduce a building’s environmental footprint, LEED 2009 reprioritizes the LEED credit areas and individual credits based on their proven ability to reduce the negative impacts or improve the positive impacts of buildings. The resultant system no longer provides equal points across all LEED credits, but rather provides additional points for certain credits based on the relative importance of the environmental issues addressed. Some examples of environmental concerns where weighted credits apply include water conservation, energy use optimization, and green house gas reduction, among others. USGBC used a scientifically rigorous and collaborative process for determining the respective weights for each LEED credit.
–    Regionalization—The United States is a large country comprised of several climate zones and ecoregions. Environmental priorities, and green building strategies to address these priorities, vary in certain instances based on these factors. LEED 2009 takes this into consideration with a series of regional bonus credits. USGBC, in concert with its Regional Councils and Chapters, has created a list of existing LEED credits that will be eligible for regional bonus credits. Based on a project’s region, select credits from the list will be eligible for bonus points.

Beyond these major changes, LEED 2009 features a multitude of updates to individual credits which are available for review on USGBC’s web site www.usgbc.org.

In concert with the rollout of LEED 2009, USGBC will also debut a series of other enhancements to the functionality of LEED to improve execution, documentation, and certification. Dubbed as LEED Version 3 (LEED v3) a summary of these major enhancements includes:

LEED Online version 3—USGBC will launch a completely overhauled version of LEED Online that will greatly improve the speed and increase the simplicity of submitting LEED documentation as well as improve and expand its building portfolio management capabilities.

LEED Certification Process—USGBC recently announced several key changes to the LEED certification process to provide for increased capacity and transparency. Beginning in January 2009, USGBC will transfer the administration of the LEED certification process to the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), a third party, not-for-profit organization established in 2007 with the support of USGBC. As a part of this process USGBC also selected 10 internationally prominent certification bodies that will conduct actual building certifications under the direction of GBCI. These changes allow LEED certification to comply with ISO standards, while providing an improved certification process that can grow with market demand.

Regular Development Schedule—With LEED v3 and LEED 2009, USGBC will put LEED on a regular two-year development schedule for major revisions. This regular development schedule will allow the industry to better plan for changes to LEED while providing USGBC a consistent timeframe and methodology for these changes. While LEED 2011 is envisioned as the next major revision to the rating system once LEED 2009 is launched, it is important to note that USGBC will maintain processes for the continuous improvement of LEED between major revisions to be able to respond quickly in an ever changing market and environmental landscape.

LEED 2009 is in its final step prior to becoming official. Earlier this week, USGBC’s Board of Directors approved LEED 2009 for member balloting. USGBC member representatives have 30 days to vote to approve the new rating system. For more information on LEED 2009 and on the balloting process, visit the USGBC web site at: www.usgbc.org.

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