New Version of LEED Delayed Until 2013

The USGBC announced yesterday that the upcoming balloting for the newest revisions to LEED will be delayed until next year. The next version of the green building rating system was to be known as LEED 2012 but will now be LEED v4.

USGBC’s President and CEO, Rick Fedrizzi addressed the new deadline in an open letter in which he said, “We have heard repeatedly that while our community continues to fully embrace our mission, they need more time to absorb the changes we’re proposing and to get their businesses ready to take the step with us.”

Fedrizzi also cited member concerns about transparency within the LEED updating process. In response to concerns raised by USGBC members and LEED users, the USGBC announced that it will delay ballot on the revisions until June 1, 2013, with the potential for an earlier vote if USGBC members and the market indicate readiness.

“This is 100% in response to our members’ desire that we give them a bit more time to absorb the changes in this next version of the rating system,” said Fedrizzi. “We want to do everything we can to ensure that the market can fully embrace LEED v4 because it represents significant progress on carbon reduction and human health.”

In addition to tabling the ballot, the USGBC announced that LEED 2009 will remain open for registration for three years. They have also added a fifth public comment period that will run from October through December of this year, to coincide with the annual Greenbuild conference. The hope is that the extra comment period will resolve any issues raised previously and that Greenbuild will serve as a platform to debut new LEED enhancements.

It’s unclear what proposed changes resulted in this unusual step, but it seems likely that one culprit may be the recommended amendments to the materials credit. Jenny Carney, a principal at YR&G and Chair of the USGBC’s Sustainable Sites Technical Advisory Group, brought up those changes while discussing LEED 2012 at the Building Green Chicago Conference and Expo last month.

“Previously, there would be a focus on certain environmentally-preferred attributes in building materials that you would look for, like a certain percentage of recycled content or coming from within a certain distance of the project. Even those very simplified types of attributes are, in my experience, very challenging to track throughout the project,” said Carney. “This new version is actually expanded quite a bit beyond that to use new standards for green materials that are more in tune with life cycle analysis, which takes into account the full suite of environmental impacts of a product over time.”

Some manufacturers voiced concerns over the more stringent life cycle analysis of building materials as well as the transparency of the systems used to rate this. For example, the Vinyl Institute, a plastics industry advocacy group, took particular exception to the proposed use of third party product rating systems like Green Screen and REACH. For the Vinyl Institute, this hit home as those programs—as they put it—“discriminate against PVC,” perhaps the most ubiquitous vinyl building material.

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