LEED 2012 and the Role of Paula Abdul
A decade after the initial launch of LEED®, on November 8, 2010, the U.S. Green Building Council released the next version of the rating systems.
The still unnamed version, being referred to as LEED 2012 (a takeoff on the last version, LEED 2009), but more correctly should carry the nom de plume, LEED NextGen, because with its self-described “increase in technical rigor” it is a major advancement in green building. Moreover, it appears all but certain the new version will be delivered after 2012.
Real estate developers, existing building owners and tenants, in an industry when it is common for a commercial building project to take many months, if not years, from concept to occupancy, must monitor the LEED 2012 approval process with its self described November 7, 2012 effective date (despite that the stated time frame will not be achievable). And those stakeholders engaged in green building, should take advantage of the public comment period open through January 17, 2011, and help refine the clarity, usability and functionality of the LEED rating systems, that have become the benchmark for third party green building certification and tied widely to government regulation.
A second public comment period has been scheduled from July 1 through August 15, 2011 (but these and all other scheduled dates in this process are likely to move). LEED 2012 will then be subject to a vote, projected for August 1 through August 31, 2012, by a consensus body of USGBC member organizations.
In the nomenclature of our modern celebrity obsessed culture, the LEED 2012 approval process could be dubbed the Paula Abdul voting process, after the sympathetic and compassionate former judge on American Idol. It is not only the easy comparison to the American Idol selection process, where the judges eliminate most of the singers in various audition rounds, and then television viewers vote on which finalists continue to each successive round, until a winner is selected; but also the institutional feel good about the result when we have been directly involved in the result.
USGBC released five documents that total more than 1,000 pages, that are the first public comment drafts. This article will highlight select changes from the current LEED rating system, limiting comment to the New Construction rating system, and recognizing that all of the rating systems will be updated, including: Interior Design & Construction, Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance, Neighborhood Development, and Homes.
Philosophically, LEED 2012 seeks to move beyond simply reducing the environmental impact of buildings, through buildings having a net zero impact, and to enabling green buildings and communities that will have a positive environmental impact, .. something some will think an audacious goal.
By count, there are at least 78 major changes proposed from LEED 2009 New Construction, many of which are aligned with and common to the other rating systems. Among the significant changes are:
• Three new categories of credits, Integrated Process, Location and Transportation, and Performance have been added the LEED 2009’s seven existing categories of Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovation, and Regional Priority.
• LEED 2012 has 15 prerequisites versus 9 prerequisites in last version and some existing prerequisites have been completely overhauled.
• Among the most significant of the overhauled prerequisites is the Energy & Atmosphere (E&A) prerequisite for Minimum Energy Performance, that will now require new projects demonstrate a 10 percent improvement over a baseline building performance described in ASHRAE 90.1-2010, which baseline is on average 25 percent higher than the 2007 version of the standard referenced in LEED 2009. There are now alternative compliance paths, including alternatives for data centers, warehouses, and other unique uses.
• One of the goals is to fix “bad credits” that were too easily achieved or addressed practices that by now had become standard, so the prior E&A prerequisite for Fundamental Refrigerant Management has been deleted because ozone-safe refrigerants are now standard.
• There is a new E&A credit, Demand Response, aimed at optimizing electric generation transmission by recognizing participation in a local utility demand response program or other permanent peak load shifting to off-peak hours.
• The existing E&A Green Power credit has been revised to now require a contract for Green-e eligible power for a minimum of five years versus two years under LEED 2009.
• The prerequisite for Fundamental Commissioning has moved from the E&A category to the new Performance category and the scope of commissioning has been greatly expanded to include verification of exterior building envelope assemblies.
• The relocated and revised Integrated Design (ID) LEED Accredited Professional credit can now only be achieved with at least one principal participant on the project being a LEED Accredited Professional with a specialty most appropriate to the project. In addition, two individuals representing primary disciplines are required to be LEED APs (any specialty) or Green Associates.
• The new Location & Transportation (LT) category has a new prerequisite Bicycle Storage mandating bicycle racks, equal to 2.5 percent of all building users (at peak periods), to be located within 100 feet of main entries. (So, those who criticized LEED for awarding a point for a bike rack are wrong; it is a prerequisite and no credit is awarded?) The old SS credit Bicycle Storage and Changing Rooms has been moved to LT and the credit is only available if the location is along a “bicycle network.”
• The existing Sustainable Sites (SS) Brownfield Redevelopment credit has apparently been changed to mandate that an owner “remediate” the site, which appears to fly in the face of the concept of Brownfield reuse of contaminated land? Clarification on this change will, no doubt, be forthcoming.
• The two existing SS stormwater quantity and quality credits have been combined into a single new Rainwater Management credit with greatly heightened thresholds under a new data set, but that incentivize redevelopment (something the prior credits did not accomplish).
• In the Water Efficiency (WE) category, the prior credit is now prerequisite Landscape Water Use Reduction requiring projects reduce irrigation water to or below 30 percent below the baseline for the site’s peak watering month using the EPA WaterSense Water Budget Tool.
• Another WE prerequisite Appliance, Device, and Process Water Use Reduction, is new and sets a baseline for water consuming appliances (e.g., washing machines, dish washers, etc.) and processes.
• In the Materials & Resources category there is a new prerequisite Recycled Content, based on an earlier version credit, that mandates the use of building products with a recycled content of at least 10 percent of total materials cost.
• The prior credit for Construction Indoor Air Quality Management Plan – During Construction is now an IEQ category prerequisite.
• The new Performance category contains a new (actually, relocated from the LEED 2009 Minimum Program Requirements) prerequisite Building Level Energy Metering requires that all projects must install meters or sub meters committing to provide energy consumption data to USGBC for 5 years from the date of Certification.
• Also new within that new Performance category is the prerequisite Water Metering and Reporting to meter all water and sub meter uses projected to use 100,000 gallons annually providing data to building managers.
These few hundred words cannot deliver all of the garrulity and mellifluousness contained within the reams that are actual draft rating systems. The goal was to convey the nature and order of magnitude of the changes proposed.
And while it is not possible to completely appreciate the magnitude of LEED 2012 without the point values that are the weighting of each proposed credit, the changes are seismic. The revised point distribution will be available for the second public comment period. Green building stakeholders should be certain to comment during that later period.
Additionally, all of this should be considered in the context of new sector specific ratings systems that will be launched during the life of LEED 2012, included new systems for: LEED for Schools EB-OM, LEED for Retail EB-OM, LEED Homes for multi family, LEED for Hospitality NC, LEED for Warehouse NC, and LEED for Data Centers NC.
And the import of the LEED International Program cannot be overstated when over 10 percent of LEED projects, correlating to 28 percent of the square footage of all projects are located outside of the U.S. International projects are trending large and year to date in 2010 correlate to 40 percent of the square footage of all projects.
LEED rating system development is not all that different from American Idol, where large numbers of prerequisites and credits are eliminated in various audition rounds (.. substitute USGBC staffers for Paula Abdul ), and then the finalists are subject to the vote. In this instance there are no television viewers, but it is important that everyone, now, participate in the public comment process.
We have a credit by credit analysis of each change in all rating systems and will gladly provide it to those who request a copy.
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