LEED 2012 It’s Time to Change the Game
The U.S. Green Building Council has released LEED 2012®, the next version of its green building rating system, for a third public comment period that will close on March 20.
While a fourth and final public comment period in late Spring is possible, and some have suggested the dramatic changes proposed make another comment period desirable, such is not a certainty and this may be your last opportunity to effect change in the evolving rating system.
What is LEED 2012?
Having changed the culture of the real estate marketplace since the first version of LEED in 2000, those engaged in the business of real estate need to be aware that that this next version of LEED is a major step in the continuous improvement process and ongoing development cycle of the LEED program.
Widely heralded and overwhelmingly supported, those who may have had some experience with an earlier version of the rating system should be aware LEED 2012 is more than an update, it is a new and improved version of what is by far the most widely utilized standard for green building in this country and arguably the now nationally accepted benchmark, if not the dominant green building program in the world.
Scot Horst, senior vice president for LEED at USGBC analogizes LEED 2009 to a Swiss Army Knife with lots of tools for sustainable building. LEED 2012 may be more of a Tactical Tomahawk, an extreme use tool driving green building toward rising energy efficiency.
LEED 2012 will drive more and better measurement and management of energy and water use as well as site selection, building materials selection and indoor environmental quality. The current LEED 2009, has been revised to increase technical stringency and rigor, improve measurement and performance tools, and create an enhanced LEED Online user experience (still Online v3 but with the promise that it will be easier to use). Given that over 40% of the square feet of LEED registered projects in 2011 were outside the U.S., LEED 2012 will be more globally aligned with international standards.
There are at least 92 major changes from the version of LEED 2012 released for the second public comment period and this third public comment version (.. USGBC listens to comments, so take advantage of this opportunity), which does not include the more than 141 changes from the first version released nor the untold revisions from LEED 2009, so it is not possible in this brief article to even attempt a line by line comparison on the more than 1,000 pages now released. This article is an effort at describing the key changes.
What are the Changes from LEED 2009 to LEED 2012?
The key changes from LEED 2009 to LEED 2012 fall into three categories. First, there are new market sectors, including data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality, existing schools, existing retail, and LEED for Homes Mid‐Rise (that are alternative compliance paths for those uses within an existing rating system).
Second, as mentioned above there are changes to content that increase the technical rigor of the rating system.
And third, credit weightings have changed such that the now more than decade old LEED will continue as “the most important instrument in the world for transformation of the buildings industry towards a more sustainable paradigm.” The point allocation that has 4 prerequisites and 33 credits within the Energy and Atmosphere category, more than double the weight of any other category, sends the message loud and clear where USGBC’s priorities have shifted in 2012 to “reverse contribution to global climate change” through rising energy efficiency. The stringency and rigor is also increased significantly where LEED 2009 required the proposed energy performance of new construction demonstrate a 10% improvement and major renovation a 5% improvement over the AHRAE 90.1-2007 baseline building model, and LEED 2012 proposes new construction demonstrate a 10% improvement and major renovation a 7% improvement over the AHRAE 90.1-2010 baseline; a baseline model building some have suggested is at least 30% more rigorous than the current standard.
It appears there has been an expansion of the Innovation category from 5 to 6 possible credits that can be achieved “through a combination of Innovation, Pilot, and Exemplary Performance strategies” recognizing that green building is such a fast evolving filed that innovation must be embraced as a solution toward that sustainable paradigm.
There are new prerequisites and new credits. Some existing credits have been altered, including that as part of the new weighting of priorities the LEED point value of several credits have changed. And some of those prerequisites and credits are grouped differently within the existing categories of Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovation, and Regional Priority and the new category Location and Transportation. The previously proposed new category Integrated Process has been further changed and is now a single credit?
Of note, the Minimum Program Requirements are not altered in this version, but it is anticipated they will change and are currently in development for release in the near future.
The two most significant changes may be:
LEED Existing Buildings: Operation & Maintenance
With LEED EBOM certifying more than half of all the domestic floor are in the LEED system in 2011, LEED is no longer only a new construction standard, such that the changes to EBOM are of paramount import.
The key change is that many prerequisites and credits now include both an Establishment element and a Performance element. By way of example in the Location and Transportation credit for Alternative Transportation, in the Establishment element a survey of building occupant’s travel patterns is required as a component part a plan to reduce single occupant vehicle trips and then in the Performance element a follow up transportation survey must be undertaken not less than once every five years.
Also, there are market segment options in EBOM for data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality, existing schools, and existing retail.
The Minimum Energy Performance prerequisite remains the threshold for determining if an existing building could be a LEED EBOM candidate when it now requires an Energy Star rating of 75 (for ratable buildings). This is more stringent than in LEED 2009 and a big change from the last version of LEED 2012 that had permitted a building to demonstrate a 20% improvement in energy performance, an option no longer available. This is particularly significant because the maximum market share for LEED EBOM is 25% of existing buildings (as limited by an Energy Star score of 75 indicates that the building performs better than 75% of all similar buildings nationwide).
The Materials and Resources category has been significantly revamped. It has been suggested some of these changes will create a whole new industry for materials life cycle analysis and ingredient certification that could dwarf LEED itself.
But the most controversial proposed change in LEED 2012 is that of certified wood, despite that the old Certified Wood credit is gone. The new Bio Based Materials credit reads, “New wood products must be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, or better.” The only exception is wood harvested and milled within 50 miles of a project.
With this FSC certified wood only credit language USGBC has boldly, and one must assume with approval of the organization’s board of directors, driven a stake (presumably cut from FSC wood) into the heart of the longstanding controversy over the fact that USGBC has only recognized FSC certified wood and not wood from any of the several other organizations that maintain standards for sustainably grown and harvested wood. That “wood war” resulted in Congress halting funding of 2012 Department of Defense LEED Gold and Platinum projects, lead Maryland to not pursue the FSC Wood credit on government LEED projects, caused Maine to stop pursuing LEED certification on government building, and more.
Moreover the new credit language is far more stringent than today’s credit. Lane Burt, technical policy director at USGBC has said, “Right now you can get a credit for any wood within 500 miles [the Regional Materials credit] and you only have to use 50% of wood that’s FSC certified [the Certified Wood credit].”
More than polemical potshots, it is likely there will be many comments in this third public comment period about the negative impact the certified wood credit language is having on LEED.
When will LEED 2012 Go Live?
LEED 2012 will be put to for a member ballot vote in June 2012, after the public comment and response periods. LEED 2012 is scheduled to launch in November 2012 at the USGBC Greenbuild Conference and Expo in San Francisco with projects registered after that date required to use that new version.
The Future of LEED
The market shift to LEED is a dramatic and bright spot in an otherwise tough economy.
Having already changed the culture of the real estate industry, it is the belief of some inside USGBC that LEED is near the top of or at its anticipated full market saturation point of 25% of new construction starts, and that a more technically stringent and rigorous LEED 2012 will cause that top of the market to be greener edging toward a future net zero green building and ultimately to a regenerative built environment.
Those who suggest a reduction or stalling in market share for LEED 2012 are wrong, missing that green building is so fast growing today that such would be akin to King Canute seated on his throne on the seashore commanding the tides of the sea to go back.
Make no mistake, today with more than 1.8 Billion square feet of LEED certified building and USGBC now certifying more than 1.5 Million square feet a day, LEED 2012 will only expand the voluntary third party rating system LEED brand and market share across the country and across the globe.
We Can Assist You
LEED 2012 is available for review at USGBC . All are encouraged to comment between now and March 20.
With a November 2012 launch date, it is necessary and proper that developers and builders of projects planned to break ground in 3rd and 4th quarter 2012 evaluate if that building is better registered under LEED 2009 or LEED 2012?
If we can assist you in that evaluation or otherwise in identifying opportunities to lead and profit in green building and sustainable business, do not hesitate to give Stuart Kaplow a call.
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