LEED in 2009–U.S. Green Building Council Revises Rating Systems

January 8, 2009
LEED in 2009–U.S. Green Building Council Revises Rating Systems
Client Alert Newsletter Forecast 2009

The U.S. Green Building Council ("USGBC"), in its efforts to continuously improve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ("LEED") green building certification process, has introduced significant changes to its existing green building rating systems. These changes, referred to as LEED 2009, coupled with an expanded third-party certification program and significant enhancements to the on-line building certification process, make up a multi-faceted initiative collectively referred to as LEED Version 3.

The full roll-out of the LEED 2009 rating systems is anticipated to occur by March 2009. Notably, LEED will now evolve on a set schedule as USGBC will begin using a development cycle principally based on the familiar method by which building codes are developed. As LEED is not a building code, policy mechanisms will be retained to allow for LEED to react to the rapidly changing green building industry.

In LEED 2009, USGBC undertook to reorganize the existing LEED rating systems. The resultant prerequisite/credit structure is a consolidation, alignment and updating of all existing LEED rating systems. Similar credits in different systems have been revised to use the same language. Prerequisite/credit alignment across applicable rating systems now provides a pool of prerequisites/credits for all LEED rating systems (multiple versions of prerequisites/credits have been retained where needed to address different market situations). In addition, USGBC conducted a review of existing Credit Interpretation Rulings and has incorporated relevant precedent-setting and clarifying language into the prerequisites/credits.

USGBC has "re-weighted" LEED credits for purposes of redistributing the available points in LEED so that a given credit's point value more accurately reflects its potential either to mitigate negative or to promote positive environmental impacts of a building. The LEED Green Building rating system had not previously used an overarching, consistent framework for allotting point values to credits.

In an effort to encourage more innovation in LEED projects, in LEED 2009, USGBC voted to grant a maximum of only 3 points for "exemplary performance." Exemplary performance points are granted to projects that can demonstrate a doubling and/or attainment of the next incremental percentage threshold beyond the requirements of a LEED credit. Currently in LEED, projects can earn up to 4 points for exemplary performance. This modification was made to encourage projects to instead pursue innovation in green building. Credits can be earned for employing innovative strategies in building design, construction or operation.

Recognition of regionalization has also been incorporated into LEED 2009 to allow for the use of regional bonus credits. As a first step, incentives will be provided through LEED innovation and design style bonus points that will add value to those credits that are considered most important for defined regions. Project teams may select bonus points from a list of eligible credits based on a project’s location. USGBC is currently collaborating with regional green building councils and chapters to create the list of eligible credits.

At this time, LEED 2009 will only be available for commercial building applications and their existing rating systems (i.e., LEED for new construction, existing buildings, commercial interiors, schools, and core and shell). Projects registering under the current LEED rating systems will have the option to either upgrade to LEED 2009 during the transition to the launch of the new system online, or to continue to use the version of LEED under which they registered. Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox is in a position to provide necessary support and counsel in conjunction with LEED 2009 and other projects using high performance sustainable building practices.