Finding the Most Applicable Version of LEED
What if the building has been around for a while and you’re doing a major renovation – should you use LEED-NC or LEED-EB? Is LEED for Commercial Interiors just a less stringent substitute for LEED-EB? These common confusions have been other reasons for hesitancy in getting acquainted with LEED.
Even as USGBC has tried to cover all the bases by creating rating systems for several different building and project types, the gray area regarding exactly where one LEED stops and another LEED begins has grown in parallel.
But don’t worry — USGBC has a plan. Eliminating those gray areas and combating the confusion about the most applicable rating system for a particular project is a major goal for LEED 2009. And there’s no reason the new approach should strike fear into the hearts of facility executives who have already begun a LEED-EB (or other) program.
“I’d like facility executives to know that LEED 2009 will encompass all the strategies built into LEED-EB: O&M,” says Doug Gatlin, vice president, market development for USGBC. “If anyone’s building a program around LEED-EB, they’re still in good shape.”
USGBC describes the solution to the question of which rating system is the right one as the “bookshelf” approach. LEED 2009 will be an amalgam of every LEED rating system that has been developed so far.
“The goal is to get LEED specific to your project,” says Horst. “We are working toward a single system that addresses a hospital in Texas differently than an office in Maine.”
The “bookshelf” solution will allow LEED users to go to a Web site, enter details about their project and the database will return a suite of credits particular to that project. So, if you’re working on a high-rise, mixed-use development, you may get some credits from LEED-NC, some from LEED for Retail (to apply to ground-level retail space) and some from LEED for Core and Shell, for example. If you’re working on an existing corporate office building, you may get a set of credits that looks very similar to LEED-EB: O&M.
The bookshelf approach endeavors to close the gap in the gray areas, but not totally reinvent the wheel — hence learning about LEED now won’t leave you foundering in early 2009 when this new system is released.
“Now there will be a set of credits that will apply to every type of building,” says Gatlin. “This helps us get past the concern of which LEED rating system to use.”
The bookshelf approach will also help USGBC expand and improve LEED by simply adding new credits instead of creating entirely new rating systems to address specific types of buildings. New credits will be added as environmental priorities shift.
LEED 2009 will bring another important shift in the way USGBC approaches credits. The revamped LEED will introduce a new method of weighting credits.
In the past, USGBC had somewhat arbitrarily assigned the number of points each credit was worth. With LEED 2009, the credits are being re-weighted with a system drawing upon the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and Other Environmental Impacts (TRACI). Gatlin compares this re-weighting of credits to a rebalancing of an investment portfolio. The recalibration of the credits will give LEED emphases in areas of increasing importance — climate change, for one.
The bookshelf approach will also allow USGBC to give LEED projects credits that are applicable on a regional basis — another major change that USGBC says will greatly improve LEED. Water efficiency is a bit more important in Phoenix, for instance, than it is in Seattle, so projects in Phoenix will have an opportunity to earn more LEED points for being more water efficient. USGBC will allow its local chapters to select from a list of credits they consider most important.
All this will add up to a major improvement in the ease of use of LEED, Horst says. He says he also expects that it will speed acceptance, especially among facility executives who can use it for existing buildings as a framework for a holistic green facility management plan.
But even as LEED is changing, the basics won’t. Projects will still be registered and go through the review and certification process based on credits applied for. And LEED, says USGBC, will be just as environmentally stringent. Now, it’ll just be easier to use.
“Systems should be elegant,” says Horst. “And before our system wasn’t elegant. But now we’ve set up the framework to improve it dramatically.”