LEED v 4, a “quantum leap” for green building

By:  Kayleen Glaser, LEED Tools, Processes, and University Standards Intern

Today is a special day for green building nerds everywhere because it marks the kickoff of the annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, a gathering which will bring together more than 30,000 architects, builders, facility managers, educators and green innovators from all over the world.  Even more excitingly, today the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) premieres the newest LEED rating system, LEED v 4.

First, for those unfamiliar with LEED, let me give you a quick run-down:  LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a framework the US Green Building Council developed in 1998 to help building owners identify and implement green building solutions.  LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based, national certification system aimed at producing high-performance, sustainable buildings.  It is a point-based rating system and offers four progressive certification levels:  certified, silver, gold, and platinum.  Until LEED v 4, LEED buildings were evaluated on and earned credits in five main credit categories:  (1) Sustainable Sites; (2) Water Efficiency; (3) Energy and Atmosphere; (4) Materials and Resources; and (5) Indoor Environmental Quality.   Every few years, the USGBC premieres a new rating system to reflect market changes and innovations in the green building industry.  

What’s so great about LEED v 4?

Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO, and founding chair of USGBC has said, “LEED v 4 is a quantum leap for LEED… Over the past 15 years, LEED has fundamentally revolutionized how we design, construct, operate and maintain our buildings and communities. LEED has created a completely new industry of business enterprise committed to energy savings and efficiency. LEED v4 is as much a testament to the achievements of LEED project teams around the world as it is to the green building community’s ambition to create significant global and local change through resource-efficient, cost-effective green buildings.”

What’s new about LEED v 4?

A New Category

The LEED rating system has undergone some serious structural changes in this new rating system.  LEED v 4 has restructured the five main credit categories and added a new category as well:

  1. Location and Transport
  2. Sustainable Sites
  3. Water Efficiency
  4. Energy and Atmosphere
  5. Materials and Resources
  6. Indoor Environmental Quality.

A Focus on Impact

LEED v 4 aims to drive the market towards certain priorities.  In response, the new system features seven impact categories and goes beyond the categories used for LEED v 2009 that focused on limiting damage.  Under the new system, categories emphasize the potential for projects to contribute positively to the environment as a whole; credits that significantly contribute to accomplishing system goals of addressing the credit categories will be worth more points.  The impact categories are:

  1. Climate change
  2. Human health
  3. Water resources
  4. Biodiversity
  5. Green economy
  6. Community
  7. Material resources

A Focus on Transparency

The new LEED v 4 rating system focuses on product disclosure and product transparency. Expect to hear new buzzwords and acronyms:  EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations), LCAs (Life Cycle Assessments), and HPDs (Health Product Declarations).

A Focus on Efficiency

…and not in the energy saving sense.  LEED v 4 aims to help those in the certification process save time with new support tools and resources.  The new system offers simplified LEEd credit submittal requirements, descriptive step-by-step reference guide materials with videos and tutorials, and a more intuitive technology platform.  All LEED users everywhere can sigh a breath of relief!

One building in the world has achieved LEED v 4 Gold certification thus far:  the Haworth Showroom in Beijing.  To read highlights about the building, check it out here.

Haworth’s showroom in Bejing, China was the first project to be certified under LEED V4. Photo credit: Shaw Contract Group








3 thoughts on “LEED v 4, a “quantum leap” for green building

  1. I’m impressed that the new LEED v4 standards exhibit such a broad understanding of energy conservation methods. Until now I did not realize LEED was such a comprehensive program, even including community and biodiversity in the impact categories! It’s inspiring to know people around the world recognize many (if not all) sustainability concerns are interrelated and are accepting voluntary standards of energy infrastructure. Thanks for sharing such an interesting article.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s