Why we should all support LEED v4

Posted on Jul 23, 2013 by Theresa Lehman


LEED v4, the newest version of the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) rating system, was recently approved by a majority of USGBC members. As a USGBC Fellow, I am proud of my colleagues for being progressive and willing to move forward, and I’m excited for what this means for the future of design, construction and operation of sustainable facilities across many markets.

I fully support USGBC’s mission of transforming the industry, and LEED v4 certainly takes “sustainability” to the next level of transformation. Change is something we can always anticipate as demonstrated by the new concepts, new market segments, new categories and new and /or increased technical rigor of the prerequisite and credit requirements of LEED v4. Change is not something that is often easily embraced, as demonstrated by the actions and words of some of the stakeholders. But change, like evolution, is necessary if we as an industry are going to seek continuous improvement.

According to USGBC, LEED v4 “is designed to drive innovation in every aspect of the building lifecycle” and “change the way project teams think, integrate, plan, execute and operate their buildings,” which is expected to result in “improved environmental outcomes.”

What does this mean? The anticipated big picture changes within LEED v4 focus on:

  • minimizing climate change (carbon reduction)
  • how building materials are impacting human health (human health improvement)
  • the globalization of LEED
  • modeling (rainwater, lighting, acoustics, daylighting, etc.) and alternative calculation methods
  • introducing alternative project delivery methods

Lake Mills Elementary School is one of the more than one hundred projects around the world that is participating in the LEED v4 beta pilot program. Miron’s design-build team is working to implement, test and improve LEED v4 before it officially launches in November at the GreenBuild International Conference & Expo.  This has enabled our team to realize that LEED v4 is not just “more stringent,” as rumor has it, but is actually more logical, more practical, and yes – has more “meat” behind the “easy” credits. Additionally, the documentation process is completely different from the current process that utilizes LEED Online; it actually is more efficient, timely and allows open communication with a reviewer/review team. Bottom line is that it has a common sense feel to it, which contradicts rumors on the street and the politics that are currently being played.

Frankly, I commend USGBC and the stakeholders for not focusing on a release date in 2012, but rather “doing it right” and listening to the industry, for sticking to the concept of transparency and for having more than 100 real project teams beta test the rating system, thereby giving us, the day-to-day users, the opportunity to offer suggestions for improvement and test the practicality of the rating systems’ requirements before its public debut. To me, this process speaks volumes to USGBC’s and the project teams’ shared commitment in playing a leadership role in transforming the built environment and mitigating climate change.

So now that 86 percent of USGBC’s members have voted to adopt LEED v4, when will it be available for public use, and when are projects mandated to start using v4 in lieu of the current rating systems?  LEED v4 will be unveiled in November; however, to ease the transition to LEED v4, project teams will be allowed to continue to register projects under the current LEED 2009 rating systems until June 2015, at which time projects will be required to register projects under LEED v4.  In the meantime, the LEED v4 pilot beta program remains open for pilot project enrollment.

Photo credit: payette.com

About Theresa Lehman

Dedicating her entire career to sustainable practice, Theresa has worked on more than 70 projects seeking LEED® certification utilizing the LEED®-NC, LEED®-CI, LEED®-CS, LEED®-EBOM, and LEED® for Schools green building rating systems. She has successfully certified projects that have earned LEED® certification at all four award levels including: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Her portfolio of LEED® projects includes many “Wisconsin firsts” such as the first State of Wisconsin LEED® certified project, the first healthcare facility, the first LEED®-EBOM Schools, the first LEED® for Schools project and the first zero-net energy / carbon neutral project–the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center–the “greenest building on the planet” according to Rick Fedrizzi, former President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council.

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