USGBC Prepares for LEED v4 Vote

WASHINGTON — This month, the USGBC is having its sixth — and likely final — public comment period for LEED v4, the latest update to the LEED rating systems, which will be voted on this summer. The USGBC is encouraging everyone to look at the most recent draft of the rating systems and provide comments on changes made since the last draft.

This is the latest stage in the ongoing process of approving the new system. It was originally scheduled for approval in late 2012, but was delayed last June due to the fact that members felt the changes were happening to fast.

The first major change is new credit categories, such as new prerequisites and credits across all credit categories and rating systems. A prerequisite is required for a project to be LEED certified and credits must be earned to achieve various LEED thresholds. The new standards would strengthen the meaning of LEED certification, with the USGBC aiming beyond net-zero into net-positive. The new categories are Integrative Process, Location and Transportation, and Performance.

The technical content is also being changed, with a larger effort to reduce CO2 emissions. The changes emphasize integrated project teams, rewarding development in existing build environments, low-impact development, expanding water efficiency and promoting lifecycle analysis materials. LEED v4 also plans to reach new market sectors, such as data centers, warehouses and distribution centers; hospitality facilities; existing schools; existing retail; and mid-rise residential.

A large outcry has come from the construction and demolition (C&D) recycling community because Alternative Daily Cover (ADC) — cover material that has been ground up and is placed on the surface of the active face of solid waste landfills — will no longer be counted as diverted waste. In the current rating system, projects get one LEED credit for recycling 50 percent of their materials and a second for exceeding 75 percent. This was initially one of the easiest credits to achieve. Until the new system is approved, recyclers were able to claim C&D material as part of the percentage being recycled, and it has been one of the largest sources of the recycling credit.

The intent of the credit is to divert construction and demolition debris from disposal in landfills and incineration facilities, and encourage builders to have a construction waste management plan. The new rule emphasizes recycling waste gypsum and waste wood.

In most C&D cases, recyclers will now need to sort materials onsite to get the credits, which will be especially difficult in urban areas with little space for extra sorting containers. Few markets or products (other than ADC) can employ the materials to process and transport materials for landfill daily cover. Therefore, the recyclers are concerned that, with less incentive and opportunity to recycle, less material will go to recycling facilities and more will go to landfills as a result.

After the public comment session is finished on March 31, the USGBC will host a consensus body opt-in in April, in which the consensus body will sample USGBC members that vote on the passage of LEED v4. Then, this summer, the USGBC will have a ballot period for members to vote on technical changes to LEED.

If all goes according to plan, LEED v4 is scheduled to launch in November at Greenbuild 2013; however, LEED 2009 will remain available for new registrations until June 2015.