Evolving Green: LEED 2012

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is updating its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program in response to concerns that the existing program rewards individual green features without ensuring that a building as a whole is environmentally sustainable, and that it considers initial construction at the expense of long-term performance. This third draft of the rating system is focused on providing a simple-to-use, technically advanced and more robust system. It includes performance-based management features and tools that will enable project managers to better measure and manage site and building material selection as well as long-term energy and water use and indoor environmental quality—tools that also will provide opportunities for ongoing engagement between project teams and USGBC, both before and after certification.

“LEED’s strength comes from its continuous evolution,” said Scot Horst, senior vice president of LEED at USBGC, in a recent press release. “This continuous improvement is the outcome of thousands of technical volunteers working to develop the program and the adaptability of the program to technological and market changes.” The new draft standards also take a more global perspective, with modified language, new requirements and options that increase flexibility aimed at making it easier for the international community to engage with LEED.

The following are among the proposed new features of LEED 2012:

  • New prerequisites that will create a basic level of performance among LEED projects;
  • Compliance paths for additional market sectors, including new and existing data centers and new warehouses and distribution centers; and
  • An updated point system that includes three new credit categories (“integrative process,” “location and transportation” and “performance”) and weights credits and categories according to their overall contribution to a building’s green goals.

The third public comment period for the proposed updates will begin on Mar. 1 and close on Mar. 20; all relevant resources will be available at on the USGBC LEED 2012 webpage beginning Mar. 1, and members of the public may comment on any substantive changes made since the second public comment period, which ran from Aug. 1 through Sept. 14, 2011. USGBC members then will vote on LEED 2012 in June and the updated program is expected to launch in November.

Why do we care? Because GSA facilities standards require that all newly constructed leased projects of 10,000 square feet or more must be at least LEED Silver certified (LEED Gold is the standard if the government is building the project itself).  For leases in existing buildings, federal tenants may, at their discretion, require that LEED for Commercial Interiors is achieved.  Under pressure to demonstrate that they are achieving federal sustainability metrics, agencies are increasingly opting to insert the LEED-CI requirement into lease procurements.

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