The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is preparing to roll out its new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating systems, collectively known as LEED 2009. Despite some criticisms, the existing LEED program has become the leading third-party verification that a building construction, renovation or operation and maintenance program is “green.” The key changes embodied in LEED 2009, summarized below, reflect eight years of industry feedback and come after two formal public comment periods and a ballot vote by USGBC’s 18,000 member organizations.
The relative importance of existing LEED points needed to earn certification was often criticized as somewhat arbitrary. To respond, LEED 2009 has incorporated a scientifically-based re-weighting of credits, which prioritizes climate change and energy efficiency. In general, the credits available toward LEED certification will more accurately reflect the potential to either mitigate the negative environmental impacts of a building or promote its positive environmental effects. For example, efficient energy and water use strategies will in most cases go further towards achieving LEED certification, while the use of eco-friendly materials and waste management programs will have less importance.
Another frequent criticism is that existing LEED rating systems do not account for regional differences (e.g., the lack of water in the Southwest versus the relative abundance of water in the Northeast). In response, LEED 2009 allows regional bonus credits for certain measures taken to address identified environmental priorities within a project’s geographic area.
LEED 2009 also attempts to “harmonize” the existing rating systems for New Construction, Core and Shell, Commercial Interiors, Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance, and Schools by providing standardized prerequisites, credits and certification requirements. It retains separate prerequisites and credits where necessary to address the different project types.
Projects registering under the existing LEED rating systems will have the option to upgrade to LEED 2009 during a transition period, or they can continue to use the version of LEED under which they registered initially. Whether a project will benefit from an upgrade to LEED 2009 will be project specific.
Kate Heller is an associate in the Environmental Law Group and Erin Vanden Borre
is an associate in the Real Estate Group. For assistance in applying the existing rating systems or LEED 2009 to a particular project or plan, please contact:
Matthew J. Kiefer
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