U.S. Green Building Council proposes LEED v4

In early November 2010, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) opened the first public comment period for its fourth version of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating program.

Currently known as LEED v4, the proposed rating system was initially named LEED 2012. On June 4, President, CEO and Founding Chairperson of the USGBC Rick Fedrizzi said in a blog post that the council decided to push the ballot on LEED 2012 until June 1, 2013 due to the community stating they would like more time to consider and prepare for the proposed updates.
Since then, the USGBC has held four public comment periods, with a fifth one in process from Oct. 2 to Dec. 10.
According to the USGBC, the LEED rating program focuses on fostering the construction and management of green buildings. LEED-certified buildings use less energy, save money and reduce carbon footprints.
“More than 49,000 projects are currently participating in the commercial and institutional LEED rating systems, comprising 9.1 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states and 130 countries,” the USGBC website stated.
The current version of the LEED rating system, LEED v3, was released on April 27, 2009. LEED v3 builds upon its predecessor and consists of three components: improvements to the LEED’s credits and points system, updates to LEED Online and a new building certification model. LEED Online manages the LEED documentation process and allows project teams to review documents and project details.
LEED v3 is on a 100-point basis for new construction and major renovations. Sustainable sites can receive 26 possible points; water efficiency, 10 possible points; energy and atmosphere, 35 possible points; materials and resources, 14 possible points; indoor environmental quality, 15 possible points; innovation in design, 6 possible points; and regional priority, 4 possible points.
LEED-certified buildings are given 40 to 49 points, LEED Silver buildings are given 50 to 59 points, LEED Gold buildings are given 60 to 79 points and LEED Platinum buildings are given 80+ points.
USGBC said the anticipated changes of LEED v4 include new market sectors, increased technical vigor and streamlined services.
Media Manager of USGBC Ashley Katz said in an email that v4 is better for multiple reasons.

“It’s simple, streamline and usable: [an] improved documentation process, more resources and tools in development,” Katz said. “[It] continues to drive energy and water efficiency while still providing a starting point for newcomers to the green building world. [There will] be more solutions for more markets, [such as] data centers, warehouses, existing schools, existing retail, hospitality and mid-rise residential.”

Katz said that most changes to the current draft of LEED v4 are minor and are based on the feedback given in the public comment periods.

“Unprecedented engagement from the green building industry resulted in a superior product,” she said.

All University of California (UC) schools will have to adhere to the new LEED rating system once it’s been formalized. The UC system began to commit to constructing green buildings in 2002. According to a UC press release, the UC system is the first American university to hit 100 LEED-certified buildings.

UC Office of the President Sustainability Manager Matt St. Clair said because there are significant changes that are planned for v4, the USGBC delayed its implementation until next year.

“There’s nothing to think about for another two or three years for us,” St. Clair said. “No projects will have to register with the v4, according to the USGBC, until 2015. The new one only applies to new buildings that register.”

UC Davis currently has four newly constructed buildings that are LEED Platinum: Gallagher Hall and its corresponding Conference Center; Gladys Valley Hall; Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences; and the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory and the Teaching and Research Winery.

LEED Gold buildings consist of the renovated Coffee House, Cuarto Dining Commons and Robbins Hall. New constructions include the Student Health and Wellness Center, and Tercero Student Housing: Wall, Campbell and Potter Halls.

The Segundo Services Center and the Student Community Center are awaiting LEED certification. There are also seven other buildings that are either under construction or are in the process of being renovated or constructed.

In response to LEED v4, the UC Davis Design and Construction Management (DCM) team said they will evaluate the proposed changes to the rating system when the time comes.

“Just as we do with code changes, I’m sure our office will be reviewing the changes and considering how these work with our campus standards and goals,” said Julianne Nola, assistant director of project management of UC Davis DCM, in an email.

Similarly, Gary Dahl, director of project management of UC Davis DCM, said they have yet to consider the impacts of the changes to their program since the newest LEED program will not be adopted until 2013 at the earliest.

“It is likely that a greater impact to our projects will be from significantly more stringent California energy efficiency requirements also slated to be adopted next year,” Dahl said in an email. “Regents and campus policy require that we exceed the most current version of the California standards (“Title 24”) by 25 percent or more.”

Senior Project Manager of UC Davis DCM Susan Rainier said quantifying the costs of each green building on campus is difficult. She said achieving a platinum rating is costly since it requires the use of renewable resources, but planning ahead has cut some of those costs.

“If the team is thinking about the most sustainable building they can from the very beginning, those costs are woven in,” Rainier said. “Green buildings live longer and their facilities are affordable.”

Additionally, Rainier said the availability of water is at a critical point.

“Some scientists in Europe are saying the world will be out of water in 2050,” she said. “So we’re focused on that now.”

Rainier also said the campus has many old buildings that need repurposing.

“In the green world, the oldest buildings are the greenest. New buildings can be [built to be] sustainable,” Rainier said. “The future is really bright for sustainability.”

CLAIRE TAN can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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