The Low Down On Green Living
May 20th, 2008
Written by Philip Proefrock, courtesy of GreenBuildingElements.com
Since 2000, the U.S. Green Building Council has been transforming the built environment through the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. If you’re at all paying attention to green buildings, you are well aware of LEED. There are now over 10,000 projects, representing over 3.5 billion square feet of buildings, that have been registered with LEED. And today, a new draft version of LEED becomes available for public comment. You can see the draft here.
The new draft version will be LEED version 3, and will be the next step in the LEED program. Rather than another incremental improvement in the existing LEED, the new version promises to take new steps in order to advance and improve upon the already successful program. LEED version 3 is intended to ” strike the optimal balance between market uptake and technical advancement.” The building industry has already begun moving in a new direction, and the pressure that LEED has applied has certainly been a factor in that. For instance, many more building products incorporate recycled materials (and their manufacturers broadly advertise that fact as well). In some instances, that is used to obtain points in the LEED rating system. But whether a building is registered with LEED or not, the benefit of those improved products applies to all buildings across the board.
An outline of the major changes being incorporated in the new system was provided in advance by USGBC and includes four major points:
Alignment of Prerequisites and Credits
There are now many different flavors of LEED, with special rating systems for schools, hospitals, and other niches in addition to the basic LEED-NC for new construction. The credits for different specialties are now coordinated and unified. This makes it easier for building designers and does not require separate analysis of the building depending on its particular sub-specialty.
Predictable Development Cycle
For many years, building codes have been regularly reviewed, updated, and re-issued in order to continue to advance the industry and to respond to best practices in construction as well as accommodating new advances in building technology. Architects and builders are accustomed to the three year cycle for building codes that has been in place for many years. And, while LEED is not a building code, it too needs to be updated and improved on a regular basis. This revision should begin a regular schedule of evaluation and improvement, so that LEED continues to represent leadership in green buildings.
Transparent Weighting of Credits
Different credits are now going to be given different points “so that a given credit’s point value more accurately reflects its potential to either mitigate the negative or promote positive environmental impacts of a building.” This should help offset the criticism that “a bike rack is worth as much as the whole building mechanical system.” The truth of the matter is not as simple as that, but the new system should make that less of an issue, and help improve the overall rating of buildings and make it more meaningful.
One point that many green builders have stressed is that different regions have different needs as far as the building performance. LEED recognizes the use of regional materials, but has not given different weight to credits based on regional needs and priorities. Water use reduction is far more crucial in other parts of the country than they are in the upper midwest, where I work. The new system will give more credit for those measures that are most beneficial to their regions, and adopt less of a one-size-fits-all mentality.
There will still be generalizations within the LEED system. Green building is far more than a single checklist, but LEED has proven to be a powerful tool for promoting green building. Once the draft version is out and discussion is underway, we will aim to bring you more information about the new version of LEED.
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