In part two, we examined the United States Green Building Council's LEED green building rating system's application and operation. In part one, we discussed the history and genesis of the program. This time, we'll conclude our examination of LEED with a look at the program's impact on the design and construction industry: past, present and future.

As mentioned at the tail end of part two, the original concept for LEED was a three-year cycle whereby every third year-starting with the millennium year 2000-a new version of LEED would be released. Thus, under this original plan, 2003 should have seen the release of LEED v.3.0 but it didn't happen. For various reasons, not least of which is the programs unexpected exponential growth and expansion, this three-year plan was scraped in favor of the incremental release of modified versions (i.e. v.2.1, v.2.2). Presently, LEED v.2.2 is underway with the possibility of many substantial changes to its predecessor v.2.1. Release of v.3.0 is expected sometime in 2005 but a specific date has yet to be determined.

From the perspective of the trade contracting industry, there is real concern over LEED being used and recognized as the gold standard for environmentally sustainable design and construction. This concern may very well play a significant role in the future evolution of the LEED program. Many trade associations highlight and lament the fact that they were never asked to be a part of the process that created LEED in the first place and were, in fact, originally excluded from membership in the USGBC. The USGBC has created a task group to address this important issue and the concerns of the trade contracting industry and associations. The outcome will directly affect the walls and ceilings industry. A decision is expected early in 2004.

An early complaint by applicants pursuing LEED certification was the application process itself-it created a mountain of paperwork to satisfy the documentation requirements. The USGBC is working to streamline the application process. One way they are doing so is by the use of "letter templates." Based on a Microsoft Excel Workbook format, there have been some minor and major technical glitches that have yet to be ironed out. CD-ROMs are also being employed to reduce the amount of paper generated but even so, the workload to complete the application remains the same.

More promising is the USGBC's development of software to accept and process applications online. In fact, a private person and a corporate entity have already beaten the USGBC to the punch by developing their own Web-based LEED application software.

K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid)

There is a general consensus among those familiar with the LEED rating system that, at the macro level, it should be kept as simple as possible. Paradoxically, these very same end-users of the LEED system advocate more complex and technical solutions, at the micro level, when specific aspects of LEED require resolution. Currently, there are more than 5,000 LEED accredited professionals. The USGBC has resolved to "raise the bar" for accreditation starting with a new and tougher accreditation exam to be implemented early this year. As well, there will most likely be a requirement for continuing education units to maintain an individual's accreditation status. However, those individuals who achieved accreditation under the old exam will be "grand-fathered" into the new test standard. Along with revisions to the accreditation exam, LEED workshops are to be revised to include an advanced training program, which was recently pilot-tested. 2003, workshops were offered at both an introductory and intermediate level. "Modules," for special interest areas, were also offered.

E Unum Pluribus (from one many)

LEED has become international in scope with several countries customizing LEED to adapt it to their own needs and criteria. The Canadian Green Building Council has licensed LEED for use in Canada and China has already registered 1,000 projects. A project in India was the first to achieve the highest LEED rating possible under v.2.0/v.2.1-platinum status.

Recognizing that the original LEED guideline was established for commercial construction projects, "Application Guides" are in development to assist applicants for the wide variety of building types being certified under LEED. In 2000, the USGBC formed the Technical & Scientific Advisory Committee. This committee was tasked with resolving conflicts between opposing sides relevant to LEED credits and certification. The TSAC developed a detailed, nine-step process to do so. The committee also created their own task groups, such as the PVC and the HCFC task group(s) to resolve conflicts between manufacturers and environmental groups. The former concerning the use of PVC for piping and the latter concerning the use of hydrochlouroflourocarbons as a refrigerant.

To the USGBC, the LEED rating system is collectively referred to as LEED Products. Back in the mid-90s, the pioneers of LEED would never have guessed that each week, one or two projects are LEED certified. As mentioned, the LEED rating system was intended for new commercial construction and major renovation. Known as LEED-New Construction, it is presently the only active LEED program-but that is about to change. To date, more than 1,000 projects have been registered under LEED-NC (v.1.0, v.2.0 and v.2.1) and the USGBC budget for LEED programs is nearly at the $10 million mark. So successful has the LEED program been the USGBC has made LEED an official registered trademark of the USGBC.

Several pilot projects and programs are underway in various stages of development. Under LEED-Existing Buildings, two noteworthy projects have already been certified: The National Geographic Society, in Washington, and the headquarters of the California EPA, in Sacramento. LEED-Commercial Interiors has more than 50 pilot project participants. Quite possibly, for us in the walls and ceilings industry, LEED-CI will be the most relevant LEED program.

"Pre-certification" is a new feature to be offered as an option for another pilot program recently unveiled: LEED-Core and Shell. Pre-certification will allow speculative developers to market LEED status to future tenants before a commercial building is completed and/or occupied. To date, this pilot program has 37 applicants. Though many years in development, LEED-Homes is slated for pilot projects in 2005 and full launch in 2006. The Natural Resources Defense Council one of the earliest and most vocal proponents of environmental responsibility for the built environment, entered into a joint-venture partnership with the Congress for a New Urbanism for the purpose of establishing LEED-Neighborhood Developments. Of all the LEED program initiatives, LEED-NH is in the earliest stages of development.

The acronym "LEED" is well suited for the green building rating system that is literally changing the way we build and is truly "leading the way." It has brought order where there was none and it has been the guiding light in the brave new world of environmentally sustainable/responsible design and construction. The future for LEED is limitless and the future is now.