In parts one through three, we looked at what’s been going on with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED “green” building rating/certification program. This time, we’ll conclude this series–and the year–with a look at some other significant goings-on in the world of LEED.

In parts one through three, we looked at what’s been going on with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED “green” building rating/certification program.

The certification program is literally changing the way America and the world builds. This time, we’ll conclude this series–and the year–with a look at some other significant goings-on in the world of LEED.

As stated previously, LEED-NC (New Construction & Major Renovation) version 2.2 was released in November 2005. As such, the deadline for registering under its predecessor: LEED-NC v2.1 was December 31, 2005. With the implementation of LEED v2.2 that November, approximately 2,500 to 3,000 projects registered under LEED v2.1 at the end of 2005. As it stood at the time, projects registered under either LEED-NC v2.0 and/or v2.1 were free to upgrade to v2.2, but it was an “all-or-nothing” proposition. Either a project had to be submitted under v2.0/2.1 or v2.2–no combination was allowed.

Exceptions Taken

Due to complaints, the USGBC modified its policy. For projects registered under LEED-NC v2.0/2.1, certain exceptions were allowed. This entailed submittal for certification for individual credit using v2.2 requirements. These exceptions applied to “inter-related” groups of credits. Most affected were prerequisites and credits concerning Ventilation, IAQ (indoor air quality), renewable energy, green power, and air quality monitoring.

LEED committees and end-users concluded that it would be in the best interests of all to allow projects registered under v2.0/2.1 to take advantage of v2.2’s improved compliance in either part or whole. One reason for this rethinking was updated reference standards in certain prerequisites. Projects designed using older reference standards would not be able to meet the new prerequisites under v2.2, rendering them incapable of upgrading. For example, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration & Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 90.1 & 62.1–for Energy Performance and IAQ respectively–would be so affected if not for the change.

LEED-NC v2.2 credit requirements are, in general, better defined and more straightforward than its earlier versions. Applicants must decide whether to upgrade a specific credit or a credit group thus, a project-by-project analysis is required. Allowing a specific credit and/or credit group to be upgraded makes the decision whether or not to upgrade much easier. In some cases, such as the LEED-NC v2.2 credit for rapidly renewable materials, upgrading makes sense since it has a lower threshold than v2.0/2.1, therefore a point is easily gained. In other instances such as recycled content, the v2.2 threshold is higher, making upgrading less desirable.

In February 2006, a group of three prominent organizations: the USGBC, ASHRAE and the Illuminating Engineers Society of North America (IESNA) announced their co-sponsorship of Standard 189P: Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.

Meant to be a minimum standard for green building, the intention of the group was to have it in place by early 2007. Using ASHRAE’s ANSI-accredited process, the group’s self-appointed task was to develop the new standard for possible inclusion in building codes, much like ASHRAE 90.1 is used for defining the standard for energy performance.

Mixed Blessing

Standard 189P is intended to be a prerequisite under LEED and will be modeled after LEED-NC’s prescriptive measures for the five major credit/point areas of LEED: Sustainable Sites (SS), Water Efficiency (WE), Energy & Atmosphere (EA), Materials & Resources (MR), and Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ).

The committee developing the standard stated: “This standard will establish a baseline for high-performance green building.” This “raising of the bar” will allow builders to pursue higher LEED certification levels than the lowest level: “Certified” (formerly Bronze). However, critics point to the fact that if Standard 189P is incorporated into building codes, owners/developers may lose their motivation for pursuing the LEED Certified level of certification. Why? Because Standard 189P would in-and-of-itself be comparable with the LEED Certified level requirements.

When the USGBC came to realize that the flagship LEED-NC program was not applicable to most speculative office, retail and mixed-use development, they sought to fill this vacuum. Recognizing that different players control a building’s core & shell and interior fit-out (tenant work), they developed two independent yet inter-dependent programs which together, approximate LEED-NC, LEED-CS (Core & Shell) and LEED-CI (Commercial Interiors).

In late 2003, the LEED-CS pilot program began accepting applicants. By April 2005, the USGBC began awarding pre-certification under the LEED-CS pilot program. In June 2004, Prosper Center in Beijing, China, became the first project to receive pre-certification under the LEED-CS pilot program. Another project in China – Hangzhou’s Xihu Tiand Development Project (Phase 2) – garnered the first coveted LEED-CS Platinum pre-certification in March 2005.

Once a pre-certified LEED-CS building is completed it becomes eligible for certification. This is necessary since many of the green attributes of a building cannot be verified until the building construction process is near completion. For a developer, this tail-end blessing as a verifiable green building reduces the curb appeal and marketing value of their building. With pre-certification, the green marketing value of a development project is recognized from the get-go and that’s a big advantage to a developer.

If You Build It, LEED-CS Will Come

According to the USGBC: “If you build the building that you have proposed and document the measures taken, you will be granted a LEED-CS certification at this level.” However, LEED-CS is meant to apply to new commercial and residential buildings where the owner controls the core & shell portion, but not the interior elements. In this regard, LEED-CS reflects the typical speculative developer’s responsibilities including site selection, structure, building envelope and building systems.

Some aspects of tenant fit-out are covered under the LEED-CS program such as reducing operational energy use, optimization of daylight and views, and preventing contamination from indoor pollutants.

Well, that’s the skinny on the new world of LEED as it stands in the middle of the first decade of the new century. I’ll report on new developments in a future LEED Update. Keep in mind what I said in November 2005: LEED is the scoreboard; it’s not the game. I’ll keep track of both.