Controversial LEED v4 Officially Adopted By USGBC Members

The next version of LEED, currently referred to as “LEED v4,” has been adopted by the members of the United States Green Building Council. It only took three years, six public comment periods and a whole lot of controversy, but the new standard was approved by 86% of the voting body.

The new version of LEED adds additional requirements for measurement and verification of building performance. But that isn’t the source of the majority of the controversy. No, the uproar over the new version of LEED comes from representatives of large chemical manufacturers and lumber interests. It is worth noting that these new credits are optional, and not required for LEED certification.

Here is what Tristan Roberts of LEEDUser reported:

Despite the strong ballot results, all is not clear sailing for LEED. Many of those ballot comments focused on the Materials and Resources (MR) section of LEED v4, which even supporters of LEED regard as a tangled web of options, some of which aren’t well defined, and whose credits for disclosure and optimization of product ingredients have made LEED a focus of attack by the chemical industry, allying it with timber interests against LEED.

On the usability issue, USGBC points to the 100 LEED projects that are beta-testing LEED v4 as evidence that it can be done. Commissioning seemed like a foreign concept 10 years ago, but LEED pioneers will again help make new LEED concepts more routine. LEEDuser heard support for that idea from Z Smith, director of sustainability and building performance at Eskew+Dumez+Ripple. He told LEEDuser, “As Mark Twain said of the music of Wagner, ‘It’s not as bad as it sounds.’” (Smith followed up to clarify that Twain was quoting journalist Edgar Wilson Nye in his autobiography.) The integrated nature of the new MR section makes it easier to document, Smith told LEEDuser.

The chemical industry may be a tougher sell. The Vinyl Institute, which represents North American manufacturers of PVC resin, said in an email to LEEDuser, “LEED v4’s material resource section will fail to live up to its goal and can actually lead architects and designers to make bad decisions in order to secure credits so they can market their buildings.” Asked to elaborate, Allen Blakey, vice president of industry and government affairs, told LEEDuser that “The disclosure and optimization credit is a poor attempt to rush the future” and should be scrapped.


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