LEED v4 Brings the Change We Want to See in the Green World


Andy Warhol said, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”  Isn’t that so true? Take the green building environment. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) could have just sat back and let LEED v3 remain the standard. Or USGBC could have given up when the introduction of LEED v4 was delayed because of it required six public comments before there was agreement among professional community members.

Instead, USGBC decided to forge ahead, not look back, and the result is the formal introduction of LEED v4 at Greenbuild 2013 to be held in Philadelphia. The update was necessary because some things have changed. The population continued growing. Non-renewable resources continued disappearing. The climate turned warmer and more treacherous, judging by the intensity of storms ravaging cities and towns around the world. People cannot control the climate, but they can certainly change the environment in which they live to take advantage of new technology for building performance, integrated design principles based on whole-building concepts, stronger energy performance standards, and much more.

In other words, LEED v4 is about changing things yourself by stepping back and considering a holistic approach to buildings from the design phase to occupancy. The new standards promote big-picture approaches, which makes sense. Realistically, what is the point of monitoring half of a building’s energy usage? Okay, maybe that is a little far-fetched, but version 4 of LEED does add more rigor to the rating system. For example, there is a prerequisite requiring whole-building water and energy metering, and the data will have to be shared with USGBC before the rating system is implemented. There is no more skirting minimum requirements by failing to report data if a LEED rating is desired.

That said, to encourage people to take action, LEED v4 also adds some new credits. You can now earn credits for using products that have labeling and ingredient reporting by recognized certification programs like Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard or the Environmental Product Declarations organization. The Materials and Resources section was significantly upgraded. LEED v.4 has a heavier focus on building Life Cycle Assessment, transparency, and universality because we are all in this together.

Eighty-six percent of votes approved the new version of LEED v4, which shows strong support for this top-quality rating system. Is it perfect? Heck no, but it purposely sets the green bar high because it needs to be set high. There are less rigorous rating programs that concentrate more on awarding ratings than on determining if the rating is really justified. The professionals who use LEED v4 are serious about making a true difference in the environment. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said.”

You don’t have to go it alone. We are here to help. Green Building Research Institute (GBRI) has developed the course titled Bigger and Better: The New LEED v4. The course walks professionals through the highlights of the LEED v4 rating system, identifying the changes compared to version 3.0 as a frame of reference. Students get a bonus too. This course also serves as a preview of the GBRI LEED v4 project management series, which will walk you through a credit-by-credit analysis of LEED v4 in the context of a project. We are talking action…change…making a difference. Our guess is that Andy Warhol and Benjamin Franklin would both have this to say about LEED v4: Well done!

Do you agree that an integrative, whole-building approach to sustainability makes the most sense?  Comments?

  • Eric Truelove  January 13, 2014 at 10:54 am

    The rubber meets the road when we actually apply the system to new construction. I have always loved the science behind LEED, but have despaired endlessly over the interface that went from okay (LEED V2.2) to a rolling train wreck (LEED V3.0). Where my clients used to routinely ask for LEED, I now have them turn away. If LEED V4 is our salvation, let’s release it now!

  • RSanders  January 13, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    “Do you agree that an integrative, whole-building approach to sustainability makes the most sense?” Yes!
    …and it is not limited just to an “approach to sustainability” – it is the way to ensure life-cycle-based decisions are made early – and often.

    Of course, we must regain any credibility lost due to public backlash against disproved claims such as “The climate turned warmer…” (it has actually plateaued for 15 years, and is now cooling) and “more treacherous, judging by the intensity of storms ravaging cities and towns around the world.” (Lowest incidence of U.S. hurricanes in decades; lower incidence of storm damage in years until the winter ice storms; greater buildup of polar ice; ice caps getting thicker; polar bears at alarming population growth in all but a few populations, etc…).

    The best, more realistic statement is “People cannot control the climate,…” exactly. The sun does, apparently at orders-of-magnitude greater affect than any miniscule temporary change by any or all man-made causes put together.
    So let us continue to work diligently to ensure the public understands this clearly:
    Regardless of mankind’s complete inability to do anything whatsoever to affect the climate (or overall global temperatures), the economic and environmental benefits of sustainable design are critically important to our future development and responsible use of natural resources.

    That is, the motivations for sustainable design are NOT sustainably driven by any past fraudulent claims of “man-caused climate change” leading to international tyranny and government ownership or regulation of the energy markets.

    Sustainable, “sustainable” development is and should be driven by factual, efficient, renewable resource encouraging and economically justifiable reasons that benefit mankind and the environment in many ways, including more efficient use of the non-renewable resources of the planet, to save the building owner money, and to give occupants an improved daily experience in the built environment.

  • Jessica Kubena  January 21, 2014 at 10:03 am

    GBRI is having a webinar titled Bigger and Better: The New LEED v4.0 on January 22nd at 1pm ET for only $19.99. Click here to register:


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