LEED v4 – a LEED Consultant’s perspective

Chris Mundell

iStock_000009579244Small_blogAlthough LEED v4 passed with an overwhelming vote of approval, many members still expressed some concerns with this new version. I was one of those who voted yes, but I know of others who voted no.  Because I am working on two projects that are part of the LEED v4 Beta Program, I see what will be required and how different this version will be from the current v2009 program. Also, one of the projects uses LEED NC while the other follows LEED CI, which gives me a chance to compare different rating systems within v4. Both projects are still under construction so I haven’t had a chance to submit for review and see how my documentation will work with the new requirements. Here’s a snapshot of what I, as a LEED consultant, see as the changes to the Materials and Resources category.

Seeking documentation for multi-attributes instead of single attributes will affect teams’ selection of building materials and products for their projects. I do think that shifting from single to multi-attributes was an important step to truly look at the whole life cycle of materials. In the past everyone has been so focused on recycled content or regional materials that they have missed some other important aspects that should be also addressed, such as chemicals of concern and material disposal/reuse. The issue now, however, is the time and knowledge required by teams to evaluate all aspects of products and the need to weigh which one is best for their project. For example, on my LEED CI v4 beta project, we looked closely at avoiding chemicals of concern for the interior finishes. To achieve our goal of eliminating chemicals of concern, we had to select some materials that were not locally extracted or manufactured.

The next concern is how to pull together documentation for the various LEED credits. I have started filling in the new Materials spreadsheet created by USGBC. My LEED CI project spreadsheet has eight tabs of information or required documentation. In each tab is a credit with the various options to achieve points. I noticed that in LEEDNC, the materials credit numbers do not align with LEED CI. Building Product Disclosure and Optimization are MR credits 2-4 in NC v4 but are MR credits 3-5 in CI v4.  Manufacturers will have to be clear on which rating system and credits their products can contribute for points.

FoodLabels_iStock_000019705702Small_blog2Lastly, another big issue is addressing documentation support for the Materials Ingredients credit such as Health Product Declaration (HPD), Declare, Cradle to Cradle, Green Screen, and REACH. Right now many of the large architecture firms are supporting HPD more than the other options. Each firm is creating a letter to manufacturers asking them to provide an HPD for each of their products. Some firms are even asserting that if a manufacturer does not have an HPD, they will not be allowed in the office library or selected on future projects. It will be very interesting to see if this move by the architecture firms will work over the next couple months.

In the end, even with the potential road bumps ahead, I still think LEED v4 will help transform the way all of us look at materials and products. This will in return help us provide a healthier and more sustainable environment, which is still a critical need for the world in which we live, work, and play.

Chris Mundell is HKS’ Vice President and Sustainable Design Coordinator. In his 19-year career, Chris has developed and managed many architectural projects located around the country. For the past five years, he has promoted HKS’s sustainability initiatives through education and implementation. He currently is responsible for directing project design teams in regard to sustainable strategies, managing and administering project specific LEED documentation, and researching new and upcoming sustainable products and technologies. 

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