NeoCon Green Pages: Straight from the Source: What's happening to LEED
Penny Bonda sat down with the USGBC's Doug Gatlin to get you answers
Penny Bonda -- Interior Design, 6/9/2008 12:00:00 AM
The LEED Green Building Rating System is not now, nor has it ever been, a static document. Although it has become the de facto standard defining the design, construction and maintenance of high performance buildings and interior spaces, global realities as well as technical and process innovations demand constant improvements. Interior Design's eco-editor Penny Bonda sat down with Doug Gatlin, USGBC's Vice President of Market Development, to discuss current initiatives.
Interior Design: USGBC has been working on refinements to LEED. How would you summarize the efforts?
Doug Gatlin: I'd characterize it as a two-prong approach. There are technical changes that will contribute to what we used to call Version 3, now more appropriately called LEED 2009. We are also implementing process changes that will define the rollout of our portfolio program.
Interior Design: What are the most significant initiatives on the technical side?
Doug Gatlin: We've made an effort to better align LEED with the true environmental impact of buildings so that when a project achieves LEED certification we're certain that the improvements made and the systems designed are doing everything possible to reduce the environmental footprint of the building. That's why we're proposing credit weightings to try and align the credit distribution to the underlying environmental impacts as much as possible. We've identified carbon emissions and climate change as vital environmental issues and we want to make sure that the credits are proportionally weighted to equate to the impact that carbon has.
Interior Design: Does this mean that some credits will be worth more available points than others?
Doug Gatlin: That's how it's designed right now. Some credits that have multiple points right now will lose some points and others will gain and the changes will rebalance LEED. Think of every credit as a little wedge in a pie graph; some of the wedges will get larger, some smaller and within each wedge there may be a section based on environmental categories - not the LEED categories but the environmental drivers like climate change, habitat loss, and toxicity build up. The credit categories won't change and none of the credits are going to disappear. Instead there is a second group of categories that is being overlaid with the credits and is driving the weightings work.
Interior Design: What other refinements are you considering?
Doug Gatlin: Credit alignment is a big issue. It's an attempt to bring consistency and simplification to credit intents, requirements, and submittal documentation among all the rating systems and vertical markets. It will help us create a "one LEED" system with a consistent framework for every facet of the building–life cycle. Thermal comfort monitoring and control is a good example. Currently the rating systems use different versions of ASHRAE 62; the alignment will bring them all up to the same version of the same standard.
Interior Design: Are you making progress in defining materials and processes according to life cycle?
Doug Gatlin: As part of our carbon offsets program, which we hope to role out next year, we've developed a tool for assessing the carbon footprint of a building based on the design and construction of four metrics: energy systems, water consumption, location and transit, and the embodied energy of materials. Over a third of all LEED points are associated with strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions of buildings. This tool will help project teams determine how they've reduced their carbon footprint by employing strategies in all four areas.
Interior Design: What process refinements are you developing?
Doug Gatlin: We've been on a mission since Greenbuild 2006 to dramatically increase scale and capacity for LEED certification. This involves front-end efforts to stimulate demand through marketing, outreach through our education programs, and changes to our back-end processes in order to accommodate a much larger volume. We're planning to shift certification to GBCI and increase capacity by using a broader pool of third party reviewers. We will also move to a model that is based on an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard.
Interior Design: Have you made progress in defining the "bookshelf"?
Doug Gatlin: Actually, we're moving away from that nomenclature but the concept is still in play. As design teams register their projects they will input the project characteristics and receive a set of applicable prerequisites and credits. The process is coming together right now - the launch of a whole new certification utility to replace the current LEED Online that will have updated functionality, the selector tool, and a path for volume certification.
Interior Design:What is the timetable for these refinements?
Doug Gatlin: January 2009. We have a lot on our plate!