Next Update of LEED Green Building Program Now Open for First Public Comment 
November 22, 2010

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) opened the public comments period for its proposed update to the LEED green building rating system recently—and the goal is to get as much feedback as possible and from a variety of sources including pilot testing. The comment period closes on December 31, 2010.

“Continuous improvement of LEED is in the DNA of USGBC and its regular evolution is necessary to continue to move market transformation forward,” says Scot Horst, senior vice president of LEED, USGBC.  “As green building expertise advances and practice evolves, so does LEED, providing innovative solutions to the challenges and opportunities in the building industry. LEED continues to be the catalyst for immediate and measureable improvement.” 

The USGBC held a webinar recently to offer further details of the program. In the webinar Horst explained that the draft of LEED that is open for public comment places increased emphasis on integrated process and building performance, as well as continuous improvement. 

“LEED buildings are not necessarily sustainable buildings,” he said. “We want to make them more sustainable so ultimately they are giving more than they take, rather than having a net negative environmental impact.”
But Horst also clarified that the intent is not to “tell project teams how to do things” but rather “push toward absolute benchmarks.”

Continually Improving the Program
USGBC officials also want to revise the program to make it more applicable for some sectors—such as data centers.

“The metrics to asses a data center is different than how you would asses an office building,” said Horst.
He also addressed how LEED compares to the various building codes.

“We will reconsider the gap between minimum building codes and minimum LEED standards. If we stretch that gap too far we make it difficult … If we keep it too close then we don’t push market transformation,” he said.

The gap between building codes and LEED requirements was but one concern raised when LEED came under fire in October as the defendant of a class-action lawsuit. Court documents stated, "USGBC's LEED rating system is supplanting building codes in many jurisdictions, undermining marketplace competition and obscuring other building standards that are proven-unlike LEED-to reduce energy use and carbon emissions …"

Additional Vehicles to Gain Feedback
Horst also acknowledged that “there is a perception that past public comments are going through the motions.”
“We have an extended public comment that is much longer than we would have done previously,” he added. “We want to make sure we can get as much of the market intelligence as we can.”

To further this goal, the USGBC will hold a stakeholder forum as well as a moderated online forum that will be entered into public comment.

“We want to make sure we are gleaning from as many sources possible to make sure they are as broadly based as possible,” he says.

USGBC also plans to engage in pilot testing that will be entered into the public comment as well.

Addressing “Tough Times”
While the next update is scheduled for late-2012, Horst told webinar attendees that “the USGBC is definitely considering that the building industry is undergoing a difficult time right now.”

“We realize the urgency of addressing market transformation and environmental needs,” says Horst.

However, he went on to say, “If economic recovery does not come into being we won’t be launching a system that the market isn’t ready for.”

Horst added that throughout the comment process USGBC will be monitoring market conditions, and he advised those who wish to make comments that this round of comments won’t focus on point allocations.

“The point categories will come in the next round of comments next year,” he says.

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