Sustainable Buildings: Understanding LEED v4 New Requirements
The sustainable building sector is undergoing a major transformation, and as the new version of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED® v4) standard, this trend tends particularly towards the transparency of building materials.
Shaping the industry since 2000, the LEED standard has become increasingly advantageous.In this regard, what are the instigators of this trend, and what changes have been made to this important sustainable building standard?
The Background of LEED® v4
Launched in the United States by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2000, the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) introduced LEED® into the country in 2002. The purpose of this standard is to encourage the adoption of best practices in green construction.
Even today, in addition to contributing to healthier and more efficient buildings, it sets standards for the design, construction, renovation, and operation of sustainable buildings. In summary, LEED® v4 reflects the new reality of a changing world.
How LEED® v4 Works
Specifically pertaining to LEED® v4 projects, the LEED® certification and the related classification are awarded using a credit scoring system based on the consideration of several issues related to sustainable development.
The level of recognition depends on the nature of the efforts made by the project stakeholders. Thus, according to the number of credits obtained, a classification such as “Certified”, “Silver”, “Gold” or “Platinum” is awarded. The higher the level, the more important the sustainable nature of the building.
Changes in Material-Specific Criteria
Product and material requirements are among the major changes. Selecting materials based on a single attribute (local, recycled or VOC-free) isn’t enough anymore. They must now be evaluated in such a way as to integrate their global environmental impact.
In other words, obtaining credits becomes possible when the products or materials meet specific requirements that can be part of an ecodesign and accountability approach from the manufacturer, which are at the basis of the Building Disclosure and Optimization Section.
Here are some highlights of these changes, from the official LEED® v4 documents published by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Building Disclosure and Optimization – Transparent Declarations
Option 1 - Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) (1 Point)
Use at least 20 different permanently installed products sourced from at least five different manufacturers that meet one of the disclosure criteria below.
1.1: Products with a publicly available, critically reviewed life-cycle assessment conforming to ISO 14044 that have at least a cradle to gate scope are valued as one quarter (1/4) of a product for the purposes of credit achievement calculation.
1.2: Environmental Product Declarations which conform to ISO 14025, 14040, 14044, and EN 15804 or ISO 21930 and have at least a cradle to gate scope.
- Industry-wide (generic) EPD—Products with third-party certification (Type III), including external verification, in which the manufacturer is explicitly recognized as a participant by the program operator are valued as one half (1/2) of a product for purposes of credit achievement calculation.
- Product-specific Type III EPD—Products with third-party certification (Type III), including external verification in which the manufacturer is explicitly recognized as the participant by the program operator are valued as one whole product for purposes of credit achievement calculation.
1.3: USGBC approved program—Products that comply with other USGBC approved environmental product declaration frameworks.
Option 2 - Multi-Attribute Optimization (1 Point)
Use products that comply with one of the criteria below for 50%, by cost, of the total value of permanently installed products in the project. Products will be valued as below.
2.1: Third party certified products that demonstrate impact reduction below industry average in at least three of the following categories are valued at 100% of their cost for credit achievement calculations.
- Global warming potential (greenhouse gases), in CO2e;
- Depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer, in kg CFC-11
- Acidification of land and water sources, in moles H+ or kg SO2
- Eutrophication, in kg nitrogen or kg phosphate
- Formation of tropospheric ozone, in kg NOx, kg O3 eq, or kg ethene
- Depletion of nonrenewable energy resources, in MJ
For credit achievement calculation, products sourced (extracted, manufactured, purchased) within 100 miles (160 km) of the project site are valued at 200% of their base contributing cost.
Structure and enclosure materials may not constitute more than 30% of the value of compliant building products. Projects with significant amounts of structural and enclosure materials may exceed the 30% limit by calculating an alternative structure and enclosure limit (See Calculations under Further Explanation).
2.2: USGBC approved program—Products that comply with other USGBC approved multi-attribute frameworks.
Building Disclosure and Optimization – Material Ingredients
Option 1 - Material Ingredient Reporting (1 Point)
Use at least 20 different permanently installed products from at least five different manufacturers that use any of the following programs to demonstrate the chemical inventory of the product to at least 0.1% (1,000 ppm).
- Health Product Declaration. The end use product has a published, complete Health Product Declaration with full disclosure of known hazards in compliance with the Health Product Declaration open Standard.
- Manufacturer Inventory. The manufacturer has published complete content inventory for the product following these guidelines.
- A publicly available inventory of all ingredients identified by name and Chemical Abstract Service Registration Number (CASRN) and/or European Community Number (EC Number)
- Materials defined as trade secret or intellectual property may withhold the name and/or CASRN/EC Number but must disclose role, amount and hazard screen using GreenScreen benchmark, as defined in GreenScreen v1.2.
- Cradle to Cradle. The end use product has been certified at the Cradle to Cradle v2 Basic level or Cradle to Cradle v3 Bronze level.
- USGBC approved program. Other USGBC approved programs meeting the material ingredient reporting criteria.
Option 2 - Material Ingredient Optimization (1 Point)
Use products that document their material ingredient optimization using the paths below for at least 25%, by cost, of the total value of permanently installed products in the project.
- GreenScreen v1.2 Benchmark. Products that have fully inventoried chemical ingredients to 100 ppm that have no Benchmark 1 hazards.
- If any ingredients are assessed with the GreenScreen List Translator, value these products at 100% of cost.
- If all ingredients are have undergone a full GreenScreen Assessment, value these products at 150% of cost.
- Cradle to Cradle Certified. End use products are certified Cradle to Cradle. Products will be valued as follows:
- Cradle to Cradle v2 Gold: 100% of cost
- Cradle to Cradle v2 Platinum: 150% of cost
- Cradle to Cradle v3 Silver: 100% of cost
- Cradle to Cradle v3 Gold or Platinum: 150% of cost
International Alternative Compliance Path—REACH Optimization. End use products and materials have fully inventoried chemical ingredients to 100 ppm and assess each substance against the Authorization list—Annex XIV, the Restriction list—Annex XVII and the SVHC candidate list, (the version in effect in June 2013), proving that no such substance is included in the product. If the product contains no ingredients listed on the REACH Authorization, Restriction, and Candidate list, value at 100% of cost.
USGBC approved program. Products that comply with USGBC approved building product optimization criteria.
Option 3 - Product Manufacturer Supply Chain Optimization (1 Point)
Use building products for at least 25%, by cost, of the total value of permanently installed products in the project that:
- Are sourced from product manufacturers who engage in validated and robust safety, health, hazard, and risk programs which at a minimum document at least 99% (by weight) of the ingredients used to make the building product or building material
- Are sourced from product manufacturers with independent third party verification of their supply chain that at a minimum verifies:
- Processes are in place to communicate and transparently prioritize chemical ingredients along the supply chain according to available hazard, exposure and use information to identify those that require more detailed evaluation
- Processes are in place to identify, document, and communicate information on health, safety and environmental characteristics of chemical ingredients
- Processes are in place to implement measures to manage the health, safety and environmental hazard and risk of chemical ingredients
- Processes are in place to optimize health, safety and environmental impacts when designing and improving chemical ingredients
- Processes are in place to communicate, receive and evaluate chemical ingredient safety and stewardship information along the supply chain
- Safety and stewardship information about the chemical ingredients is publicly available from all points along the supply chain.
Products meeting Option 3 criteria are valued at 100% of their cost for the purposes of credit achievement calculation.