Revisions to the USGBC’s LEED rating system, scheduled for adoption later in 2012, will include updates in the Materials & Resources (MR) credit category that will place greater emphasis on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for building products.

“LCA is a powerful analytical technique used to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life, from extraction, manufacture, use, reuse, and disposal,” says Brendan Owens, USGBC’s vice president of LEED Technical Development. “While LCA has limitations, it does a number of things very well and it is one of the best ways to conduct trade-off analysis to guide decisions about the specification of products.”

New credits within the MR category expected in LEED 2012 include credit for responsible sourcing of materials, as well as for products evaluated for their impact on human health. Another new credit will reward the use of products manufactured by companies that provide Environmental Product Declarations: highly transparent and verified reports on a product’s ingredients, manufacturing processes, and other relevant attributes that substantiate suitable selection criteria.

“As a whole, it’s critical we move toward understanding the impacts our building materials have relative to extraction, manufacturing, use, and disposal over a product’s lifetime,” Owens says. “The goals for LEED are achieved when we reward building designers and operators who specify the best performing products from an environmental impact standpoint.”