Proposed changes to the USGBC’s LEED green building rating system are now open for the first round of public comments. Comments will be accepted until Dec. 31.

The proposed changes build upon LEED v3, launched in April 2009, and the USGBC predicts that these changes will go into effect in 2012. “We started this process early to make sure we are able to incorporate as much user feedback as possible,” says Brendan Owens, USGBC vice president of LEED technical development. However, Owens notes, the USGBC also will be monitoring the economy and will factor market conditions into the final decision as to when these changes will be officially launched. “We are trying to position the LEED rating system for a launch at what we hope is a significant turnaround point for the building industry. If the economic recovery that we are watching for and hoping for does not come to be, we are not going to launch a rating system into a market that’s not ready for it.”

The changes, available online at usgbc.org, aim to continue developments in LEED 2009 to align technical content and credit language across all rating systems and drive toward credits that have performance-based metrics.
All changes have been posted without assigned credit allocations. Point values for each credit will be addressed in a second public comment period in 2011.

Included in the changes are new compliance paths that address new markets and project types: data centers; hospitality; warehouse and distribution centers; existing buildings; operations and maintenance (EB:O&M) for schools; and EB:O&M for retail. In addition, two new credit categories—integrated process and performance—have been added to the existing LEED categories.

In proposing a performance category, the USGBC seeks “to highlight the importance of ongoing operational performance in LEED projects,” Owens says. “The disconnect between the typical project delivery on a new construction project and the operation and maintenance of the building is systemic throughout the building industry. We want to highlight that disconnect and create a link between the design and construction processes that are being put in place and highlight those credits that have benefits on the operations and maintenance side of the cycle.” Under this umbrella, the USGBC is including credits that address metering, commissioning, and verification. Some credits that previously addressed these characteristics under alternative categories have been reassigned to the new performance category.

In opening up the changes for the first round of public comment, the USGBC is hoping for enhanced user engagement. Online comments will be accepted until Dec. 31; a second public comment period will be held from July 1 to Aug. 15, 2011, and final ballots are projected to take place in Aug. 2012. In addition, the USGBC has created a public comment forum via LEEDuser for LEED stakeholders in order to better understand user feedback. A moderated online forum is available and comments received here will be entered into the public record. The USGBC also has loaded all of the new and revised credits into the LEED pilot credit library for testing. This pilot feedback will be used in conjunction with the public comments to inform the rating system development. Finally, webcasts examining proposed changes in each of the LEED categories will be held every Tuesday and Thursday from Nov. 30 through Dec. 16, from 1:30 pm to 2:30 p.m. EST. The schedule is as follows:

Nov. 30: Integrated Process and Performance categories
Dec. 2: Location & Transportation and Sustainable Sites categories
Dec. 7: Water Efficiency category
Dec. 9: Energy & Atmosphere category
Dec. 14: Materials & Resources category
Dec. 16: Indoor Environmental Quality category

For more information, visit usgbc.org.