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Don’t Be Scared of LEED v4

LEED v4 Changes and Updates

leedv4picleedarticleghostpicWe all knew the time was creeping up on us when LEED v2009, known as LEED v3,would no longer be an option. There are plenty of Halloween ghouls about, but LEED v4 shouldn’t give you a scare! We have a few key resources to help you understand the new rating systems and ensure a smooth transition.

LEED v3 Sunset and Registration Dates

All projects that wish to pursue LEED v3 must register  by October 31, 2016. Additionally, LEED v3 projects must certify by June 30, 2021. Projects that register now under LEED v3 can always transition to LEED v4 at no cost, but you can’t switch back to v3 after 10/31/16.

LEED v4 Scorecards and Project Applicability

With the transition from LEED v3 to v4 comes an expansion to include rating systems for a variety of project types. Below is a comprehensive table of the updates and changes in rating system designations. New rating systems are in orange.

LEED v4 Scorecards and Rating System Breakdown

LEED v3 (2009) LEED v4 LEED v4 Scorecards
LEED for New Construction
LEED for Core and Shell
LEED for New Construction: Retail
LEED for Healthcare
LEED for Schools
LEED for Homes (2008)
New Construction
Core and Shell
Multifamily Midrise
Data Centers
Warehouses and Distribution centers
LEED BD+C Checklist
LEED BD+C: Homes Checklist
LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance LEED O+M:
Existing Buildings
Data Centers
Warehouses and Distribution centers
LEED O+M Checklist
LEED for Commercial Interiors
LEED for Commercial Interiors: Retail
Commercial Interiors
LEED ID+C Checklist
LEED for Neighborhood Development LEED ND:
Built Project
LEED ND Checklist


LEED v4 Changes

A few LEED credits changed significantly, while others were left more or less alone. View the Summary of Changes documents from USGBC to learn how v3 credits changed, moved or were adapted in LEED v4:

The checklists have had a complete makeover. In fact, you will now have to get used to calling them ‘Workbooks’ instead. One of the challenges in comparing changes in LEED v4 is that there are NO MORE CREDIT NUMBERS – a change to which we are still trying to adjust. That is the bad news – let’s get to the real improvements. With the help of Healthy Building Science and USGBC we have created a summary of the major changes that you need to be aware of:
The credit categories themselves received their own small makeover. Innovations and Design Process (ID) category from version 2009 has been split into Integrative Process (IP) and Innovation (IN) categories. The rest of the categories have remained the same for the Commercial rating systems, including Sustainable Sites (SS), Location & Transportation (LT), Water Efficiency (WE), Energy & Atmosphere (EA), Materials and Resources (MR), Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) and Regional Priority (RP). LEED for Homes saw the departure of Awareness & Education, and Regional Priority made its first appearance.

Integrative Process (IP) and Innovation (IN)leedsmicon1
  • A new credit encourages modeling and feedback loops for energy and water systems in an earlier stage of the design process.
  • The required duration of the design charrette was reduced from 8 hours to just 4.
Locations and Transportation (LT)leedsmicon2
  • A new credit awards projects for developing in bike-friendly areas, rather than just providing bike racks onsite.
Sustainable Sites (SS)
  • There are new options for land preservation via land trusts and restrictive agreements.
  • The open space credit now requires the space to be of “beneficial use to the occupants or community.”leedsmicon3
  • Requirements for the Solar Reflective Index (SRI) regarding the heat island effect credit have been updated to 82 for low sloped-roofs and 39 for steep-sloped roofs.
  • Single family homes and low-rise multifamily projects can be awarded points for heat island mitigation of roofs for the first time.
Water Efficiency (WE)
  • A new prerequisite requires projects to reduce outdoor water use (irrigation) by 30 percent.
  • Whole-building water metering must be shared with USGBC for five (5) years – a new prerequisite.leedsmicon4
  • Low flow plumbing fixtures must also be WaterSense labeled.
  • Indoor water use reduction requirements for water-consuming appliances have become more rigorous.
  • A new credit addresses cooling tower water use.
  • Credit is now available for sub-metering water consumption.
Energy and Atmosphere (EA)
  • Overall energy thresholds for new and existing buildings have become more stringent. SWA finds that v4 multifamily midrise buildings have a slight advantage over the v3 LEED for Homes point scale however.leedsmicon5
  • Commissioning Agents (CxA) must be on board by the end of Design Development.
  • A new prerequisite requires Building Enclosure Commissioning (BECx) during design.
  • There are new requirements for Operations and Management (O&M) Plan in the Commissioning prerequisite.
  • A new prerequisite mandates whole-building metering at a minimum. This prerequisite requires a permanent metering system that records intervals of one (1) hour or less, and the meter must transmit that data to a remote location.
  • Credit can be awarded for projects that pursue Building Envelope Commissioning (BECx)
  • There is a credit opportunity for sub-metering and demand response systems.
  • The Measurements & Verification (M&V) credit has been removed.
Materials and Resources (MR)
  • A new prerequisite requires storing and collecting batteries, mercury containing lamps and e-waste.
  • The older version of Building Reuse credits have been replaced with Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction credit.
  • And the most controversial of the Materials credits… projects can earn credits for Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Environmental Declaration (EPD), Sourcing of Raw Materials and Material Ingredient Reporting, giving renewed importance to sourcing of healthier, environmentally preferable products and material.
Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ)
  • New requirements have been added to the requirement for outside air delivery monitoring, and managing CO and radon in residential buildings.
  • All new projects, except residential, will no longer be allowed to have designated smoking areas. International projects may seek Alternative Compliance Pathways.leedsmicon7
  • Enhanced Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Strategies includes new language regarding sensors and modeling.
  • There is a new credit for LEED BD+C projects for Acoustic Performance. Requirements of this credit include room noise levels, speech privacy, sound insulation, reverberation time, paging masking and sound reinforcement systems.
  • The Mold Prevention credit has been removed from LEED for Schools and the requirements are now included under the Thermal Comfort credit. This is included under BECx as well.

This list may seem a bit overwhelming at first glance, but these updates are a result of USGBC’s goal of achieving buildings with positive impacts on people and the environment.

LEED v4 is Aspirational

The goal of LEED v4 is improved environmental outcomes by focusing on seven (7) Impact Categories that each LEED project should accomplish. These categories were developed by the LEED Steering Committee, and are:

LEED v4 Credit Weightings

LEED v4 Credit Weightings

  • Reversion of our contribution to climate change
  • Enhanced human health and well-being
  • Protection and restoration of water resources
  • Protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Promotion of sustainable and regenerative resource cycles
  • Creation of a greener economy
  • Enhancement of the community, social equity, environmental justice and quality of life.

LEED v4 Web-based Tools

One of the great features of the new version is that the LEED v4 reference guide is fully web-based, making it highly accessible and easy to use. This feature is available with a USGBC education subscription. View more information on the fully interactive web-based reference guide here.

Remember that you can still register under the older version (v2009) until October 31st 2016, and that any projects registered under v2009 can always move to v4 but not vice versa.

Written by Marina Dimitriadis, Sustainability Consultant

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