LEED Green Building Program Updates from USGBC

September 14, 2011 / William Thomson, Green Homes Expert

The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) next update to the LEED green building program, coined LEED 2012, will include updates to the Materials & Resources (MR) credit category, reflecting thousands of write-in comments received through the first LEED public comment period and including changes to existing LEED credit categories as well as two new credit categories, Integrated Process (IP) and Performance (PF).

LEED Green Building Program Updates from USGBC

The updates were released following USGBC‘s disclosure of the inaugural class of LEED Fellows, which is GBCI’s new and most prestigious professional designation. The LEED Fellow designation recognizes exceptional contributions to green building and significant professional achievement within the rapidly growing community of LEED Professionals.

LEED 2012 is currently in the second public comment period until Sept. 14, 2011. Public comment periods are part of the continuous development process of the LEED program.

The Materials & Resources (MR) credit category, which addresses waste reduction while improving the environmental impact of materials selection and waste disposal, has been revised to include an increased focus on the application of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). 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.

“By encouraging the use of LCA in LEED we’re encouraging project teams to use analytical tools that are
based on information about resource flows through our environmental as well as economic systems. Our expectation is that project teams will make more informed decisions as a result” said Brendan Owens, Vice President of LEED Technical Development, USGBC.

“While LCA has limitations, it does a number of things very well and it is one of the best ways conduct trade-off analysis to guide decisions about the specification of products.”

In addition to LCA, USGBC has added new MR credits that encourage project teams to specify materials that have been sourced responsibly as well as products screened to assess the impacts the product might have on human health on both a local and global level.

To encourage increased transparency of information about products, a new credit rewards the use of materials for which Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) have been made. This practice encourages product manufacturers to engage in disclosure activities that provide building product specifiers and procurement officials with consistent and complete information about their products.

Increased transparency around product attributes enables more informed decisions about product specification.

“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. The goals we’ve set for LEED are
achieved when we reward building designers and operators who specify the best performing products
from an environmental impact standpoint” Owens concluded.

USGBC expects that utilization of MR credits around EPDs, responsible raw material sourcing and avoidance of chemicals of concern will be beneficial to manufacturers of building materials.

Additionally, LEED credits that heavily incentivize the use of building products sourced and manufactured in close proximity to the project that already comply with a variety of best practices and regulations will allow their products to stand out regionally as well as globally.

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