Part Two: LEED® Now and What’s to Come

April 30, 2015



LEED® v4 is open for projects to join and you also have the option of registering your project under both version v3 and v4, if you are not sure you’ll be able to meet the new requirements. Starting June 2015 version 3 will no longer be available. So get ready for the changes ahead.


In the last blog entry I was talking about LEED® v4 and the changes ahead for water efficiency and the energy and atmosphere category. This time I’ll take a look at material and resource credits, as well as indoor air quality.


Recycling of batteries, mercury-containing lamps and electronic waste.

The prerequisite in LEED® v3 for providing recycling facilities already covered mixed paper, corrugated cardboards, glass, plastic and metals. You now also have to address two of those three wastes with v4: batteries, mercury-containing lamps and electronic waste. The recycling of mercury containing lamps is already required in some states for larger commercial buildings and you’ll find a recycling provider easily. However making sure they don’t get discarded into trash is more difficult and often a matter of educating occupants and facility personnel.


The recycling of batteries can also easily be handled by providing containers and sending them off by mail to recycling facilities or to a local provider. European projects may find that new requirement easy, since the recycling and diversion of batteries from regular waste is often required by law and battery recycling is easily accessible.


Electronic waste recycling usually includes IT equipment, printers, PCs, cables, etc. Remember that more often than not a LEED reviewer will asked to see a contract for the recycling of each recyclable. Do your research and ask providers, what happens with the electronic waste. Unfortunately a lot of them end up in third world countries on large open pits, letting heavy metal leak into the ground water.


For your LEED® v4 project this means to provide some extra room for battery and fluorescent light bulbs recycling or a dedicated program for collection of those wastes, e.g. electronics.


Construction and demolition waste recycling is now a prerequisite.

If you have worked on a LEED® project before you probably have done this before and it has become a go-to credit for many projects. However in certain regions in the US and other countries construction and demolition waste recycling may not always be so accessible. The prerequisite only requires you to setup a waste management program, a certain recycling percentage is not required.

In order to increase your recycling rate you want to make sure you reduce waste, which is being delivered to the construction site, in the first place. Especially in packaging, which can’t be recycled or is simply time consuming to separate on site.


Also don’t discourage construction companies from taking steel or other valuable materials for sale or recycling. This is often an income source for the companies, which sometimes is calculated into the construction costs or an unspoken bonus for construction workers. As long as it is clear for everyone, that a documentation needs to be provided, those practices are okay.


Recycling, reuse and local material credits completely reworked.

Recycled content and local materials were the must haves for building materials under past versions. If you have followed the LEED® v4 development you know that those credits have changed completely and are replaced by others. Life-cycle impact, third-party verification of content, sustainable sourcing took their place, much to the dismay of a lot of product manufacturers and architects who are LEED® users. It has gotten a lot more complex, which means a lot more learning on the part of architects and product manufacturers.


Here is what to expect:

You will need to do more explaining to the client and the contractors. The industry is not there yet with the documentation required and if you are planning on working with mostly local materials, you will have trouble getting several credits for materials. What used to be often mutually exclusive (you either have renewable content or recycled material) is now overlapping greatly. For example a material should have:


  • LCC assessment (Life Cycle Cost Assessment) or LCA

  • Third party verified EPD

  • Either an extended producer responsibility, bio-based content, FSC certified, reused or recycled content

  • Material ingredient reporting (e.g. Cradle to Cradle, GreenScreen, REACH)

  • Product manufacturer supply chain optimization

  • This does not even include credit requirements under “Indoor Environmental Quality."


Points for historic building reuse

Under the Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction Credit you can now gain up to 6 points depending on the rating system, if you maintain the historical importance and protected structure of a building. So if your building is listed as a historic place on a local, state or federal register, you can gain points just for keeping it.


Whole-Building Life-Cycle Assessment

This has been around for a while predominantly in Europe and has found its way into LEED® v4 through the pilot credits. In case you aren’t familiar, Life Cycle Analysis is looking at a building’s materials cradle to grave, their interaction with each other and a wide range of effects including:


  • Global warning potential

  • Stratospheric ozone depletion

  • Acidification of land and water sources

  • Eutrophication

  • Formation of tropospheric ozone

  • Depletion of nonrenewable energy sources


In essence your building will have to perform 10% better in global warming potential and two other categories without increasing the other categories by more than 5%. Life Cycle Analysis tools need to used, either concentrated on design, such as ATHENA, Envest 2, LCADesign, or a product-by–product basis like, SimaPro, GaBi. This often requires a Life Cycle Analysis specialist, which small projects may find hard to fit in the budget. Assessing Life Cycle Certification during design may be more appealing. However check first to see, if there is software available for your region.

There is a lot more to know about Life-Cycle Assessments (LCA), which will be part of another blog post.


Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)

So instead of doing the Life Cycle Analysis for the whole building you can also look at the materials. You can now also gain points for building materials, which have:

  • Product-specific declaratio