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LEED v4 Lexicon: Additions to your green building dictionary

LEED version 4 was approved back in June 2013 with an overwhelming approval from the member ballot. The updates represent the most significant change in LEED’s 13 year history. With brand new credit categories, a complete overhaul of the Materials and Resources category, and a slew of new credits, LEED v4 is already spurring designers, builders, engineers and (most notably) manufacturers to scrutinize their practices in an effort to conform to the new green building standards.

The Sustainable Buildings and Communities team at DNV GL has been working hard to make sense of all these changes so we can grasp how LEED v4 will impact our client’s business. As we go through this process we plan to share what we learn. Regardless of the rating system you are most familiar with, here are a few new terms to incorporate in your LEED lexicon that will help you master the new concepts :

Advanced Energy Metering (a.k.a. The Age of Big Data):  Commonly referred to as Advanced Metering Infrastructure on the utility side of the meter, these advanced meters, “measure, collect and analyze energy usage.”  Due to perceived cost there has been little desire to incorporate advanced energy meters into buildings where they are not required by utilities. However, the folks at USGBC see the potential for increased asset value with this technology and are trying to sway the market by awarding projects for installing robust data collection systems. As Erik Dyrr, Principal of SBC, puts it, “Data must be gathered, but more importantly gathered and processed in a manner that allows beneficial actions and results to be achieved. As local codes, such as California’s Title-24, are beginning to require more measurement of energy and end-use loads, LEED v4 provides another avenue for the conversation to begin in the early design phase.”

BUG Ratings: Photometric plans required under LEED v3 are going by the wayside, and instead the USGBC is offering a prescriptive option using BUG ratings for exterior lamps. BUG stands for Backlight, Uplight and Glare. Angela Xanders, one of DNV GL’s lighting experts, summed it up nicely, “Excessive exterior illuminance and light trespass waste energy and cause environmental issues for the nocturnal world. When it comes to night lighting, turn it down and put it only where you need it… keep it to yourself, people!” Moving forward, this credit will be documented primarily using luminaire schedules, which is less onerous than the LEED v3 documentation path.

Building Enclosure Commissioning (BECx)BECx is now an option under LEED v4 EAc1 Enhanced Commissioning. Why should an owner be concerned with commissioning building envelopes? Because building envelopes are a significant cause of energy loss, and more efficient buildings need higher performing envelope systems. Plus, BECx will lead to higher integration and collaboration of project teams and a reliance on technical experts to represent Owner’s interests. For a deeper dive on the subject of BECx and the steepness of the learning curve, consult this older blog post.

Demand Response: If you’re reading the Utility of the Future blog, you may already be familiar with the concept of demand response. For those less familiar, please see this recent post on the topic. In LEED v4, the USGBC has recognized that no building is an island, and collecting real time data is key to making the connection between buildings and the grid by improving the grid-wide generation/demand balance, grid reliability and enabling more effective use of renewable generation sources.

Disclosure, Transparency and Optimization. In LEED v4, several Materials and Resources credits fall under the umbrella of Building Product Disclosure and Optimization, or “BPDO.” The overarching goal of these credits it to encourage manufacturer transparency about building materials.  Similar to nutritional labels on food products, the hope is consistently available and reliable information will empower designers and builders to become more discerning and market shift will occur by the natural forces of demand-side economics.

Nathan Kinsey, our in-house LEED v4 specialist, is particularly excited to see the BPDO credits address sourcing of raw materials and material ingredient listings through environmental product declarations, because, “it provides a platform for the next phase of market transformation through increased transparency and adoption. It’s important for consumers to be able to trust the commitments and environmental claims being stated for products and materials. BPDOs represent a promise that concrete action has been taken across the supply-chain to address demands of a changing economically constrained, socially conscience and environmentally protective market place.” BPDO gives a more holistic environmental perspective to building material selection, but in the early stages of the LEED v4 roll-out the credit documentation requirements may be hard to come by as manufacturers come up to speed.

What’s more the credit language is confusing; it is the jackpot of new terms and acronyms that don’t exist in LEED v3. We’ll cover the details in LEED v4 blog series, but for now here is a good analogy for keeping them straight:

LEED Lexicon

Integrative Process: In this new LEED v4 credit category, projects will be awarded one point for bringing the design team together early and often to evaluate impacts of design choices. This activity is closely tied to Commissioning, as it leverages a similar iterative process that is used to develop Owner Project Requirements and Basis of Design and works to document and justify design decisions.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Assessment: This is the new credit title that replaces LEED v3 IEQc3.2 Construction IAQ Management Plan – Before Occupancy. The credit requirements remain largely unchanged, but now the credit tile is less of a mouthful.

Low Impact Development (LID): Whereas LEED v3 focused on reducing the quantity and improving the quality of stormwater entering the water table, LEED v4 emphasizes strategies for capturing and treating rainwater that mimics Nature’s approach to hydrology. According to Amy Rider, our resident water guru, “LID is not a new idea, but rather is a leadership standard which has been gaining momentum and professional expertise for more than 10 years.”

PBT Source Reduction: While avoiding Persistent Bioaccumulative & Toxic (PBT) chemicals is not new to the LEED v4 Rating System, we think it’s a key term to fold into your LEED lexicon because it addresses chemicals in building materials that are known to impact human health, such as mercury, lead and cadmium. These are also chemicals included on the Living Building Challenge Red List.

Quality Transit: The USGBC has upped the ante for access to public transportation, by adding required minimum daily trips (weekdays and weekends) for multiple transit types. Points are allocated based on number of trips provided and types of transit available.

For more on LEED v4 concepts, check out the LEEDUser publication: New Concepts in LEED v4. Our next few posts will cover some of the lesser understood credits, and hopefully provide more details on what you’ll need to know as you navigate the LEED v4 learning curve.

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