After a year of beta testing, LEED v4 is out. What caused the delay? Some changes hardly seem controversial, like the new market sectors that allow for a wider selection of building types for existing schools and retail, data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality, and mid-rise residential projects.
According to Beth Heider, "USGBC – when I was chair – realized through discussions with stakeholders that those groups didn’t feel the market was ready for as much change as LEED v4 contains. Part of the reason was the building market was – and still is – somewhat soft.”
A closer look at impact categories and the dynamic plaque help explain USGBC’s hesitancy. As a systematic reevaluation of its efficacy and intent, USGBC asked itself, “What should a LEED project accomplish?” rather than focusing on environmental problems and how they can be reduced.
LEED v4’s new Impact categories serve both as an answer to that question and as a direct response to critics’ claims that LEED enables “greenwashing.” As Beth Heider explained, "...while LEED 2009 weighted points to encourage projects to do less harm, LEED v4 is aspirational in weighting and developing credits to encourage projects to do more good." The Impact categories reflect this aspirational shift by creating stronger ties between LEED v4 credits and their performance outcomes.
These new impact categories and the announcement of the LEED Dynamic Plaque underscore the importance of a buildings actual performance over time, further closing the gap between achieving a LEED credit and actually fulfilling its intent.
Will these bold changes help USGBC lead the market without losing the market? While some may point to the 2015 deadline for adopting v4 as an admission this change is too little, too late, others view it as a necessary concession for taking such bold steps toward a greener future. As Rick Fedrizzi put it, “We just keep at it, never settling for the status quo, which so infuriates our critics.”
There are benefits to treading carefully and a year of beta testing doubtlessly contributed to the improved tools and overhaul of the LEED online system.
What do you think? Is v4 the change you've been waiting for? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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