LEED v4.1 is getting a lot of attention in the building industry, thanks to significant implementation and performance enhancements LEED v4.1 provides. LEED v4.1 has brought changes that allow design teams to focus more on design and less on LEED documentation. With clearer requirements and performance criteria, achieving higher levels of LEED certification has become much easier with LEED v4.1 compared to LEED v4.

But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t getting lots of questions about LEED v4.1, so our team of sustainability consultants and LEED experts have delivered the answers to the most frequently asked questions about LEED v4.1.

First, a word from the experts:

LEED-v4.1

Hanna Swaintek, Senior Technical Manager

“I’m excited to see the changes in v4.1, particularly with: low-emitting materials; building product disclosure and optimization credits; environmental tobacco smoke control; and electric vehicles. The tweaks are smart and show that USGBC is listening to user feedback – and they want to ensure that credit requirements are reasonable and relevant, while still pushing projects well beyond the status quo.”

Nash Emrich, Senior Consultant

“LEED v4.1 provides a much needed, positive spark to the real estate industry and green building certification. Instead of fighting against restrictions and adding frustrations, the new LEED version simply rewards projects for innovation and best practices.”

Divya Natarajan, Senior Consultant

“LEED v4.1 brings an abundance approach to certification. USGBC is encouraging market transformation by leveraging what the markets are responding to and focusing on material transparency.”

LEED

Question: Why did USGBC make this update?

LEED v4 was developed to respond to the need for the LEED standard to balance market alignment and environmental improvements. Feedback suggested that LEED v4 over-emphasized environmental impact at the expense of the market’s business outcomes.  In other words, the requirements didn’t always pencil out.

The four main goals in developing LEED v4.1 were to: ensure leadership; increase achievability; expand the market; and improve building performance. Each update ties back to at least one of these main goals, making it easy to understand the rationale behind the changes.

USGBC also leveraged data to inform the changes. USGBC analyzed the ratio of all LEED projects that earned each credit, then tackled changes to those credits that had low and medium achievement to increase achievability and expand the market.

Further, LEED v4.1 demonstrates USGBC’s increased openness to testing and feedback. LEED v4 was rolled out without much testing or user input, and LEED v4.1 has had an extensive tire-kicking period, as USGBC solicits user feedback before finalizing the standard.

The LEED v4.1 beta indicates that USGBC has moved the needle back towards market alignment to increase accessibility and better align with real-world business needs. LEED v4.1 is not merely designed to make the certification effort easier, though.

Stakeholders can submit their ideas for LEED that will be reviewed by the LEED Steering Committee here: https://new.usgbc.org/leed-v41

Question: What’s new and needed with LEED v4.1?  

LEED v4.1 has introduced new paths that support project teams and owners pushing for better building performance and is intended to help teams define the future of green building by taking steps including:

  • Introduces LEED Zero, which achieves zero impact with water, energy, and carbon
  • Re-imagines and integrates opportunities for real estate projects to support renewable energy systems development
  • Aligns to site development best practices found in the SITES rating system

Question: How can design and development teams get the most out of LEED v4.1?

 To maximize the opportunity of LEED v4.1, we recommend that projects consider upgrading to credits under the following categories: Location and Transportation; Sustainable Sites; Materials and resources; and Low emitting materials. Here’s why:

Location and Transportation – Credit requirements like bicycle facilities have become clearer and more accessible, especially for residential and high occupancy buildings.

Sustainable Sites – Credits in this category align with the SITES rating system with added clarity on technical criteria such as soil quality, appropriate planting, and the rainwater credit, which is more accessible for urban projects.

Materials and Resources – We are excited about this is the category! All the building product and disclosure credits are simpler to calculate and document, and USGBC removed the constraint on structure and enclosure materials. These credits have also become more accessible for core and shell and interiors projects with limited number of materials.

Low Emitting Materials – The categories for this credit have again been simplified, and project teams can achieve more points by focusing on the types of products that are the most relevant to their project.

Question: Should I still use LEED EB O+M under LEED v4.1?

No. With the release of LEED v4.1, all LEED projects – past, present, and future can now recertify with Arc by providing 12 months of data; and this recertification will be valid for three years. Recertification with LEED v4.1 has become simpler because:

  • All prerequisites are met by previous certification
  • Performance-based – enter data annually, recertification valid for 3 years
  • New plaque for certified under O+M v4.1

USGBC is providing a path to recertification for projects formerly certified under new construction or as an interior fitout (Guide located here.)

Question: Who can help me with my LEED v4.1 questions?

We can! Paladino has the industry’s leading team of sustainability consultants, and we can walk any owner, developer, or architect through the finer points of LEED v4.1 (or any other certification for that matter!)

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