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LEED Updates & Recertification: What Companies Need to Know

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) established Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards as a way to elevate and rate the “green levels” of buildings spanning various categories and defined by LEED ratings of certified, silver, gold or platinum. LEED is the preeminent certification for green buildings and provides a framework for companies to make their buildings sustainable, create more comfortable spaces for employees and customers and reduce their use of energy, water and other resources.

With the release of the latest update of the LEED rating system comes a new world of possibilities including a simpler, data-driven option to organizations with a LEED-certified building and an upcoming recertification deadline. USGBC requires companies to recertify within five years of the previous certification, meaning a large portion of buildings will need to be prepared to recertify in the coming years under the updated version, LEED v4.1

What changes should companies be aware of and how can you maximize your score?

Luciana Vallejo, LEED AP O+M, TRUE Advisor, Fitwel Ambassador, within Schneider Electric’s Energy & Sustainability Services division, looks at the release of the latest update to the LEED rating system and answers common questions around what it may mean for your company.

How has the LEED scoring framework changed?

When recertifying under the new framework, your previous LEED certification will serve as documentation for prerequisites, which could grant you up to 10 points. The remaining 90 points are allocated across 5 performance prerequisites dependent on actual building data.

These include:

  • Energy Performance: 1-33 points
  • Water Performance: 1-15 points
  • Waste Performance: 1-8 points
  • Transportation Performance: 1-14 points
  • Human Experience Performance: 1-20 points                                                              

In an initial certification, companies are required to achieve a minimum score of 40 from the performance areas and meet 7 additional prerequisites. To help your score, there are also 10 voluntary credits. It’s important to take note that your new ENERGY STAR score will not affect your LEED recertification as it is not part of the newest guidelines.

 Here is the LEED v4.1 scorecard:

LEED v4.1 Scorecard

Many of the credits from past LEED versions are now consolidated and evaluated through performance scores. Indoor/outdoor water use reduction credits and the cooling tower credit are now addressed through the Water Performance prerequisite. The Energy and Atmosphere category continues to account for the most points in the rating system due to its impact on reducing climate change. Many of its credits (such as all the commissioning credits, the energy metering credits, and the RECs credit) are now addressed through the Energy Performance prerequisite.

Be aware that initial certifications and recertifications under LEED v4.1 are valid for 3 years rather than the previous 5 years.

How it works to recertify under LEED v4.1

Once you enter 12 months of data across these indicators, LEED Online will calculate your performance score, which will determine your new certification level:

  • Certified: 40-49 points
  • Silver: 50-59 points
  • Gold: 60-79 points
  • Platinum: 80+ points

This new path intends to quantify the outcomes of the efficiency projects and sustainability strategies your organization has implemented. More importantly, it allows you to explore alternative action plans that will drive savings and create positive social and environmental impact. Besides your data inputs, there are three primary factors behind your score, including gross floor area, operating hours and occupancy.

Top 3 Takeaways for Recertifying Companies

While some things are different and may require a learning curve for recertifying companies, there are additional benefits and value to LEED that the certification process can now provide. New automation capabilities and access to analytics and information make the learning curve worthwhile and not only help companies better understand the impact of your current footprint, but also give you the tools to improve in the future.

Keep these top 3 takeaways in mind as you embark on the recertification process under updated LEED guidelines:

  1. Access to some very telling analytics

An interesting aspect of the new system is access to some very telling analytics. These include performance against similar buildings locally and globally, quantification of energy and transportation emissions, gallons of water used per occupant, waste generated per square foot and more.  With these analytics, building owners can now measure and monitor their building performance, benchmark their progress against similar buildings and, ultimately, facilitate further improvements in green building performance.

  1. Streamlining the certification process

Automation of the certification process certainly makes attaining LEED certification easier and more streamlined, however, it comes with the added emphasis on data collection. The new and evolving system places a greater emphasis on transparency of data and providing actionable insights that give building owners opportunity to improve their score.

  1. Measure performance on an ongoing basis

Before LEED v4.1, the rating system was strategy-oriented. But LEED v4.1 is about both strategies and outcomes. The performance outcomes are fully integrated into this latest version so that building owners can measure performance on an ongoing basis.

Besides adjusting to the new LEED framework, companies should continue down their path of implementing sustainable solutions to maximize LEED scores. Keep using LED lights and water-saving plumbing fixtures, buy low-VOC cleaning products and explore taking single-stream recycling to the next level by using separation recycling, which is better for the environment, the people sorting your waste, and for your budget.

The Schneider Electric team includes LEED Accredited Professionals and individuals with experience administering the LEED certification process for buildings across the United States. Find more information on LEED certification or reach out for help taking the mystery out of the LEED recertification process.