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Big Changes Hit in v4.1 Addenda for Q4 2020

Version 4.1 is still in beta, and the latest addenda updates are a reminder of that.
Paula Melton
December 14, 2020

If you’re not in the habit of tracking addenda updates, now would be a good time to start.

USGBC surprised a lot of people with its November 9 addenda drop, making profound changes to several credits in the BD+C v4.1 beta. Some of these changes have LEED users breathing a sigh of relief, while others might seem a bit more mysterious. We spoke with USGBC’s Corey Enck, vice president for LEED technical development, about some of the biggest updates.

Although USGBC strongly encourages all projects to follow all addenda, you are not technically required to adhere to any addenda posted after your project registration date.

All credit language has been imported from USGBC and reflects the current credits, but we are still reviewing other content for updates. See our tip sheet, which is updated quarterly, for the full picture of what’s changed.

Why now?

First, we asked Enck why all this seems to be happening at once after BD+C v4.1 had remained fairly static for almost two years.

It turns out that USGBC has had tons of feedback from beta users as well as those substituting credits on v4 projects. Instead of dribbling changes out over time and then having to go back and append the addenda for credit after credit, the organization streamlined the process by holding onto the feedback and giving it to the technical advisory groups (TAGs) to respond to all in one go. “Where you’ve seen more changes and bigger changes to 4.1, it’s for credits we didn’t get to address in the first version of the beta,” Enck told LEEDuser.

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For this round, the TAGs really went back and scrutinized credit intents in order to make changes that were forward-looking without being too far beyond what the market will bear, he said.

In the “sigh of relief” category

Surrounding Density and Diverse Uses—Probably the biggest change that has people applauding is the addition of a Walk Score option for this credit. “We’ve been resisting that for so long, mostly because … we don’t have 100% visibility into the algorithm behind Walk Score,” said Enck. Previously, he explained, you could get a good score even if you had highways blocking pedestrian access, but the tool has gotten better over time.

Access to Quality Transit—Finally, there’s formal sanction of privately operated shuttles. That’s because the TAG decided, “Yes, there are some benefits to … not having occupants drive alone to the building, even if it’s not as good as public transit.”

More complicated

A few updates really caught people off guard.

Electric Vehicles—This credit had already seen big changes from v4’s “Green Vehicles” credit. The main update with this set of addenda was the raising of parking thresholds from 2% to 5% for installed charging equipment, and from 6% to 10% for EV-ready infrastructure. “Our committees wanted the thresholds to be much higher,” Enck noted, pointing out that progressive codes are already requiring more that 5%.

Cooling Tower and Process Water Use—This credit has de-emphasized cooling towers to the point where the credit name has actually changed to “Optimize Process Water.” But although it appears that the “No cooling tower” option has disappeared, projects can still achieve the credit for not having a cooling tower, Enck said. If your project’s baseline system per ASHRAE 90.1-2016 includes a cooling tower, but the design system does not, you can pursue this option.

Construction and Demolition Waste Management—There are radical changes to this credit that bear explanation, but what it comes down to is a new emphasis on circular economy rather than diversion of waste from landfills. Option 1 now has only one path: divert at least 50% of waste. And it’s only worth one point (no extra point for 75% diversion). This is because waste haulers often “just giv[e] people the numbers they want to hear,” according to Enck. Although certification was briefly floated as a way to get verified diversion rates, there are almost no certified facilities. Enck: “We tried to think about, Where do we want to move this market? What’s the future of this credit? Is the future that every center is certified? That’s going to take a while. Maybe the future here is more around the idea of circularity and reducing the amount of waste you’re generating, and less around diversion.” That’s why Option 2, “Waste Prevention,” is now worth up to two points—and note that USGBC is looking for a lot of market feedback about the thresholds here. “What we really want feedback on is those numbers,” said Enck, but for now, “we think they’re pretty generous.”

Just a good idea

Here’s a quick summary of some of the other addenda:

  • Integrative Process now incorporates social equity, health and well-being, and site selection into the main body of the credit instead of in exemplary performance.
  • Protect or Restore Habitat lost its offsite conservation option, but the minimum threshold has dropped to 15% in hopes that people will attempt the credit on their own sites.
  • Fundamental Refrigerant Management now requires HCFCs in addition to CFCs to be phased out.
  • Renewable Energy no longer allows purchase of carbon offsets because they do not add clean energy to the grid.
  • Life-cycle impact reduction adds some extra guidance on how to define the baseline building for whole-building life-cycle assessment.
  • Enhanced IAQ Strategies now includes COVID-19-inspired options.
  • Interior Lighting has been streamlined and also includes added strategies.

What are you seeing in the addenda that we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Date updated: 
Monday, December 14, 2020

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January 14, 2021 - 11:32 am

Hi all,

Just a note I found that helps clarify applicability to v4 and 4.1 projects and timing. In an article released in early Dec, it states the following: 

“The goal is to make sure that teams have access to the best options for their project, so LEED v4.1 project teams have the option of using the newest content found in addenda or using the version that was current at the time of the project’s registration. Older versions of the credit language can be found in the USGBC resource library. Do you have a LEED 2009 or LEED v4 project that incorporates LEED v4.1 via credit substitutions? If so, you are free to use any version of the credit, the original LEED v4.1 credit or any version found in addenda.

This came from this article: www.usgbc.org/articles/leed-v41-addenda-update-november-2020

I was getting worried that our v4 projects using v4.1 substitutions (all of my v4 projects, really), applicability would be contingent on when the v4 project was registered and whatever version of 4.1 was in place at that time. Seems like we don’t have to worry about (or try to keep track of) that aspect…we just have to track which version of the v4.1 updates we’re using on a per project basis.

Hope that helps anyone else who was wondering!

January 4, 2021 - 3:58 pm

Hi Shane - regarding your question on how to submit ideas or comments for LEED v4.1: 

First, go to https://www.usgbc.org/leed/v41

Next, scroll down the page and near the bottom there is a button to "Sumbit Your Proposal." That button links to a survey form where you can input ideas and comments. We review all proposals and appreciate your input. Thanks!

December 22, 2020 - 11:32 am

Thanks for this enlightening interview. It mentions that USGBC is looking for market feedback on the lb/sqft thresholds for Waste Prevention. Do you have any information about how or where that feedback is being accepted? 

December 17, 2020 - 1:04 pm

Thanks for this great summary!

I personally would move the reduction in threshold for Protect and Restore Habitat up to the "sigh of relief" category. But I think it's pretty important to note the revisions to the vegetation section here. If I'm reading it correctly you have to "Designate a portion of the habitat area for a pollinator garden...at least 30sf." Plan ahead for pollinators!