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Harder v4 Energy Requirements to Be Balloted in Spring

USGBC is planning stringency boosts for Minimum Energy Performance and Optimize Energy Performance under LEED v4 BD+C and ID+C—and it’s different this time.
Paula Melton
November 2, 2022

“LEED projects have a very long tail,” said a U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) official, explaining why the organization will be introducing greater stringency for energy performance prerequisites and credits under LEED v4.

In other words, new construction projects registering today likely won’t get built for a long time and will continue to “exist for many years” after the current version of the rating system has closed. That’s according to Corey Enck, vice president for LEED technical development, who was speaking at a Greenbuild San Francisco session on the future of LEED.

Is this leadership?

To ensure LEED v4 will still “represent leadership over the next few years,” Enck said, “it’s important for us to update what we think are the most important parts of that rating system.” Hence, he said, “we are raising the bar on the energy requirements in version 4 through a balloted update.” The changes apply to the Building Design and Construction (BD+C) and Interior Design and Construction (ID+C) rating systems.

Here’s what’s in store:

  • ASHRAE 90.1-2010 will remain the referenced standard, but these changes will require projects to reduce much more drastically against that baseline to achieve points.
  • There will also be pathways referencing the 2013, 2016, and 2019 versions of the 90.1 standard.
  • Project teams will be able to choose between two energy-efficiency metrics: energy cost, which has been the standard since LEED began, or source energy.
  • Mirroring the requirements of LEED v4.1, half of the points for Optimize Energy Performance will come from energy efficiency and half from a greenhouse gas emissions metric.
  • For the Minimum Energy Performance prerequisite, project teams can select any one of the three metrics (energy cost, source energy, or greenhouse gas emissions).

Enck characterized these changes as a “signal to the market” as well as part of the transition to LEED v5. He said this v4 change is an “incremental step” in that process.

The timeline

November or December 2022: USGBC will release details and open public comments.

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February or March 2023: A second public comment period will open if needed.

May or June 2023: The changes will be voted on.

Assuming the ballot is successful, USGBC will choose a date after which newly registering projects will have to meet the more stringent requirements.

This is a new approach

This method of upgrading the energy requirements—where all projects have to meet a higher standard—differs from the way it worked when similar energy changes were balloted under LEED v2.2 and LEED 2009, pointed out an attendee at the Q&A at the end of the session.

In the past, the speaker noted, the updates were simpler, increasing the minimum number of points that needed to be earned rather than changing thresholds. “What’s the reasoning behind that?” he asked. 

“We thought this update needed to be more comprehensive,” Enck replied. “This time, we are pushing all projects to do more” so that LEED, even the current version, is “pushing projects at the high end toward zero.”

LEED v5 is taking shape

Although Enck announced these changes, the main focus of the session was actually LEED v5. I’ll post a lot on that tomorrow, but for now here’s a sneak preview. LEED v5 will focus on:

  • Scaling market transformation through a radical rethinking of LEED for Existing Buildings
  • Decarbonization (operational), decarbonization (embodied), and more decarbonization (transportation)
  • Adaptation and resilience embedded in the rating system instead of marginalized in pilot credits
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusivity also moving out of the pilot credit zone
  • Ecosystems and regenerative development

“There’s a common understanding that LEED needs to change in order to address the challenge of these times,” said Sarah Talkington, new chair of the LEED Steering Committee. That means “not just rewriting the credits,” she said, but taking a whole new approach.

Alluding to the morning keynote with Jane Fonda, Talkington added, “We can’t move forward without a just transition” away from fossil fuels. Our movement, she said, needs to create “green jobs that have dignity” and provide “a bigger tent where more people feel welcome and included in this movement.”

Date updated: 
Wednesday, November 2, 2022

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August 9, 2023 - 9:06 am

@ Marissa, tomorrow is the last day for members to vote on the ballot: https://www.usgbc.org/articles/leed-v4-energy-update-ballot-now-open 

August 8, 2023 - 3:35 pm

Is anyone aware of the status for this ballot vote? I may not be looking in the right place on the LEED Credit Library. Thanks!

November 17, 2022 - 2:26 pm

Who am I?
Can I conceal myself for evermore?
Pretend I'm not the man I was before?
And must my name until I die
Be no more than an alibi?

November 11, 2022 - 6:22 pm

To the commenter who wrote, "FWIW: This terminal is apparently logged in under another user, so I'm interestingly able to hide my face. Who am I?" Our records show that you are Mohit Mehta at ME Engineers. If that's not who you are, it would be great to know the truth so folks can engage in a more productive conversation about your provocative critique. Thank you for your thoughts!!!


November 11, 2022 - 1:38 pm

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of the current Integrative Design Process credit. It's broken. But it's also siloed. It does nothing to assess tradeoffs of other aspects of a project such as transportation carbon, embodied carbon, operational carbon and so on. But merely swapping in ASHRAE Std 209-2018 won’t rectify that. Std 209 is way too shortsighted and does nothing for GHG assessments—the topic isn’t even raised once in it.

At Greenbuild we heard plenty of sessions discussing microgrids. But none of the sessions I attended spoke about the embedded carbon of the battery storage systems and a particular balancing point between enough grid optimal characteristics and adverse aspects of going all in on batteries. EwingCole did a very interesting albeit nascent session evaluating the time value of carbon emissions to determine whether specific ECMs could be justified based on embodied upfront carbon vs operational savings. That's something I've drawn attention to at the end of all my lifetime GHG presentations that is needed to assess various interventions occurring across an extended time horizon. It’s clear we need better tools for design teams to review their designs at early stages. EHDD’s EPIC is a start. I hope the next iteration of LEED provides a better framework for all this—if not the tools to do it too.

FWIW: This terminal is apparently logged in under another user, so I'm interestingly able to hide my face. Who am I?

November 9, 2022 - 10:08 am

Love to see energy cost no longer being the only path. That's been a frustrating gap between the need to reduce energy/carbon and the drive to earn LEED points for quite some time and I wish it had been addressed in v4 (not to mention building codes!) long ago. 

Totally share Marcus's frustration with the current credit structure encouraging less integrated teamwork, as it's so easy to simply allocate the credits by discipline rather than do the tougher work of bringing them together. I do struggle though with wondering how to craft a requirement for integrative process that is universally applicable (including projects that come to LEED later in the design process, low-energy warehouses and high-energy data centers where the design team can't swing energy consumption in a major way, and projects where major energy factors like massing/orientation are not negotiable) and enforceable. A prereq would need a really tricky balance of accessible/achievable but also precise enough to fairly review and award/deny. But, I can picture points for demonstrating that the earlier ASHRAE 209 cycles were performed at the right time - being able to stack up a point or two per early design model would be a solid incentive.

November 8, 2022 - 4:49 pm

LEED has never adequately addressed the issue. It's basic structure actually tends to encourage disintegrative design. If they are truely rethinking the structure of LEED then this criteria should be foundational. I serched the Future of LEED document and the concept is not even mentioned.

November 8, 2022 - 4:21 pm

Why isn't Integrative Process a prereq, anyway...?

November 8, 2022 - 3:43 pm

These improvements sounds like they are headed in the right direction. Unfortunately focusing on such end of design improvements also leads to reinforcing the status quo relative to process. I would hope that at a minimum USGBC actually enforces the design phase energy analysis requirements in LEED. This could be enhanced by adpoting ASHRAE 209 requirements and/or more completely developing guidelines for what constitues best practice energy analysis during the design process.