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LEED v4 Overwhelmingly Approved by USGBC Members

After three years of development, six public comment periods, and plenty of controversy, USGBC members voted to approve LEED v4—in a landslide.
July 2, 2013

LEED version 4 has been approved by a vote of U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) members, with 86% of the voting body voting in the affirmative during a June 2013 ballot period. Approval of LEED v4 as the next version of the LEED Rating System clears the way for its launch during the Greenbuild conference in November.

The landmark vote, in which more than 1,200 USGBC member companies cast ballots, hadn’t appeared to be a sure thing, with passionate arguments on both sides (as illustrated in a mock debate conducted here at LEEDuser). Representing one of the 10% “no” votes (4% abstained), Russell Perry, office director for SmithGroupJJR, told LEEDuser, “Those who of us who have voted ‘no’ and those who have voted ‘yes’ both voted in an effort to preserve LEED.”

He explained that he wanted to see LEED v4 go back to the drawing board because changes in LEED v4 are “in some cases too abrupt, the path to project success is significantly less certain, and the effort to comply will be measurably increased.” After 13 years of incredible success for LEED, Perry fears “a LEED drop-off that could be a crash.”

Passes by a large margin

However, the ballot crossed each required hurdle with ease:

  • 59.4% of the consensus body voted, meeting quorum.
  • In the Producer category, which includes contactors and builders and representing 25% of membership, 89% voted “yes.”
  • In the User category of various stripes of design firms that make up 48% of members—90% voted affirmative.
  • In the General Interest category, which includes utilities, manufacturers, organizations, and other groups comprising 26% of members, 77% voted to approve.
  • Two-thirds overall approval was required, and it came in at 86%.

“We are ecstatic about this,” Chrissy Macken, assistant project manager for LEED v4 at USGBC, told LEEDuser. “This is really phenomenal; it’s a great sentiment from our membership that we are moving in the right direction.”

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Asked for his reaction, Brendan Owens, vice president for LEED technical development at USGBC, said, ”That’s the history of this organization. The members have always been progressive and willing to move forward.” He acknowledged the challenges of the six public comment periods leading up to the ballot as well as unresolved concerns about the new system, but said, “People are ready to get on with it.”

USGBC reviewing comments submitted

Voters had the opportunity to provide comments along with their votes, and Macken said that about 15% had done so. Even after the thousands of public comments through the course of the LEED v4 development process, the ballot comments were particularly valuable, said Owens. “For someone to say, ‘I wanted to vote yes, but these are the reasons I’m voting no,’ is very informative,” he said. Owens noted that the UGSBC staff and LEED Steering Committee were carefully reviewing the comments. “I think we’ll find there’s quite a few we’ll be able to address.”

Joel Ann Todd, an independent consultant and the chair of the LEED Steering Committee, said that the comments, which came on both yes and no votes, “cut out the chaff and got down to the most important factors.” According to Todd, comments were focused on feasibility: “Can we do this, how much is it going to cost us, is it going to turn people away from LEED, is it raising the bar too much?” She added, “We are going to work really hard with stakeholders over next few months and get it right.”

LEED 2009 and LEED v4 to coexist

The Greenbuild launch of LEED v4 will be a “holistic, integrated launch” says Owens, with USGBC planning to have LEED Online forms, updated LEED credentialing exams, reference guides, and educational offerings ready. The postponement of LEED v4, which had originally been developed as LEED 2012, is giving USGBC time to launch a more polished product, said Owens.

In response to concerns about the changes in LEED v4 being too abrupt, USGBC announced last year that it would ease into LEED v4, with project teams allowed to register for either LEED v4 or LEED 2009 until June 1, 2015, after which only LEED v4 will remain open. (Projects registered under LEED 2009 will be allowed to complete the certification process under that system as long as they do so before it “sunsets,” which could happen as late as 2021, according to precedents.) But if announcements like USGBC’s offer of free certification for the first Platinum LEED v4 projects are any indication, it will try to attract projects to the new system with financial incentives, ease of use, and prestige.

MR section remains controversial

Despite the strong ballot results, all is not clear sailing for LEED. Many of those ballot comments focused on the Materials and Resources (MR) section of LEED v4, which even supporters of LEED regard as a tangled web of options, some of which aren’t well defined, and whose credits for disclosure and optimization of product ingredients have made LEED a focus of attack by the chemical industry, allying it with timber interests against LEED.

On the usability issue, USGBC points to the 100 LEED projects that are beta-testing LEED v4 as evidence that it can be done. Commissioning seemed like a foreign concept 10 years ago, but LEED pioneers will again help make new LEED concepts more routine. LEEDuser heard support for that idea from Z Smith, director of sustainability and building performance at Eskew+Dumez+Ripple. He told LEEDuser, “As Mark Twain said of the music of Wagner, ‘It’s not as bad as it sounds.’” (Smith followed up to clarify that Twain was quoting journalist Edgar Wilson Nye in his autobiography.) The integrated nature of the new MR section makes it easier to document, Smith told LEEDuser.

The chemical industry may be a tougher sell. The Vinyl Institute, which represents North American manufacturers of PVC resin, said in an email to LEEDuser, “LEED v4’s material resource section will fail to live up to its goal and can actually lead architects and designers to make bad decisions in order to secure credits so they can market their buildings.” Asked to elaborate, Allen Blakey, vice president of industry and government affairs, told LEEDuser that “The disclosure and optimization credit is a poor attempt to rush the future” and should be scrapped.

Onward to implementation

“We’ve worked on this for years and years now,” said Todd. “It’s great to see that we’ve finally come to the time when we can take the next steps, which will focus on the implementation side.”

What’s your reaction to the results of the LEED v4 vote? Why did you support it, or not? Are you doing a beta project or planning to register a LEED v4 project after Greenbuild? Please share your thoughts below.


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March 24, 2014 - 6:28 pm

Does the June 2015 sunset date for LEED-NC v2009 apply to LEED-ND as well?

April 2, 2014 - 12:51 pm

Hi, Susan. At the moment, the plan is to close ND v2009 registration at the same time as the rest of the v2009 rating systems, since the ND rating system was balloted and approved at the same time. We will be rolling out additional resources for ND v4 projects later this year. It's worth noting that the ND rating system contains far fewer changes between versions than the commercial rating systems, so expect to see similar content with upgraded resources.

March 25, 2014 - 1:19 pm

Susan, since LEED-ND v4 isn't even launched yet, I don't think it would be consistent with USGBC's policies to apply the same sunset date. The offical word, as far as I know, is that there is no official word, either on v4 launch or v2009 sunset.

December 4, 2013 - 7:11 am

when will it be possible to register a new project under the LEED v4? Thank you in advance for any response.

December 4, 2013 - 8:44 am

Thank you Tristan. Very helpful.

December 4, 2013 - 8:17 am

USGBC is set to open LEED Online for LEED v4 on Dec. 9. See my recent post for more detail on the new LEED Online.

December 2, 2013 - 9:36 am

Has there been an official update concerning the sunset dates for v2009 ?

Currently the latest USGBC publication, LEED Certification Policy Manual, does not state anything (published jan 2012).

Can I assume that this quote is an official sunset date?

"In response to concerns about the changes in LEED v4 being too abrupt, USGBC announced last year that it would ease into LEED v4, with project teams allowed to register for either LEED v4 or LEED 2009 until June 1, 2015, after which only LEED v4 will remain open. (Projects registered under LEED 2009 will be allowed to complete the certification process under that system as long as they do so before it “sunsets,” which could happen as late as 2021, according to precedents.)"

Just want to make sure I am distributing correct information.


December 2, 2013 - 10:28 am

Hi Jaida -

The last day to register for LEED 2009 is June 1, 2015. The Certification Manual will be updated to reflect this.

November 26, 2013 - 10:11 am

If I register today for EBOM 2009, can I switch in a couple of months to v4? And if yes, what is the cost of the switch? I want to run two gap analyses for my client, one for each version. And I would prefer my client to choose which version to follow for certification, after having the information

November 26, 2013 - 11:06 am

Thank you very much, I appreciate!

November 26, 2013 - 10:22 am

Mr. Levantis,

I would reach out to USGBC through the Contact Us link on their website to ask them about the details of switching from v2009 to v4. I know that it has been done in the past, though I don't know about the cost breakdown. Best of luck!

July 3, 2013 - 2:24 am

I had heard/seen (of course now I can't recall where) awhile ago that LEED 2009 projects could use the LEEDv4 credits as ACPs once it has become published in November.

Is this true? Or just a dream?


December 20, 2013 - 1:41 pm

And a third place—here on LEEDuser. See our LEED v4 resources here.

December 2, 2013 - 10:27 am

Hi Jaida -

All LEED v4 content is available in these two places:

1) http://www.usgbc.org/guide (purchase reference guide, view rating system requirements, download rating system PDF)
2) http://www.usgbc.org/credits (view rating system requirements, download forms and calculators, view scorecards, view rating system resources)

December 2, 2013 - 9:21 am

Hey Chrissy,

Do you have any update now that v4 is published?

Thanks so much.

November 20, 2013 - 11:52 am

Thank you Michael!!

November 20, 2013 - 11:48 am

The reference manuals are now available:


November 20, 2013 - 10:19 am

Hello! Is there a reference guide for NC LEED v4 or some available full document for this ranking system? Thanks

July 3, 2013 - 11:20 am

Hi Jaida - we're working through this process right now, but don't expect to have this available until a couple of months after LEED v4 full program launch.

July 2, 2013 - 4:01 pm

Everyone I know that read the v4 draft from cover to cover voted against it. I wonder what percentage of the 86% actually read the LEED v4 drafts before voting, because there are some pretty obvious HUGE underlying issues with the way LEED v4 is currently written (vagueness, unnecessary complexity, epic documentation requirements for no reason....)

I sincerely hope the USGBC spends some time cleaning up their requirements writing and decides to ditch the Adobe / Explorer LEED Online set-up (disaster) before launching.

July 8, 2013 - 3:13 pm

Melissa asks how many folks voting actually read LEED v4- I agree consensus bodies require engaged informed electorates and believe that the majority our LEED electorate is both.

July 3, 2013 - 9:47 pm

I'm sure you're aware, but it hasn't been Section 1350 since February, 2010, so hopefully LEED v4 is not still using the old version. I expect some folks may still be referring to 1350, out of habit, but we don't want to confuse folks. Currently it is called "Standard Method for the Testing and Evaluation of Volatile Organic Chemical Emissions from Indoor Sources Using Environmental Chambers, Version 1.1." Note that this is intended for chamber testing for VOCs, not on-site testing, and I don't think SVOCs are included in the chamber testing.


I'm not an IAQ gal and my focus has been on the MR Credits for v4, so I'm not sure what Russ is asking, but it sounds like he's talking about on-site testing issues involving Semivolatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs).

July 3, 2013 - 9:22 pm

Russ, can you explain the issue a bit more. In the v4 IAQ Assessment credit, there is a new requirement to test for "Target chemicals listed in CDPH Standard Method v1.1, Table 4-1, except formaldehyde." This is often referred to as CA Section 01350.

But there is no mention of heating to drive off chemicals, or chamber testing, as the test method cited is ASTM D5197, same as for other key chemicals like formaldehyde. Now, I don't know anything about ASTM D5197. Does it use heat or a chamber test?

July 3, 2013 - 9:41 am

OK Barry you answered Rob's question how about mine!!! How do you do an IAQ test when the method you chosen can't be done? If you know how or whom I can contact to get answers from please let me know. I have consultants going frantic because there is no one that can do it. USGBC will not respond to me and has put me on a call waiting list for over 9 months now...

July 2, 2013 - 5:49 pm

Yup, it passed - big whoop. I'm with Melissa, Rob and Russ - many of my peeps who have a long history of supporting all things LEED voted no, or voted yes 'while holding their nose' as one friend put it. I wonder how many of the yes votes came with qualifications/comments. And how many abstentions there were because people could not come to a definitive conclusion as to how to vote.

I guess we're going to find out whether 90% of LEED v4 'works well', as Barry put it - where did that stat come from? Even if that were true, that pesky 10% could be the chemical laden poison pill.

We shall see - I hope for a positive outcome, but I remain concerned for the future of LEED.

July 2, 2013 - 5:44 pm

Hi Barry--You're absolutely correct that there is a lot of great stuff in v4. When taken individually, it's all good. Together, not so much.

The point is not sour grapes. The vote was decisive, but I feel a pit in my stomach--the gut that did me pretty well when trying to toe that line between 'far enough' and 'too far'. That being said, we'll all have to get behind it and make it work.

At this stage, all we CAN do is what you said: 'Scratch it out in the field.' I'm a strong proponent of avoiding the 'perfect being the enemy of the good' but, by the same token, hoping to pull an inside straight is not necessarily a winning strategy.

The USGBC is so professional and tight in so many respects, but the LEED development process continues to be chaotic sausage-making.

Back in 2005 I proposed that a strict product development process be used--similar to the one used by pretty much every consumer product firm of any size and caliber--but still nothing has happened. I just don't know how much longer USGBC can continue to be 'lucky' on this.

July 2, 2013 - 5:28 pm

Rob, Appreciate your comment, but it HAS passed and by a big margin, so what do you suggest we do?....we can't sit on the fence, it will be 'in-force' from November.
90% of what was delivered by the V4 vote actually works....and works very well (let's hear it for LEED EB ...again) and the other 10%?...well is LEED perfect?- NO!
Do I want to start all over again with V5...absolutely...sign me up!

July 2, 2013 - 5:24 pm

I'm not saying change is not good but can anybody tell me when we made all these comments who replied to them?
I have been working with a couple of LEED consultants that asked about the v4 IAQ testing. They were asked to do a mach sampling program however they could not get one answer from USGBC. They went from VOC's and now added SVOC's which anybody knows that you need heat to drive off SVOC's. So what do you do heat the building to high temperatures to drive them off...Oh wait now your creating false/positives’ for VOC's...and this is just one small segment in the IAQ testing...Barry do you have any ideas to help me on this issue?

July 2, 2013 - 4:39 pm

As one of Barry's 'nattering nabobs' (see below), I continue to be very worried that people will get what they asked for. I really wanted to approve the standard, but Rus's comments above summarize my concerns exactly, which is why I voted no. The field is exactly the WRONG place to 'scratch out' a system that actually works.

I really hope that the very real technical and market issues that I believe USGBC has failed to address in v4 do not come back to bite us.

Ironically, we ended up with a 'speed is quality' argument to try and get the standard out. As the original Chair of the Steering Committee, I successfully fought most early attempts to put standards out prematurely because of the potential harm to market uptake--and that was when we were only doing a few tens of millions of ft2 per year. Now that we have some real volume, I really hope I'm wrong in fearing that a v4 mis-step on the heels of the 2009 functionality nightmare could winnow LEED down to a shadow of its former self.

Who knows, maybe 5th time--if there is one--will be the charm...Barry?

July 2, 2013 - 1:10 pm

Does anyone have insight as to the effect other green rating systems had on LEED v4?

The reason I ask is when CalGreen was introduced, in comparison it appeared to be LEED on steroids. Other green rating systems, not so much, but most have some redeeming qualities. USGBC seemed to embrace CalGreen, stating this will allow them to put more focus on developing LEED and raising the bar. And LEED v4 certainly does raise the bar.

There is much to like, such as the new Location & Transportation (LT) category, and my favorite being the Integrative Process (IP) category. There is also much not to like, such as pre-2009 APs being kicked out of the IN credit.

July 2, 2013 - 12:09 pm

While it's been 'fun' to have numerous comment periods, extensive and detailed discussions about the most miniscular of LEED subjects...Oh boy am I pleased that the landslide bought that to an end. Now we can start work and get the rating systems brought up to scratch out in the field. With 100 pilots running and most of us ready and willing to get our hands dirty, the 'nattering nabobs of negativity' will be hushed and the work started.
Well done all of you connected with this process, from the volunteers to the staff.
Now, what about V5?...I've got a few ideas......

December 2, 2013 - 5:16 pm

Karen, at the end of the day it DID pass...and is now the format that we will need to abide by. Will it work in all buildings all the time...I'm sure that it won't. Will V4 cover every eventuality on every credit all of the time...I doubt it. But the advancement of the transparency requirements reminds me of the 'differences of opinion' we had with the first roll out of mercury in lamps. Despite the fact that mercury content in lamps was freely available in Europe, there was tremendous difficulty in getting that information in the USA, it took time for industry to accept that we were asking the question and time fort the industry to supply the answer. Once again EPD's and the like are now looked upon as the way forward in Europe and beyond...do they work?, well I'm sure there are others better positioned to answer that question.
However, given the fact that LEED was created and continues to be created by volunteers (working hundreds of hours yearly) and a small number of dedicated staff members (who seem to be awake at all hours of the day and night when I email them)..I think USGBC did a GREAT job. So...V5...when shall we start on that?

December 2, 2013 - 4:48 pm

Have put off reading and responding at LEEDuser for many months, but cannot overlook being called a nattering nabob of negativity! Barry this can't be considered good natured in the best case and I am really offended. I suspect that Rob and others here are simply exasperated that the insistence on going so far around a corner that has no traffic signals yet will be the undoing of LEED. And about that landslide - there are thousands of us out here I suspect that simply abstained after reading the details of the voting requirements truly believing that without an appropriate quorum the vote could not count. Not sure where the 86% voters came from, but I do expect a GIGANTIC jump away from LEED in June 2015. And this is while I am spending gobs of my time that I don't have to work with large chemical based manufacturers who do not support the ACC's attacks and Ohio's largest public institutions to educate our senators not to pass along Senate Concurring Resolution 25 banning LEED in public projects. This insanity could have been avoided with a better LEED v4 set of transitional products and I am just steaming...

July 2, 2013 - 11:00 am

From a laboratory standpoint they just drove the cost of the IAQ test way up, even though it is a small segment (2points) of the program. The people on the council refused to answer any questions pertaining the testing and now using compounds that are taken from a headspace chamber test. We tried to contact them many times with no answers. I hope they put some basic chemistry into there decision or many of the LEED consultants are going to be going crazy for these points.

July 2, 2013 - 10:42 am

Stagnation is not the answer. LEED has done admirably being just out in front enough to keep people engaged while also keeping them stretching. It is a very tough place to hold. LEED is vilified by achievers for being too slow and allowing too much leeway, and by those struggling to catch up for being too demanding and ahead of reasonable practices. Sigh.
V4, especially in the materials credits, is messy BUT it was so necessary to make disclosure part of this system (and all systems). We cannot improve our work in a system that supports ignorance. I hope the lack of clarity in some of the materials options will go away quickly, through use and airing out and real input as to what works and what does not work.
Thanks USGBC, your amazing staff and the HUGE cadre of valuable volunteers and dedicated system users.

July 2, 2013 - 10:47 am

Great post Tristan - very informative. How soon will the new LEEDv4 be a part of LEEDUser? I'd love to see the raw LEED documentation documents before telling an owner we should go for it.

July 2, 2013 - 11:31 am

Larry, "LEED 2012" was very clearly abandoned as the name for this version last year—see the link above. It is v4, no ambiguity there.

As for LEED 2009, it was confusing, and your quote sums it up. I think we will continue to see "LEED 2009" as the name for the rating system that people are using, although the conflation with "LEED v3" never really died, and perhaps v4 will revive that. This is just speculation. I hope this is a clear answer.

July 2, 2013 - 11:18 am

Thanks for the information Tristan.

I have a question with regard to your comment “The postponement of LEED v4, which had originally been developed as LEED 2012,…”. I was tutored by a LEED AP v1 associate when I began my studies for the LEED v2.2 exam. When LEED 2009 was being announced, USGBC was using the terms LEED v3 and LEED 2009.

This confused many of us, to the point USGBC released a LEED 2009 FAQ document where their first entry was this: “LEED 2009 is part of LEED Version 3 (v3). LEED 2009 refers to the actual LEED rating system and LEED credits. LEED 2009, coupled with an expanded third-party certification program and significant enhancements to LEED Online, make up the multi-faceted initiative that we refer to as LEED v3.”

Is USGBC going to abandon the yearly designation (LEED 2012) and retain only the version number (LEED v3)… or continue with both?

July 2, 2013 - 10:42 am

Dylan, stay posted on LEED v4 on LEEDuser. We are already starting to roll out content with our "new concepts" webcast and report, and will continue to post guidance through the summer, fall, and next year, as we see what specific needs our members have. Thanks for your feedback, and keep it coming.