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What’s up with LEED v5? Coffee Talk Follow-up and Recording

Our guests reply to the Qs we didn’t get to during our July 26 event. Plus, here’s the recording if you missed it, and USGBC will host several v5 update sessions at Greenbuild.
Paula Melton
August 15, 2023

What a pleasure it was hosting Sarah Talkington (LEED Steering Committee chair) and Keith Amann (past chair of the LEED Advisory Committee, past member of the LEED Steering Committee) for our recent LEEDuser coffee talk, What’s up with LEED v5?

Even better: Sarah and Keith generously agreed to answer some lingering questions we didn’t get to during our very lively Q&A period. So I’m listing those answers below. (Note: the “I” in some of the answers below is Sarah. I’ve put any added thoughts from me in parentheses and italics.)

Before that, though, I just saw the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has announced a bunch of opportunities to learn more about v5 at Greenbuild in D.C. Wise readers will note that Greenbuild is in September this year!

Here are the two v5 sessions I’m most excited about:

  • LEED v5: Swift Climate Action, Enriched Quality of Life, and Advanced Land Use and Biodiversity
  • Implementing the Future of LEED with LEED v5 Operations and Maintenance

How about you?

By the way, in case you were at the beach in July or something: one, I’m jealous, and two, no worries. Thanks to Katherine, our awesome tech support for coffee talks and webinars, you can watch it right here on this page, and comments are open on this post. We want to hear from you, and I’m pretty sure USGBC, Sarah, Keith, and all the committee members do too.

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If you need a v5 refresher, catch up with this post from last year’s Greenbuild, and re-read USGBC’s Future of LEED principles.

Last thing I’ll say! If you scroll all the way down, you’ll see many resources shared in the chat. Thanks for these links, Sandra, Selina, and Bruno!

Now for the Q&A.

1. Development Process

I hope to see a LEED v5 that does not require a LEED v5.1 issued every three to six months with major changes, similar to our past several years.

We share this hope!

Is there a preview of LEED v5 available? or is there documentation showing the credits impacted?

Not yet. Stay tuned!

Can you tell us more specifics about LEEDv5? When will the specifics be available? 

A draft of LEED v5 O+M will be available at Greenbuild. LEED BD+C will follow shortly thereafter.

Will there be a standard timeline for updates? Will it follow the past methods of needing to be balloted and voted upon, or will it be more frequent?

Look for this to be finalized by and announced at Greenbuild, if things go according to plan.

When is v4 going to close for project registration, and when will v5 come into effect?

(Paula’s note: It seems like there are no set targets yet for sunset dates for v4 or v4.1, which makes sense if you think about how long the consensus and balloting processes can take.)

Based on the principles in the Future of LEED, if we were meeting in a few years, how will you know that v5 will have been successful?

(Paula’s note: I asked this at the last second during the coffee talk, but it was my favorite question, so I made Keith and Sarah answer it again!)

  • More projects and more people will be engaged with LEED. We'll need a bigger tent to host the participants.
  • The project types and participants themselves will be more diverse.
  • V5 will be perceived as both inspirational and accessible.
  • LEED will play a critical role in enabling swift climate action and building community resilience against climate change.
  • The general population will have a keener appreciation for the role that green buildings and LEED play in improving human health and well-being, and restoring ecosystems.

Will buildings currently certified under O+M v4.1 be required to recertify under v5? 

There will be a predictable transition between LEED v4 and LEED v5. The timelines for reviewing, commenting, edits, and implementation will all be published. The first step is getting the draft out at Greenbuild.

2. Credits & Strategies

I hope that LEEDv5 is emphasizing carbon enough. Climate change is the most urgent issue. Without decarbonization and resiliency, our civilizations just doesn’t have a chance of surviving.

Yes, and! There are more than two alternatives here. Civilization doesn't stand much of a chance without water, food, or meaning either.

Please make sure you’re implementing achievable credits that the industry is ready for and that clients can afford.

A new version of LEED, particularly at the higher levels of certification, will always be an evolution, asking the market to rise to the occasion. Be prepared to learn and invest in meeting the challenges of our time. But the asks should be clear, and simple solutions should be apparent where they are available.

Credits are so complex, not worth enough, and the busy-work that goes into gathering the documentation is excessive. There are areas where it can be streamlined so folks can focus more on the ‘why’ of those credits and less paper chasing.

The Future of LEED publication was clear on our intent here: “Reduce the documentation burden for certification while maintaining the rigor of third-party verification.”

Will there be any new credits added to V5?


Will LEED v5 connect BD+C and O+M as a required continuum of practice?

This has been the intent, but it has been challenging to implement. With the shifts of governance for each of the systems to the Consensus Committees, this is now a specific area of focus for the LEED Steering Committee to achieve.

What version of ASHRAE 90.1 will be used for v5?

TBD, but for context: Historically, the 90.1 reference year has intentionally been very flexible (through LEED Interpretations) to prevent project teams from incurring the cost of having to perform multiple models against various baselines to demonstrate Energy Code Compliance and for LEED Certification.

I think that this is an area of misunderstanding, or a place where there is not awareness around all of the options or the intent. Base codes are still all over the map in the Unites States, and the goal is to demonstrate decarbonization and energy efficiency. Some jurisdictions are requiring efficiencies that significantly outpace the global standard. Some grids are far cleaner than others. This will benefit the projects in these areas.

What about Materials and Resources credits in LEED v5? Are the requirements less stringent than v4?

With LEED v4, we are witnessing a sea change for the materials industry, transforming what sustainability means from a single-attribute focus (on climate, health, or ecosystems) to a multi-attribute optimization.

LEED v5 will continue this evolution toward optimization and will focus on intersectionality—intentionally overlapping desired outcomes and avoiding problematic tradeoffs.

I think it is hard to define rigor and stringency when we are literally moving the target destination. This ship takes wide turns. Right now, it is about making sure we are all aiming for the right goal posts and clearly communicating them before we worry about how to apply speed.

How might LEED v5 address the ability for suburban and/or rural projects to demonstrate their sustainability successes?

LEED is a comprehensive measure of sustainability, and a project's site plays a huge role in this regard. Looking toward the future, as the grid becomes less carbon intensive, decarbonizing transportation will play a critical role. There are tradeoffs. Skyscrapers don't have the same opportunities to install rooftop solar, for example. Continue to look to LEED to inform what is possible for all sites and inspire what is possible with the associated constraints.

Any work on increasing carbon in soil via the Sustainable Sites credits?

All of the credits in all of the credit categories are being challenged to demonstrate how they align with today's imperatives: action on climate, human health and well-being, and regenerating ecosystems. Carbon sequestration is an opportunity.

With biodiversity loss being on track to be the next carbon crisis, and given the role that healthy ecosystems play in carbon sequestration, will v5 be addressing this in some way? 

LEED will continue to be a comprehensive sustainability tool, committed to addressing today’s imperatives: the climate crisis, threats to human health and wellbeing, and ecosystem restoration.

The Future of LEED mentions regenerative practices. How is the development of LEED v5 defining what regenerative means?

This is a level of detail we can't provide yet; specific definitions are not yet finalized.

3. LEED Online & Certification Process

Will USGBC be developing its own BIM 360 add-ons for credits such as D/V? Or will there be a list of recommended no-cost or low-cost add-ons? Not every firm is willing to buy third-party tools.


Will LEED EB v5 continue the trend started by v4.1 and be exclusively implemented within the Arc platform?

The draft of LEED v5 O+M will be debuted at Greenbuild. (Paula’s note: this could go either way, but my money’s on no, if anyone would like to place a bet! ;-))

Is GBCI also looking at enhancing or improving the submission and review process? 

That is a question for the GBCI board, outside the purview of the LEED Steering Committee. That said, certification system simplification would work toward this end.

USGBC announced a "streamlined" certification approach combining LEED and WELL. Can you speak to any ways that v5 will affect that synchronization?

This was an intentional shift towards alignment with other relevant rating systems and standards where possible. I expect to see more of this type of synchronization going forward.

4. Global Relevance & Alignment

How will LEED v5 impact international projects? (E.g., in Europe, would there be a link with the EU Taxonomy?)

This is the latest information published on this topic.

Do you plan to make the energy modelling credits more relevant to other parts of the world that have their own standards and may possibly get penalized for the ASHRAE appendix G requirements? Also, are you planning to align it with NABERS design for performance modelling?

The intension is to enable LEED v5 for swift action on climate. This will include decarbonization, energy efficiency, distributed resources, grid-interactive buildings and redundant power. RE: the details on how we do this, it remains TBD and we encourage your eyes and comments on the draft. The goal is global relevance.

We are located in Europe, and at the moment LEED is a torch bearer regarding issuing a seal of sustainability benchmark in building. However, the EU is pushing hard to attain a certification based in EU policies, so with that in mind, the relevance of LEED for the future here in this continent, what are you foreseeing? Additionally, [what are you foreseeing] with the integration of LEVELS and the EU Taxonomy through innovation?

This is what we mean when we refer to the “relevance” of LEED. Green building is regional, based on markets, policies, goals, etc. The intent is to build a certification system that promotes solutions that are universally relevant.

Do you plan to adapt the manual for different countries?

LEED currently maintains Alternative Compliance Paths for different regions. I expect this to continue where necessary.

5. LEED Professional Credentials

Will the AP credential still have a key role in implementing LEED on projects, or will it shift to project teams becoming more autonomous, with v5 requirements becoming more clear and straightforward?

LEED APs will continue to evolve and play critical roles on LEED projects. Simplification will not make the LEED AP credential obsolete, but will provide more meaningful work. The shifts will be toward intersectionality and intentional outcomes that align with today's imperatives:

  • climate action
  • improved human health and wellbeing
  • regenerating ecosystems

6. Helpful Resources Shared in Comments

Date updated: 
Tuesday, August 15, 2023

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