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USGBC Releases 2 New Safety Pilot Credits

Friday, July 31, 2020

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The U.S. Green Building Council released two new Safety First pilot credits as part of its LEED for Cities and Communities rating system.

“The new credits are designed to help local governments and development authorities better prepare for and respond to future pandemic events,” the council said.

“The guidance includes strategies for planning, risk assessment and training, as well as evaluating equity implications and impacts to vulnerable communities. Between the increasing risks associated with climate change and the current public health crisis, the new LEED credits provide additional ways to integrate public health and social equity into sustainability and resilience efforts.”

The new credits are “Safety First: Pandemic Planning” and “Safety First: Social Equity in Pandemic Planning.”


The U.S. Green Building Council released two new Safety First pilot credits as part of its LEED for Cities and Communities rating system.

The Pandemic Planning credit is intended to help cities and communities prepare for, control and mitigate the spread of disease during a pandemic that poses a high risk to people. The plan must:

  • Include a task force representing diverse backgrounds that is responsible for evaluating possible impacts and advising decision makers on short- and long-term challenges;
  • Identify risks and vulnerabilities to health by outlining historical, geographical, epidemiological and other factors and assess preparedness;
  • Evaluate healthcare system readiness, domestic response, incident management and other existing policies and procedures; and
  • Include education and training for community partners and other stakeholders.

The Social Equity credit, meanwhile, systematically considers equity implications across all phases of the pandemic preparedness, planning and response process. Plans must:

  • Have a local equity officer in place and responsible for building equity into the structure of the emergency command and response system;
  • Convene a Pandemic Community Advisory Group to gather input on an on-going basis and the group must reflect the demographic and socio-economic diversity of the city or community;
  • Include public communications, outreach and educational campaigns in order to share relevant information about the pandemic, public health and healthcare facilities available; and
  • Demonstrate how policy, procedures, infrastructure and facilities impact low income, vulnerable or at-risk groups.

“LEED has long supported resilience planning and the new Safety First pilot credits expand those efforts to ensure local governments and development authorities are also planning for and considering public health threats and social equity challenges,” the USGBC said. “As projects pursue the new credits, USGBC will collect feedback and refine the guidance.”

The council notes that these credits will be discussed during the USGBC’s Healthy Economy Forum, which is slated for Aug. 4-5. These credits are just the latest in a string of Safety First initiatives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other Credits

The first credits were released in June, along with a set of tools that professionals can use to analyze buildings.

The original set of credits included:

  • Safety First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space credit - requires facilities to create a policy and implement procedures that follow green cleaning best practices that support a healthy indoor environment and worker safety. The credit also requires procedures and training for cleaning personnel, occupant education and other services that are within a management team’s control.
  • Safety First: Re-Enter Your Workspace credit - a tool to assess and plan for re-entry, as well as measure progress once a space is occupied. It identifies sustainable requirements in building operations and human behavior that take precautions against the spread of COVID-19 and aligns with the American Institute of Architects’ Re-occupancy Assessment Tool.
  • Safety First: Building Water System Recommissioning credit - helps building teams reduce the risk that occupants are exposed to degraded water quality and integrates recommendations from industry organizations and experts, including the U.S. EPA and CDC, and requires buildings to develop and implement a water management plan, coordinate with local water and public health authorities, communicate water system activities and associated risks to building occupants and take steps to address water quality from the community supply, as well as the building.
  • Safety First: Managing Indoor Air Quality During COVID-19 credit - builds on existing indoor air quality requirements and credits in LEED. Building teams should ensure indoor air quality systems are operating as designed and determine temporary adjustments to ventilation that may minimize the spread of COVID-19 through the air. The guidance also encourages monitoring and evaluating indoor air quality on an ongoing basis.

The USGBC noted that it will refine its recommendations and is open to feedback on the new credits. In addition, the organization pointed to its affiliation with Arc and its Arc Re-Entry tool set.

Arc is a technology platform that aims to allow teams to oversee the sustainability of buildings and collect data.

“Facility managers can use Arc Re-Entry to add data and generate a performance score for their building or portfolio that provides a comparable measure of the breadth and documentation of facility management policies, occupant experience and measured indoor air quality,” the USGBC said in a statement.

“Arc Re-Entry allows facility managers to evaluate the relationship between expectations for policies and procedures and occupants experience. It also helps identify opportunities to implement LEED’s Safety First Credits and the WELL Health-Safety Rating.”

Economic Plan

The credits in general were first announced in May, when the USGBC announced its economic recovery strategy “Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy,” which aims to “leverage LEED and the community implementing the rating system to support buildings and communities in a post-pandemic world.”

At the time, the council also announced that it would be taking the following actions:

  • Form CEO Advisory Councils - USGBC will form Regional CEO Advisory Councils to advise and support USGBC’s CEO on how the organization, its programs and the building and construction industries can prioritize sustainability in a post-pandemic world;
  • Accelerate USGBC Equity - Announced at Greenbuild Atlanta in 2019, USGBC will accelerate the implementation of its USGBC Equity program to better address the social, health and economic disparities within communities;
  • Call for ideas - USGBC will launch a call for ideas this week to hear perspectives from the broader market on how LEED and healthy spaces can evolve given the current public health crisis;
  • Adapt review process - GBCI, the certifying body for LEED and other green business certification programs, will amend its LEED review process immediately to incorporate the lessons learned over the last two months from COVID-19, to ensure projects that are currently undergoing LEED certification can dynamically transition and make their spaces healthier; and
  • Publish guidance reports - USGBC will publish a series of best practice guidance reports to help project teams assist their occupants as they reenter their spaces.

“We know that LEED is the key to a prosperous future,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO of USGBC. “Sustainability is central to creating jobs, saving energy and saving money, all of which are part of the backbone of a strong economy. But strong economies must also support the people who make them run. Going forward, we will prioritize our efforts to build trust in people that their buildings and spaces are healthy and positively impacting their communities.”


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Building codes; COVID-19; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Health & Safety; Latin America; LEED; North America; Regulations; United States Green Building Council (USGBC); Z-Continents

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