LEED v4 Paints New Challenges


Love it or hate it, LEED v4 is set to make its formal debut in November in project plans around the world—and that includes paint and coatings work.

Paint and coating credits are changing under the new version of the world’s most widely used green-building rating system, with new requirements for evaluating VOC emissions and changes in credit categories.

Numerous building and design professionals consider the next generation of LEED a game changer that will reshape many facets of green building.

Some 86 percent of U.S. Green Building Council members finally approved LEED v4 in July after the proposal survived a number of hurdles. (So long was the road to LEED v4 that sponsors had to scrap the original name of LEED 2012.)

Now, officials say, the newest version of LEED “challenges the market to make the next leap toward better, cleaner and healthier buildings.”

What does that mean for LEED v4 credits involving paint and coatings work? Durability + Design News examined these highlights with the help of USGBC officials.

Combining Credits

Under LEED v2009 (the predecessor to v4), interior low-emitting paints and coatings applied on site were eligible for a “Low-emitting Materials” credit. For LEED for Healthcare and LEED for Schools projects, the credit also covered products applied to exterior surfaces.

However, in LEED v4, the paint and coatings credit has been combined with those for three other low-emitting materials (adhesives and sealants, flooring systems, and composite wood and agrifiber products) into one category for “Low-emitting Materials.”

Achieving the “Low-emitting Materials” credit means the project team can earn up to three points toward certification under the new rating system, USGBC says.

For detailed information on how the organization calculates the points in this category based on project type see EQc2.

VOC Emissions and Content

This credit centers on “minimizing exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs),” according to USGBC.

In LEED v2009, the low-emitting materials credit addressed VOC content; in LEED v4, the combined Low-emitting Materials credit also addresses the “actual emissions of the product,” USGBC explains.

“Ideally, those involved in building projects should have a basic understanding of VOCs, know how to identify the VOC content in a product, and know whether the product has been tested for emissions,” the organization says.

South Coast Air Quality Management District

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has long imposed the nation's toughest VOC rules on field-applied paints and coatings. The rules are designed to help reduce air-pollution levels in the smog-plagued Los Angeles air basin.

Most major paint manufacturers now have low-VOC and zero-VOC paint and coatings options that would help achieve the revised credit requirements.

Evaluating Emissions

For the VOC emission testing requirement, products used must be tested and determined compliant in accordance with California Department of Public Health Standard Method v1.1-2010, using the applicable exposure scenario. The default exposure is the “private office scenario,” USGBC says.

The manufacturer’s or third party’s certification must indicate the exposure scenario used to determine compliance.

Compliance claims for wet-applied products must state the amount applied in mass per surface area, the organization adds.

Paint makers’ claims of compliance must also state the range of total VOCs after 14 days (336 hours), measured as specified in the CDPH Standard Method v1.1:

  • 0.5 mg/m3 or less;
  • between 0.5 and 5.0 mg/m3; or
  • 5.0 mg/m3 or more.

Protection for Workers

In addition to meeting the emission evaluation requirement, on-site wet-applied products must not contain “excessive levels of VOCs” in order to protect the health of painters and other trades exposed to the products, USGBC says.

To demonstrate compliance, a product or layer must meet the following requirements, as applicable. 

First, manufacturers must disclose the VOC content of their products.

Second, any testing must follow the methods specified in the applicable regulation.

In addition, for projects to receive the credit in North America, “methylene chloride and perchloroethylene may not be intentionally added in paints, coatings, adhesives or sealants,” according to USGBC.

For projects outside the U.S., all paints, coatings, adhesives and sealants wet-applied on site must either meet the technical requirements of the above regulations, or comply with applicable national VOC control regulations, such as the European Decopaint Directive (2004/42/EC), Hong Kong Air Pollution Control (VOC) Regulation, or the Canadian VOC Concentration Limits for Architectural Coatings.

Beta and Release

Even with the official launch two months away, more than 100 project teams are currently pursuing LEED v4 certification through the program’s beta version, officials say.

Lance Cheung / U.S. Department of Agriculture

LEED is green-building rating system developed by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council. The framework applies to all building types: commercial, residential, and entire neighborhood communities, and works throughout the building's lifecycle, according to the USGBC.

The official launch of the full program and its accompanying reference guides will be made available during USGBC’s Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, scheduled for Nov. 20-22 in Philadelphia.

Registration Extended for v2009

Meanwhile, USGBC has extended the LEED v2009 registration until June 1, 2015.

Under v2009 and the other rating systems pre-v4, the low-emitting materials credits (IEQc4.1 and IEQc4.2) rely on VOC content only. There is no emission requirement.

The requirements are:


Tagged categories: Architecture; Certifications and standards; Color + Design; Design; Green building; Green coatings; Green design; LEED v4; Low-VOC; Specification; U.S. Green Building Council; Zero-VOC

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.