Projects Using LEED to Respond to Pandemic


The U.S. Green Building Council reported late last week that more than 130 LEED projects have engaged its Safety First pilot credits in support of “healthy reopening plans in response to the pandemic.”

USGBC said that the more than 130 projects pursuing the credits represent 20 different countries and territories.

“Health and safety has been a core part of LEED from the beginning, but the pandemic has revealed new ways we can leverage sustainability to better support people and communities during this crisis,” said Melissa Baker, Senior Vice President of Technical Core at USGBC.

“These projects are taking the first step and reinforcing USGBC’s belief that in order to rebuild a healthy economy we have to focus on healthy people in healthy places.”

The council says that the credits are being used by commercial interior, new construction and existing building projects and have included offices, data centers, schools, retail and hospitality projects.

The Credits

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.”

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.

In July, the USGBC released two new Safety First pilot credits: “Safety First: Pandemic Planning” and “Safety First: Social Equity in Pandemic Planning.”

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.”


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

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