LEED v5 Existing Building Draft Released


The U.S. Green Building Council recently launched its draft for the new LEED v5 rating system for Operations and Maintenance of existing buildings. Described as the newest version of LEED, the LEED v5 for Building Design and Construction is also anticipated to roll out in 2024.

“Achieving the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement and fulfilling the corresponding pledges made by organizations and governments demands bold, large-scale initiatives,” said Peter Templeton, President and CEO, USGBC and GBCI.

“Requirements within LEED v5, coupled with the federal government's efforts to establish the new national definition of zero-emissions building, represent a pivotal moment in the built environment’s path toward decarbonization.”

What’s New

According to the release, the LEED v5 O+M draft is designed to “deliver an understandable, actionable and transformational rating system with a clear road map for progressive actions that facilitate LEED certification.”

The draft includes industry benchmarking and scoring of performance using a data-driven approach to certification. USGBC explains that this will assist LEED users in anticipating and preparing for building operations, legislative mandates, climate risks and expected industry trends.

A beta version of the LEED v5 O+M rating system will reportedly open with a group of project teams across a range of projects. The projects will then provide critical feedback that will aid in refining the language and functionality of the system, the council says.

The beta phase will commence in the fourth quarter of 2023. Focuses in the draft include changes in carbon, health, resilience and equity categories, including which LEED v5:

  • Addresses all significant sources of carbon emissions in buildings;
  • Provides clear steps for delivering buildings with ultra-low greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Rewards existing buildings for leadership and planning to hit future decarbonization targets for buildings with ultra-low carbon emissions;
  • Enhances the carbon literacy of the industry and incentivize existing buildings to work toward ultra-low-carbon and zero-emission plans;
  • Includes a credit for continual assessment and verification of measurable indoor air quality, including indicators for infection risk management;
  • Focuses on equity within cleaning operations and protections for cleaning personnel;
  • Recognizes that adaptation is critical and rewards operational preparedness for extreme events;
  • Allows projects to understand who is in the building and to meet occupant needs with a health-centric approach, including identifying health resilience goals;
  • Asks teams to understand and address the social impact of a project; and
  • Promotes equity, access and economic empowerment through on-site renewable energy projects, ownership transfer and energy rights for underserved and front-line communities.

LEED v5 will reportedly work to adopt minimum requirements on embodied carbon, moving closer to net zero buildings. USGBC is also working with the Embodied Carbon Harmonization and Optimization (ECHO) Project, a coalition of industry groups working to standardize the reporting of embodied carbon emissions.

In conjunction with the draft release, White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi announced a plan to create a new national definition of zero-emissions building, of which LEED v5 will align.

LEED v4 Background, Update

Announced nearly a decade ago, LEED v4 made its formal debut in the industry in November 2013.

Under the upgraded green-building rating system, several paint and coatings credits would change and be required to undergo VOC emissions evaluations, in addition to changes in categories. The updated LEED v4 rating system was approved by some 86% of USGBC members earlier that year after the proposal survived a number of hurdles.

Previously, under LEED v2009 (the predecessor to v4), interior low-emitting paints and coatings applied onsite 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 meant the project team could earn up to three points toward certification under the new rating system, said USGBC at the time. The LEED v4 credit was designed to “minimize exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs),” according to USGBC.

Shortly after much of LEED v4 information was released, the USGBC shared that project teams who specified paints and coatings by manufacturers committed to material transparency could qualify for additional credits under its reformulated “Building Product Disclosure and Optimization” (BPDO) credit category.

Under the green-building rating system, paints and coatings are considered “permanently installed building products” and are therefore included in all three Building Product Disclosure and Optimization credits, USGBC says.

The suite of BPDO credits within the Materials and Resources credit category consists of BPDO-Environmental Product Declarations, BPDO-Sourcing of Raw Materials, and BPDO-Material Ingredients. For these credits, all of the “Option 1” tracks are calculated by a number of products, while “Option 2” tracks are calculated based on cost, USGBC said.

USGBC said at the time that the intent of the suite of BPDO credits—which features a maximum of two points each in each credit—was to “encourage the use of products and materials for which life-cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically, and socially preferable life-cycle impacts.”

Organization officials said that disclosing information on product ingredients and processes would result in a faster and greater change in the marketplace, according to reports.

Then, last year, in November, the USGBC announced plans to update the primary version of the LEED green building certification program.

Updates made to the primary version of the LEED green building certification program, LEED v4, reportedly enabled Building Design and Construction (BD+C) and Interior Design and Construction (ID+C) projects to demonstrate improvement in energy performance with LEED v4.1’s and LEED v4’s evolving needs of the market and build on previous versions of the LEED rating system.

The latest version of the LEED rating system is expected to enter the development phase in January 2023. After months of conversations with the global LEED community, it was decided by the Council that the development of the new rating system will be guided by the Future of LEED Principles.


Tagged categories: Carbon footprint; Certifications and standards; Emissions; Environmental Controls; Good Technical Practice; Green building; LEED; LEED v5; Maintenance + Renovation; Maintenance programs; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Projects - Commercial; United States Green Building Council (USGBC)

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