After Long LEED Time, ‘v4’ Approved


The U.S. Green Building Council’s controversial update to its green-building certification system has gained strong member approval, paving the way for an official launch this fall.

USGBC reported Tuesday (July 2) that 86 percent of its “consensus body” had voted in favor of adopting LEED v4; only 66.7 percent was needed for passage.

LEED v4 received a 90 percent approval rating from the Council's “user” category; a 77 percent approval rating from the “general interest” category; and 89 percent approval from the “producer” category, USGBC said in announcing the voting results.

“There are 46 countries and territories around the world and all 50 U.S. states (and the District of Columbia) represented in the voting pool for LEED v4, which includes an extraordinarily diverse group of industry professionals, manufacturers, educators and other green building leaders,” Joel Ann Todd, chair of the LEED Steering Committee, said in a statement.

“USGBC sets a very high bar for a rating system to be approved,” Todd said.

Todd said the rating system "must earn a significant percentage of the overall vote as well as a majority approval from each of the various LEED stakeholder groups” to ensure the “rating system approval represents the full diversity of USGBC’s membership.”

Rocky Road

Formerly known as LEED 2012, LEED v4 is an overhaul to LEED 2009. The road to approval has been long and rocky.

The revised system was originally scheduled for a membership vote in March 2012 and was expected to be implemented thereafter. However, prompted by reported membership concerns, the organization postponed its vote for more than a year.

General Services Administration

The GSA has pushed to make federal buildings more energy efficient. NASA's Langley Research Center (pictured) is certified LEED Platinum.

During that time, the council held six public comment periods inviting its membership, industry and stakeholder input on the system’s proposed changes. It also renamed the system LEED v4 and extended the registration for LEED 2009 until mid-2015.

The council has posted all comments, which include many from architects and building materials manufacturers, and the comment responses on its website.

Industry Groups Critical

The American High-Performance Buildings Coalition, which includes the American Chemistry Council, the American Coatings Association and others, disagrees with the council’s approval and process.

Following the ballot announcement, the Buildings Coalition, which represents nearly 40 building industry associations, told D+D News it was “concerned” that the council had moved forward with the vote “before it even finished reviewing the comments, objections and reasons accompanying the various negative votes submitted, many of which were on behalf of…entire industries.”

“We believe USGBC moved prematurely to ballot, not having addressed or meaningfully considered the numerous substantial technical comments many stakeholders submitted during the comment process,” the coalition said in an e-mailed statement.  

“USGBC also did not publically disclose the number and nature of negative ballot votes and reasons that it ignored them. 

“Disregarding the sustained, serious, technical objections from important stakeholder groups—including a broad range of manufactures and producers of green building materials, products, and technologies—is no way to reach consensus.”

The group says “for a green building rating system to support truly environmentally friendly practices, it needs to be grounded in science, consensus and not biased.”

Greenbuild Debut

USGBC said it will debut the full program, along with reference guides, at the 2013 Greenbuild International Conference & Exposition scheduled for Nov. 20-22 in Philadelphia, PA.

The organization also said it would roll out a series of educational webinars on LEED v4 throughout the summer.

New Material & Resource Credits

Changes from LEED 2009 are seen in three main categories: new market sectors, increased technical rigor and streamlined services, according to the council.

Additionally, several new credits are introduced in the new system, including some in the “Materials & Resources” category that have been opposed by various industry groups including the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition.

Within that category, new credits are available for “Building Product Disclosure and Optimization” including: Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction, Environmental Product Declarations, Sourcing of Raw Materials, and Material Ingredient Reporting.

Those new credits provide for more transparency in the built environment, according to supporters of the LEED v4 system.

However, opponents have argued that the requirements are “untested” and “not clearly defined,” according a review of the public comments.


Opponents of LEED v4 argued against using a European Union law known as REACH as a basis for judging LEED credit-worthiness.

Further, opponents have taken issue with a controversial import of a European Union law known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) as a basis for judging the LEED credit-worthiness of materials. They argue that REACH represents a complex chemical risk-management program that would present major compliance issues for U.S. suppliers and other parties involved in building construction and renovation.

The REACH reference in LEED v4 represents a global step forward for safer chemicals, according to supporters.

‘Challenges the Market’

The updated system “builds on the past while offering new requirements, preparing all LEED projects to achieve higher levels of building performance and positive environmental outcomes,” according to Scot Horst, senior vice president of LEED, USGBC.

“This newest version of LEED challenges the market to make the next leap toward better, cleaner, healthier buildings.

“I am confident that people will also notice the improved usability of the system with an improved documentation process and more resources and tools to assist and support positive action,” Horst said.

Empire State Building
Serien / Wikimedia Commons

New York City’s Empire State Building received LEED Gold for Existing Buildings certification after a $550 million Empire State ReBuilding retrofit program.

Currently, there are more 100 projects pursuing certification through the LEED v4 beta program. With projects currently in the review phase, some will certify as early as this summer, the organization said.

Enrollment for the beta program remains open. For more information on the requirements of LEED v4, visit

A suite of LEED rating systems is available for new construction, commercial interiors, existing buildings, new homes and neighborhood developments.

Opposition to LEED and GSA Use

Many industry groups and political players have long voiced opposition to the LEED system, much of that focused on its required use in federal building projects.

The General Services Administration has required basic LEED certification for federal buildings since 2003 and LEED-Gold certification since 2010.

The agency’s preference for LEED may continue, but the GSA has not yet made an official announcement to that end.

In May, the GSA’s Green Building Advisory Committee recommended to GSA that the LEED green-building certification system remain the go-to system for all GSA buildings.


Tagged categories: Architects; Building design; Coating chemistry; Color + Design; Construction; Construction chemicals; General Services Administration; Government contracts; Green building; LEED; LEED v4; Specification; Specifiers; U.S. Green Building Council

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