Staying Current on Sustainability and High Performance Buildings

While LEED has been around for over a decade, there is still so much to learn about green building in our ever-evolving industry.

Every year, industry leaders, experts, and frontline professionals gather at Greenbuild, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. Last week was my fifth attendance of this awe-inspiring and education-packed event. Having been a LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design, Accredited Professional) for over ten years, I’m always on the lookout for the latest information on sustainability and high performance buildings. This year’s Greenbuild did not disappoint! Here are some of my biggest takeaways.

 

 

LEED V4: The Bar Has Been Raised

LEED has been around for over a decade now, and many of its requirements have been adopted as standards for energy codes, municipality regulations, and institutional policies. That means it’s time to raise the bar and set an even more stringent goal for LEED certification – the “L” stands for Leadership, after all! The requirements for some areas like Materials and Resources have become so stringent that some points might not be achievable today. Product manufacturers will be forced to catch up unless the LEED commissioning body, the USGBC (United States Green Building Council), amends the compliance pathway.

 

 

Product Transparency is Critical

In the early days of LEED, it could be difficult to find the information needed to make informed choices about materials and finishes, like the VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) content of paints and sealants. But this has changed over the years as LEED has grown in popularity. Not only is information like VOC content readily available today, but product manufacturers are responding to market demands by tailoring their products to meet LEED standards. LEED v4 requires even more transparency from manufacturers and requires them to declare the environmental impact of raw material acquisition, energy use and efficiency, content of materials and chemical substances, emissions to air, soil, and water and waste generation of their products. These new declarations are called Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

 

 

LEED Alone is Not Enough

Everyone involved in building design or construction is aware of the LEED rating system by now. For those looking to differentiate their project’s sustainability, new rating systems have come into favor. These scoring systems do not replace LEED, but focus on additional and more stringent behavior. The WELL Building Standard focuses on human health and wellness and the connection it has with our buildings. Several systems have been launched for Net Zero Energy Certification. The Living Building Challenge is an extreme green building certification program that focuses on regenerative spaces that are self-sufficient and remain within the resource limits of their site. Living Buildings generate more energy than they use and collect and treat all water on site. Today, attempts are being made to certify buildings under multiple certifications. Third party certifications are in demand and building owners who see their value are willing to pay more to prove it.

 

Jeremiah Hatfield RA, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Registered Architect