Feature Article

Your Guide to the New Draft of LEED

USGBC is accepting comments on what will become LEED in 2012—EBN walks you through key changes as they appear in the current draft.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has released a draft of the next version of the LEED rating systems, and has opened the first public comment period for that draft. The comment period will run from Nov. 8, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2010. According to USGBC’s website, a second public comment period is expected in mid-2011, and the rating system itself is expected to be released in November 2012. Although it had been dubbed “LEED 2012” informally during development, after the current “LEED 2009” system, the new version of the rating system is officially unnamed.

USGBC released the draft to EBN just before the public comment period was to open. Our analysis of what’s (mostly) the same, what’s different, and what’s totally new follows. We focused our analysis on the LEED for New Construction (LEED-NC) rating system, but readers should see the rating system draft for all the rating systems, including details on LEED-NC that we didn’t have space to discuss.

If you think we missed anything important, or if you have comments on the draft that you would like to share with USGBC, you are welcome to join the moderated forum on EBN’s sister website, LEEDuser. Relevant comments from that forum will be submitted to USGBC.

The New LEED draft

While LEED 2009 has 49 credits and 9 prerequisites, the new LEED draft has 49 credits and 15 prerequisites. They are organized into 10 credit categories—up from 7 for LEED 2009. Structurally, the biggest changes are:

• The rating system begins with a new “Integrated Process” category;

• a new Location and Transportation category collects location-related credits from LEED-NC with others from LEED for Neighborhood Developments; and

• at the end of the rating system, a new “Performance” category includes the commissioning credits (moved from Energy and Atmosphere) along with a handful of new measurement and reporting prerequisites and credits.

Location and Transportation (LT)

The new LT category consists mostly of credits from the old Sustainable Sites category that aren’t so much about the site itself as they are about where it’s located. It also includes a few new credits pulled from LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND).

What’s (Mostly) the Same

The Site Selection credit has a somewhat expanded scope. Sites with “unique soils” as well as sites not served by municipal water and wastewater systems would be forbidden. A new option would give additional credit for projects choosing “high-priority redevelopment areas” such as a brownfield or one of several zones designated by federal agencies for redevelopment. (The LEED for Commercial Interiors Site Selection credit is vastly simplified and narrowed: only projects in LEED-certified buildings can earn points.)

The “community connectivity” credit from LEED 2009 has slightly different requirements in the new draft, and a new name: Development Density and Community Access. For both credit options, the basic intent wouldn’t change under the new draft, but the way you get there (via documentation requirements) does. For example “diverse uses” replace “basic services.” Instead of being required to use “previously developed” sites, projects would have to be in “infill” locations—a significant change.

The Low-Emitting and Fuel-Efficient Vehicles credit has been tightened up. Perhaps out of recognition that too many such facilities were going unused, there is no longer credit available for providing fueling stations, and it’s not enough to provide preferred parking. Instead, vehicles must be provided to occupants.

What’s Different

The new Parking Reduction credit replaces the old SSc4 “Parking Capacity” credit. The requirement to meet but not exceed local zoning requirements remains, but that’s not all. To earn points, projects would also have to reduce capacity over a “base ratio” given in the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ Parking Planning Handbook. The requirements are tougher for transit-served projects.

What’s New

To all of those people who have complained that LEED gives points for bike racks: be careful what you wish for. A Bicycle Storage prerequisite means that all projects would have to have bike racks (and as a prerequisite, no points would be awarded), although the requirement is for 2.5% of occupants, not 5% as in the credit. A new requirement would prevent double-counting of bike racks with other projects.

The old credit for bicycle storage and changing rooms has been recast and renamed as Bicycle Network, Storage, and Changing Rooms. The “network” part is key—no more points for a bike rack in a location where it’s irrelevant; that’s measured in your choice of three ways. The storage and shower requirements have been altered; for example, the number of showers required is slightly increased.

A new credit for Reduced Automobile Dependence would replace the old Sustainable Sites (SS) credit for public transportation access. The credit is also completely rewritten. The “transit-served location” roughly encompasses the LEED 2009 version of this credit, but with requirements that appear to be more inclusive. A new “metropolitan planning organization” option would offer credit for project in areas with low vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT).

Walkable Streets is a new credit for LEED-NC, but will be familiar to projects using LEED for Neighborhood Development. The requirements are too detailed to summarize here.

Sustainable Sites (SS)

What’s (Mostly) the Same

The draft simplifies the wording of the Construction Activity Pollution Prevention prerequisite.

To earn the Brownfield Redevelopment credit, projects would not only develop a contaminated site, they would also have to clean it up. While this would not likely represent a change for projects pursuing this credit, it is an important clarification.

What’s Different

Gone from Site Development—Protect or Restore Habitat are the restrictive site disturbance parameters included in previous rating systems. Replacing them would be a requirement to protect 40% of greenfield portions of the site from development, a requirement to restore 30% of previously developed portions with native vegetation, and a requirement to restore the soils of all vegetated areas. If those requirements didn’t work for a project, it could choose to donate off-site land equal to 60% of the previously developed area to a land trust for permanent preservation.

The draft takes what had been three cases for Site Development—Open Space and rolls them into one. Projects must provide outdoor space equal to 30% of the total site area, including building footprint—stricter than LEED 2009’s comparable Case 3. A minimum of 25% of the outdoor space must have ground or overhead vegetation.

The two stormwater credits from LEED 2009 have been rolled into one credit, Rainwater Management, with requirements citing the principles of Low Impact Development (LID). Describing the object of this credit as “rainwater”—a resource—instead of “stormwater”—a management problem—is a subtle but important reorientation.

The draft for the Heat Island Reduction credit combines roof and non-roof measures into one credit with requirements that are roughly the same as in LEED 2009.

The overall intent behind the Light Pollution Reduction credit doesn’t appear to have been changed, but the requirements have been completely overhauled. USGBC appears to be trying to maintain the rigor of the current credit requirements while attempting a new calculation method, one that is simpler and requires calculations for fewer locations.

Water Efficiency (WE)

What’s (Mostly) the Same

The 20% water reduction baseline required by Minimum Fitting and Fixture Water Use Reduction is unchanged from the LEED 2009 water use reduction prerequisite.

Similarly, the Additional Fixture and Fitting Water Use Reduction credit is renamed, but key requirements such as point thresholds are not changed.

What’s Different

Additional Landscape Water Use Reduction is renamed (from “Water Efficient Landscaping”) and its calculation method overhauled. Like the new prerequisite (see below), it only applies to projects with more than 1,000 ft2 of exterior vegetated space, and is based on the WaterSense Water Budget Tool.

Sustainable Wastewater Management is renamed (from “Innovative Wastewater Technologies”), and also has some key changes. Option 1, to reduce water use for sewage conveyance by 50%, is simply reworded. Option 2, which previously focused on treatment of 50% of wastewater onsite, is now focused on reusing 25% of wastewater. Option 3 is a wholly new requirement, although projects pursuing Option 2 under LEED 2009 are probably at least part of the way to meeting it. It requires resource recovery and reuse for 25% of the baseline nitrogen or organic carbon loading from building occupants.

What’s New

In the new Landscape Water Use Reduction prerequisite, all projects with over 1,000 ft2 of exterior vegetated space will be required to reduce water use 30% below a baseline established by the WaterSense Water Budget Tool.

Another new prerequisite, Appliance and Process Water Use Reduction, sets minimum performance requirements for some appliances (clothes washers, residential dishwashers, and pre-rinse spray valves) as well as some processes (heat rejection and cooling, water temperature tempering, and flow-through vacuum generators).

Additional Appliance and Process Water Use Reduction builds on the new prerequisite, with projects able to accumulate points for water efficiency in clothes washers, kitchen equipment, lab equipment, vehicle-washing equipment, and municipal steam systems.

A new credit, Cooling Tower Makeup Water, calls for a set of measures to conserve water used for cooling tower makeup while controlling microbes, corrosion, and scale in the condenser water system.

Energy and Atmosphere (EA)

What’s (Mostly) the Same

On-Site Renewable Energy is largely unchanged, but point thresholds are more aggressive.

The Refrigerant Management credit is largely unchanged, with some apparently minor wording changes.

Green Power has some minor wording changes, but also more aggressive requirements, notably a minimum contract length of five years.

What’s Different

The refrigerant management prerequisites for all rating systems have been eliminated. This change reflects industry-wide advancement in ozone-safe refrigerants in buildings.

The big change in Minimum Energy Performance for LEED-NC is how energy savings would be calculated under Option 1: Whole Building Energy Simulation. It is notoriously difficult to identify a single effective energy-use metric for benchmarking high-performing buildings. Energy cost is used in LEED 2009, but the draft calls for a combination of energy cost and source Energy Use Intensity (EUI). This approach may help to balance the arbitrary signals that either approach alone might send. The same 10% improvement over a baseline is maintained in the new draft, but it references ASHRAE 90.1-2010, which is estimated to be about 25% more stringent than the 2007 version referenced by LEED 2009.

The Optimize Energy Performance credit has the same key change to its metrics as the prerequisite. Points start at a 13% reduction (up from 12%) and go up much more aggressively than in LEED 2009, topping out at 70% (instead of 48%). Other new details focus on requiring project teams to use the energy modeling process to influence design—rather than using models only to check compliance after the fact. Teams would have to establish an energy performance target no later than the schematic design phase, and, for the simulation option, use the energy modeling process to inform their design. Projects would have to analyze a minimum of nine efficiency measures during the design process and account for the results in design decision-making.

What’s New

Demand Response is a new credit, with two main options: incorporate the capability to participate in a demand-response program through a local utility, or implement electrical load-shifting measures, such as ice storage, that permanently transfer regulated electricity demand from daytime hours to off-peak hours. Either measure would contribute to reductions in peak demand for utility power, avoiding the typically high emissions during those periods. The benefits of load-shifting are usually captured in electricity costs, but not in source EUI metrics, so this credit would help offset the reduced emphasis on cost in the new Optimize Energy Performance credit.

Materials and Resources (MR)

What’s (Mostly) the Same

The Storage and Collection of Recyclables prerequisite has changes clarifying the location of the recycling area, but the requirements don’t represent a big change.

Building Reuse remains similar to the LEED 2009 version. The requirement that the reused portion of the building had to represent a certain ratio of the total project is removed, making more projects eligible. The point thresholds are also easier.

The wording for Materials Reuse is changed, but the basic idea isn’t much different. One significant addition would be to allow the use of reclaimed wood, even if it is not certified. The credit refers to wood products “from secondary manufacturers; felled, diseased, or dead trees from urban or suburban areas; orchard trees that are un-productive and cut for replacement; and wood recovered from landfills or water bodies.” The addition of water bodies is likely to require additional caveats, given recent adopted regulations in Florida and elsewhere banning the harvest of submerged logs from rivers due to concerns about ecosystem damage.

Changes to the Regional Materials credit clarify the wording but would not represent major changes.

What’s Different

Construction and Demolition Waste Management is similar to the old construction waste management credit. However, the new credit recognizes that projects involving demolition often have a leg up on projects without demolition, and would give them a higher threshold to achieve. Also, Alternative Daily Cover (ADC) would not qualify as diverted debris.

Structural materials like steel and concrete often contain recycled content, and have helped make the recycled content credit fairly easy in previous versions of LEED. Structural materials can now only contribute to the prerequisite (see below), while the credit is focused on Recycled Content for Non-Structural Materials. Other than that change, the requirements are mostly the same, although there is a new second option for projects meeting the recycled content requirement and using at least 5% of materials from manufacturers with a closed-loop product recycling and take-back program.

At first glance, it appears that LEED 2009’s “rapidly renewable” credit has simply been redefined as Biobased Materials (Nonstructural). All materials qualifying as rapidly renewable under LEED 2009 would qualify here as biobased. However, under the definition of “biobased” established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 2002 Farm Bill—the definition referenced by this draft—forestry products and other products that aren’t as “rapidly” renewable also qualify. Nonstructural wood materials would now get credit here—even if they weren’t certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) or another program. However, products that are certified by any program accepted by LEED’s “Standard of Standards” (under development) would get extra credit here.

The Certified Wood credit is being revised under a different USGBC process and is not being included in the first public comment draft.

What’s New

Recycled Content now merits a prerequisite (also a credit—see above). The threshold for recycled content is set at 10% of the materials budget, and post-consumer and pre-consumer content are valued equally.

Construction and Demolition Waste Management Planning is another new MR prerequisite. Projects would have to develop and implement a Construction Waste Management Plan. There would be no minimum threshold for implementation.

A new Whole Building Reuse credit caters to historic preservation. It gives credit to projects that not only maintain at least 75% of the total building, but that reuse a historic building in a historically appropriate way, or that reuse an abandoned or blighted building.

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)

What’s (Mostly) the Same

Minimum IAQ Performance still references minimum ASHRAE-62.1 requirements, along with new requirements to protect residential units from common IAQ hazards, such as unvented combustion appliances.

The Increased Ventilation credit also includes what appear to be only minor changes.

Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control sees a fine-tuning of requirements rather than any major change (such as absolute prevention of smoking). Non-smoking requirements extend to outdoor spaces used for business purposes, like patio seating.

The requirements for Outdoor Air Delivery Monitoring have minor changes. More options are provided for buildings using natural ventilation, including an option to comply by signaling an alarm when an opening that should be open is closed during occupied hours.

The requirements for Construction IAQ Management Plan—Before Occupancy are largely unchanged.

There are no big changes to Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Source Control; the July 2010 addenda provided the most significant changes to this credit since the original LEED 2009 release, for example, changing the filtration requirement.

The Thermal Comfort credit doesn’t get a big overhaul. Requirements for warehouses and distribution centers are incorporated into the credit language.

What’s Different

Requirements for a Construction IAQ Management Plan during construction are largely unchanged, but have become a prerequisite instead of a credit.

Low-Emitting Interiors is a new credit that consolidates what had been the sprawling Low-Emitting Materials credits. The credit thresholds don’t change a whole lot, but their organization does: the building interior is organized into five systems: flooring, ceilings, walls, thermal and acoustic insulation, and furniture (which must be included if it is in the scope of the project, regardless of rating system). Projects would accumulate points by complying with the requirements of one or more systems.

The new Lighting credit covers the old “Controllability of Lighting” credit without much change, but adds new requirements for lighting quality. Projects would have a choice of 5 out of 12 quality measures, which would include color rendering index (CRI) requirements and automated glare control in daylit spaces.

The Daylight credit gets a big overhaul, with two new calculation options that are different from the previous calculation option. The measurement option is rewritten, and the prescriptive and combination options are eliminated.

The views credit has become, in effect, a biophilia credit. Now called Quality Views, it stipulates that a view can’t be of a brick wall. Specifically, the view has to include “objects at least 50 feet outside the vision glazing, objects lit with daylight that are exposed to direct sunlight or display wind movement, and natural elements (e.g. sky, vegetation, water, people, animals, or other random movement).”

What’s New

An Acoustic Performance credit was previously only available to Schools projects, although it was a good choice for an Innovation credit for NC. Now, it’s open to NC projects, with performance-based requirements.


The whole Performance section is new, although not all the credits are.

What’s Different

Fundamental Commissioning and Verification has been moved here from the EA section. The detailed requirements have numerous changes—for example, roofing assemblies must now be commissioned.

Enhanced Commissioning builds on Fundamental Commissioning, and again, the detailed requirements have many changes. New options add performance tiers and the possibility for more points.

Advanced Energy Metering partly replaces the seldom-pursued LEED 2009 measurement and verification (M&V) credit (see below for the other part). There are prescriptive and performance-based paths; both revolve around installing permanent meters for whole-building energy sources. The meters would have to record data at least hourly, transmit data remotely, and be integrated with a data storage and management system.

What’s New

Water Metering and Reporting is a new prerequisite under which all water conveyed to the project—regardless of source—must be metered. A list of nine specific uses would have to be submetered, in most cases only if the projected consumption of those uses is large enough. The “reporting” requirement is implicit in the intent of the prerequisite, which is to provide information to building managers.

Advanced Water Metering and Reporting builds on the similar prerequisite, but adds a requirement that meters and submeters be able to report data remotely, and be part of a management system that tracks performance and generates alerts for leaks or operational anomalies.

Another new prerequisite is Building-Level Metering, with the intent to “meter, track and share building-level resource use to encourage energy management and support LEED program evaluation.” Among other things, this prerequisite inserts directly into the rating system what has in LEED 2009 been a requirement found in the Minimum Program Requirements: that projects share energy data with USGBC for at least five years.

The intent of Reconcile Design and Actual Energy Performance is to “provide for the ongoing accountability of building energy consumption over time.” In essence, this builds on the “verification” part of the LEED 2009 measurement and verification credit. An M&V plan would be required—as it is in LEED 2009—but the M&V provider would also have to “prepare and submit a final report to the project design team and the building owner that describes the M&V program and its outcomes,” including actual energy use compared to the projected use defined by the Optimize Energy Performance credit (EAc1).

Occupant Experience Survey replaces and greatly expands upon the LEED 2009 Thermal Comfort—Verification credit. Not only thermal comfort is surveyed as in LEED 2009, but also air quality, lighting quality, acoustics, building cleanliness and maintenance, ergonomics, and opportunities for improvement. All topics are covered by USGBC-provided questions, and results are reported to USGBC. The survey must be delivered at least twice.


The Innovation credit isn’t significantly changed. The revisions represent wording changes to consolidate the BD&C (which had been called “Innovation in Design”) and EBOM (“Innovation in Operations”) versions. The Pilot Credit Library option, which was recently added to LEED 2009 as an addendum, is not included, perhaps representing the intent to phase out use of the Pilot Credit Library by the time the next LEED rating system is finalized.

The LEED AP credit has been moved to the new Integrated Process section.

Integrated Process

The entire Integrated Process category is new, as is the first IP credit, which has the same name as the section. The actual credit language wasn’t included in the draft EBN reviewed (it is “pending”), but it’s a good bet that it will be the same or similar to the language being used in for the “Integrative Project Planning & Design” pilot credit, which is also in the LEED for Healthcare draft. This credit gives teams an opportunity to be rewarded for doing things like holding charrettes, having a certain number of team meetings, and conducting a thorough site assessment.

The revised LEED Accredited Professional credit is sure to draw comments from some of the tens of thousands of “legacy” LEED APs who have so far opted not to obtain a specialty under the overhauled LEED credentialed professional program launched in 2009. A relevant specialty is required in the new language—a change from LEED 2009. Individuals holding the LEED Green Associate credential may find that it becomes useful: two team members in total must have LEED AP (“any specialty”) or LEED GA credentials.

Regional Priority

The draft includes some minor wording changes to the Regional Priority credit, but the overall intent and requirements are the same.

Submitting Public Comments

All LEED stakeholders are encouraged to review the public comment draft on USGBC’s website for more detail on potential changes to LEED-NC and to the other LEED rating systems. Comments can be submitted there or on LEEDuser’s moderated forum.

Published November 8, 2010

Roberts, T. (2010, November 8). Your Guide to the New Draft of LEED. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/feature/your-guide-new-draft-leed


November 16, 2010 - 8:27 am

Jean, thanks for noting that. We had some debate about that figure at our office in writing this article, and the figure I posted was what we came up with. Apparently we got the wrong number!

November 16, 2010 - 8:10 am

In reference to the statement "...ASHRAE 90.1-2010, which is estimated to be about 25% more stringent than the 2007 version referenced by LEED 2009."

This is not correct.

According to ASHRAE - the developers of ASHRAE 90.1-2010 - it is only 20% more stringent than the 2004 version (that's 2004 not 2007). http://www.ashrae.org/pressroom/detail/17644

It's still a good improvement in the prerequisite - but it would be better not to exaggerate here.

November 8, 2010 - 11:56 am

Yes, it appears that if furniture is in the scope of a LEED project, it will be more important than in the past for it to be low-emitting.

November 8, 2010 - 11:52 am

In simple layman's terms (I'm not even a GA yet), are you saying that furniture is potentially more important now?

November 8, 2010 - 10:47 am

The framing of the low-emitting interiors credits is very different in this new draft. The point thresholds are established based on whether furniture is in the scope or not. If it is in the scope, you have to include it.

In LEED 2009, furniture is a separate IEQc4 credit (IEQc4.5) that isn't available to LEED-NC projects, and whether or not a LEED-CI or Schools project (for which it is available) pursues this credit would not affect the point thresholds for the other IEQc4 credits.

I hope this is clear -- if you haven't already looked at the draft, I would recommend it. It may simply be hard to explain.

November 8, 2010 - 10:35 am

". . . furniture (which must be included if it is in the scope of the project, regardless of rating system)."

November 8, 2010 - 10:33 am

Can you clarify what means: >
I thought if you included furniture in the scope of the LEED project, it had to be applied across the board, but it was an option. How has this changed?

November 8, 2010 - 7:00 am

Thank you for this great summary. I was hoping to see more occupant health related credits, such as the pilot credit reducing use of dioxins and halogenated flame retardants.