News Brief

The Future of LEED Will Be Positive

With LEED Positive, the LEED rating systems will move into the territory of regenerative design.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has introduced “LEED Positive,” a vision for regenerative design driven by the LEED rating systems. Unveiled at Greenbuild 2019 in Atlanta, the new, long-term vision has several waypoints:

  • continued investment in LEED v4.1 for the foreseeable future
  • the ability of existing buildings to achieve “category certificates”—certification in individual categories like water or energy—using the Arc performance measurement program
  • more stringent energy goals for existing buildings
  • required net-positive performance in carbon, energy, and other LEED categories for both new construction and existing buildings

USGBC has committed to crafting a “roadmap” for the LEED Positive vision within the next year. But the overall time horizon for implementing the vision is longer than that, extending possibly up to 20 years, according to Melissa Baker, senior vice president of LEED Technical Core at USGBC. That’s because it may take until 2040 for existing buildings to achieve regenerative performance with net-positive targets in all the LEED credit categories, she explained. Baker emphasized that the vision will involve gradual steps toward the ultimate goal of net-positive performance.

“What we’ve been thinking about a lot is the tension between market readiness and leadership,” Baker told BuildingGreen. “When we get out ahead of the market, people don’t always use the rating system.” That was evident with LEED v4 for Building Design and Construction, she noted, but USGBC has now “been able to correct” with v4.1. Even though the newer rating system is still in a beta phase, it’s already possible to substitute any LEED v4.1 credit for a LEED v4 credit. In many cases, the v4.1 version offers a more accessible achievement pathway—particularly in the materials and resources category. Baker said this ability to substitute credits has been incentivizing more people to use LEED v4.

Existing buildings are also a big focus of the LEED Positive vision. “The only the way we’re going to see the impact that we want to see is to get more of that [existing buildings] market,” said Baker.

In the spirit of gradual change and bringing the market along incrementally, USGBC is implementing a new program for these projects, called “category certification.” With this system, any project team can use the free USGBC performance-measurement software tool known as Arc to benchmark against other LEED projects and receive scores in one category (such as water or energy) at a time.

Arc previously came with subscription fees, but making it free is another way USGBC is engaging more proactively with existing buildings. Projects can earn a certificate in a single category before (hopefully) moving on to other aspects of performance. This gives existing buildings “a place to get started and understand where they are,” according to Baker. Once in the system and meeting more and more performance targets, these projects are “on the way to getting LEED certification.”

Despite the ambitiousness of LEED Positive, Baker doesn’t want people to get ahead of themselves in planning for future versions of LEED. There is no foreseeable timeline for releasing LEED v5, for example. She reassured LEED users that “4.1 will stay stable.”

For more information:

Green Business Certification Inc.


Published November 21, 2019

Melton, P. (2019, November 21). The Future of LEED Will Be Positive. Retrieved from

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December 3, 2019 - 7:03 am

I would like to share  a proposal about using natural lime stone blocks in construction works , in the form of load bearing walls and vaulted ceilings , for the construction of Housing projects a well as for service buildings ( schools, shopping malls, health and social care facilities ....etc) for the height of three or even four floors on top of the ground floor . That will represent a perfect sample of Green architecture .

Architect Dr. Samy Aly kamel

Associate professor at the Department of architecture 

Faculty of Engineering - helwan University

Cairo/ Egypt

January 9, 2020 - 7:10 am

The USGBC's move into the realm of regenerative design is too little, too late - and the target of 2040 is just sad (we own and operate a regenerated existing building TODAY that is net positive in all respects). It's been hard to watch the USGBC attempt to incrementally co-opt ideas from ILFI and other more progressive organizations over the past two instances of Greenbuild. The blatant grab that is "A New Living Standard" is actually much more concerning than "LEED Positive", but neither feels native to the USGBC's mission or approach. My advice to those that have had their interest increased by this article - check out the Living Building Challenge instead.