USGBC Response: Help Create the Next LEED version

USGBC responds to an earlier op-ed, “LEED Must Lead on Climate.”

Contributed by these guest authors:

Lance Davis, Federal Agency Sustainability Architect and chair of the LEED Steering Committee; Melissa Baker, SVP, LEED Technical Development, U.S. Green Building Council; and Laurie Kerr, FAIA, Principal Climate Advisor, U.S. Green Building Council

Earlier this week, BuildingGreen ran an op-ed by a group of longtime U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) friends titled “LEED Must Lead on Climate.” We want to thank the authors of the letter for their contributions to creating LEED and for their call to accelerate climate leadership. We agree wholeheartedly.

Urgent action is needed

Climate change requires urgent action, and we are working to ensure LEED-certified projects are a key part of the solution at a global scale—first by mitigating greenhouse gases and second by making sure that buildings and communities are resilient to the impacts of climate change.

The LEED program has been built by volunteer stakeholders from all sectors and regions and has catalyzed fundamental changes to how we design, construct, and operate our buildings in the United States and across the globe. Today, there are more than 106,000 commercial LEED registered and certified projects representing more than 23 billion square feet. Addressing the challenges to our climate and communities requires that we both expand our reach and evolve our expectations of green buildings.

How LEED works to mitigate carbon impact

As noted in the op-ed, LEED is a comprehensive system that looks at the big picture, factoring in all the critical elements that work together to create the best building possible. LEED enables green buildings to prove their enormous potential to mitigate climate change through a holistic focus on efficiency and sustainability—going well beyond reducing energy and resource use. In fact, 35% of the points available in the LEED credits are intended to mitigate climate change.

Over the past two decades, LEED has focused the industry on the performance and impacts of our buildings, and we must address all opportunities for reducing carbon emissions, including operational carbon, embodied carbon, refrigerants, electric mobility options, and carbon sequestration.

On the path to decarbonization

We know what buildings can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In order to achieve the needed reductions, buildings must be on the path to decarbonization of operational and embodied carbon, with more progress required of projects at higher levels of certification.

In addition to requirements to reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, complementary strategies are key to meeting our shared goals, such as rewarding new buildings that reduce their peak heating and cooling loads, and ensuring they incorporate efficiency, clean power, and grid harmonization.

Most importantly, we are redoubling our efforts to ensure existing buildings are on a trajectory to decarbonization and that they show progress against their goals.

Scaling the change

It is not enough for us to mobilize action on individual buildings; we need to address building decarbonization at scale by aligning with other efforts including environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting and local decarbonization laws to drive change across entire portfolios and cities. This work will draw on the experience of partners and experts who have been instrumental in defining policies and strategies for achieving large-scale building decarbonization.

LEED undergoes a rigorous cycle of continuous improvement and evolution. And as the op-ed stated, it’s time for sweeping change. USGBC is currently in this process now and taking big steps forward with the next version of LEED.

How to get involved

LEED isn’t perfect—but it is always improving. Thanks to LEED, measures that were once deemed exceptional are now industry standard, and this is why we keep raising the bar. We are working to equip the entire market with best practices and strategies that enable the industry to do what is necessary, and we are engaging leaders and innovators to demonstrate what is possible.

Now and in the months ahead, we are asking for your support as we put in place a stakeholder-led blueprint for the next version of LEED to continue to be the leadership standard for green building and green community certification. One that inspires the global market, has transformational impact at scale, and leaves no portion of our mission or our communities behind.

USGBC will open our call for volunteers for LEED committees next month, and we encourage stakeholders worldwide to help shape this next version of the LEED rating system.

You’re invited!

We are also hosting LEED Convene & Connect sessions for input and feedback on the future of LEED related to climate change and other critical issues of our time.

To attend a LEED Convene & Connect session:

We are excited by the challenge, and we intend to make LEED the most effective tool for decarbonizing the building sector. And we invite everyone to join us in this endeavor.

Update: This article was edited May 3 to add a link to the LA Convene & Connect session.

Published April 29, 2022

(2022, April 29). USGBC Response: Help Create the Next LEED version. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/op-ed/usgbc-response-help-create-next-leed-version

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May 3, 2022 - 2:55 pm

I applaud the commitment and vision to act on climate change, both for the authors of the op-ed and for USGBC's response. I happen to live and work in South America, helping projects achieve LEED certification in several countries in the region, and even quoting services in the Middle East. From my experience, each upgrade in the LEED certification led to subsequent stress in project teams in the countries I work in, trying to understand and meet new requirements. Not every country is ready to adopt more stringent requirements, as it could be the case of the US, Canada, Europe, the UK, or Australia. If the aim is to really implement new targets on a global scale, please remember that different markets have different adoption speeds. If the changes are too abrupt, many projects and owners would directly drop the adoption of LEED, which is contrary to the aim of implementing it on a global scale. Maybe a tiered approach could work? Or having different requirements for different group of countries? 
The International Living Future Institue, for example, has a pricing policy based on economic tiers outlined in the World Economic Situation Prospects report published by the United Nations in 2020. Countries are classified based on gross national income (GNI) data by the World Bank. I think this could be a possible way of approaching new or updated requirements.