What Falls Through the Cracks in LEED? A LEEDuser Coffee Talk Video, 45 minutes

Watch this Premium Content Video!

Join Now - $19.95/mo

Already a premium member?
Log in now

Firm or campus member?
Click here

Registration Closed: Coffee Talk took place October 25, 2023

Please note: LEEDuser’s informal 45-minute coffee talks are not approved for continuing education units.

This lively conversation features:

  • Brent Ehrlich, Products & Materials Specialist at BuildingGreen (moderator)
  • Gioia Connell, Built Ecology Consultant, WSP
  • Luke Leung, Sustainable Engineering Principal and Practice Leader, SOM
  • Kim Shinn, Principal and Senior Sustainability Wizard, TLC Engineering Solutions
  • Cait Toczko, Senior Lighting Designer, Newman Architects

Let’s face it: LEED can’t do everything. But with v5 coming soon, now is the perfect time to explore new opportunities for market transformation.

We’ve made immense progress in the last 30 years on energy, water, and material health. But some of that progress has had unintended consequences.

Join Brent Ehrlich, BuildingGreen’s Products & Materials Specialist, and a panel of other experts for this informal coffee talk all about what’s falling through the cracks.

Four topics, four experts

  • Forced labor: Certain vital materials—like solar panels and lithium batteries—come with a high risk of human exploitation. LEED currently addresses this through a pilot credit. Gioia Connell from WSP will discuss approaches v5 could take to protect vulnerable workers.

  • Toxic chemicals in lighting: LEED v4 addressed material health in new ways, but a lot of product categories aren’t considered in the credits. Lighting is one of them. Caitlin Toczko from Newman Architects will talk about LED toxicity as well as issues with light quality, equity, performance, and durability.

  • Whole-life carbon: LEED v4 also gave us new opportunities to mitigate upfront embodied carbon emissions, but building services and other systems aren’t included. Also missing: an analysis of tradeoffs between embodied and operational carbon. SOM’s Luke Leung will discuss how LEED v5 could accelerate change by accounting for life-cycle MEPT emissions and by optimizing for whole-life carbon.

  • Refrigerant emissions: Managing refrigerants—first for ozone, then for GHGs—has been part of LEED for a very long time. But could v5 do more to explicitly encourage system types that reduce the need for refrigerants in the first place? What else might help? MEP 2040’s and TLC Engineering Solutions’ Kim Shinn will talk about the possibilities.

How about you?

Join this lively conversation to offer your own suggestions about opportunities for LEED v5 to transform the market in new ways.

Please note: LEEDuser’s informal 45-minute coffee talks are not approved for continuing education units.


Gioia is a design professional whose passion for place-based design has directed her career in architecture, planning, and sustainability consulting. As Built Ecology Consultant at WSP, she currently works across the portfolio, master planning, and building scales leading strategy, analytics, and sustainable design and certifications for public and private projects. She has worked with communities, cities, and startups from across the globe on climate-resilient and nature-based solutions.


Brent Ehrlich has more than 15 years of experience researching and writing about the health and environmental impacts of green building products and materials, including their hazards, risks, and environmental and life-cycle impacts. He has written extensively on the intersection between chemical treatments, additives, and product performance as well as green building certifications, LEED Materials & Resources requirements, and more. Brent also provides consulting, workshops, and webinars, and leads an editorial team in selecting industry-leading products for the company’s green building product database and annual Top Ten Green Building Products award.

Luke is the firm-wide Principal of the Sustainability Engineering Studio for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP. His work includes Burj Khalifa, the current world’s tallest building, and four of the other top 20 tallest buildings in the world. Other work also included General Motors Global Headquarters, Beijing Finance Street, US Census Bureau, US Air Force Academy CCLD, US Embassy in Beijing, BBVA Tower in Mexico City, LG Art Hall in Seoul, Korea; Master planning of XiongAn – the millennium plan of China, and numerous other significant tall and large projects.

He is a LEED Fellow; ASHRAE Fellow; ASHRAE Task Force for Building Decarbonization ExCom; ASHRAE Directors-at-Large; ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force Commercial Team Leader; Carbon Leadership Forum MEP 2040 founding steering committee; City of Chicago Decarbonization Task Force; Chair of ASHRAE “Environmental Health Committee”; ASHRAE Distinguished Lecturer; Advisory Board for IN2 start-up incubator program with US National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Kim says he practices engineering because the results of his work can improve and protect the health, safety, and welfare of human beings. For him, it’s a cause—not just a career. Kim’s passion for sustainability led him to become a LEED AP in 2001, and he was later elevated to LEED Fellow in the 2011 inaugural class. Kim was named to ENR’s 2016 Top 25 Newsmakers for his development of an energy modeling game called “The Wizard Show.”

As Newman’s expert in lighting design, Caitlin works as an integral part of its teams to develop and deliver effective lighting solutions in a wide variety of project types. She joined Newman in 2022 and uses both her background in architecture and her knowledge of the impact of lighting on health and wellness and ecological theories in lighting to generate and refine human-centric, sustainable lighting designs. Her work includes ambitious WELL, LEED, and Living Building Challenge projects for Yale University, Fairfield University, NYU Medical Center, New York Public Library, and Delos, among others. Caitlin also serves as a Board Member of the Western New England chapter of the Illuminating Engineering Society and as a Board Advisor for the Connecticut Green Building Council.