Five Things Facilitlies Managers Need to Know About LEED v4

by F. Josh Millman, AIA, LEED AP, CFM | Vice President, NTD

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) announced the much-vetted and tested Version 4 of its LEED rating system at the end of 2013. This latest update represents a significant change since the last version was released in 2009. It will affect facility managers in several ways, whether they are involved in LEED certifications or not. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. When Will It Be Mandatory: As with previous versions, LEED v4 has roughly a two year phase-in period. This means that until October 2016, those employing the LEED rating system can choose to use either LEED v2009 or LEED v4, depending on which system is either more appropriate or cost effective. If you register your LEED v2009 project by October 2016, you will have until 2020 to complete your certification.
  2. LEED v4 Raises the Bar: Until higher levels of sustainability practices become the norm through building codes, the USGBC will continue to shift the scale, so a LEED v2009 Gold building might only achieve a LEED v4 Basic. This will ultimately result in lower energy and water use as well as an improved environment. It also spurs development of less costly materials and systems so that achieving LEED cost the same a conforming to building codes.
  3. It is More Cost Effective to Reach the Bar: The new system achieves this in three ways:
    1.  More Building Types: By developing special criteria for more building types, e.g., warehouses and multi-family low rise buildings, LEED v4 identifies smart design decisions that relate to that building types. For example, warehouses receive points for proximity to interstate interchanges rather than walking distance to community services. 
    2. More Alternative Paths: The manual identifies a number of paths to achieve points in a category, recognizing that some buildings are new, some are being extensively remodeled, and some are being repurposed. 
    3. Points Recognizing Progress: While LEED buildings are now expected to achieve EnergyStar ratings of 75, there is an alternative that awards points by increasing the Energy Star rating by 20% on poorly rated buildings, even if a 75 rating is not obtained.
  4. Here Come the Meters: The push for metering electricity usage and water usage (building level and outdoor use at a minimum) in all building areas has been further vindicated. You can't manage (or monetize) what you can’t measure!
  5. Product Transparency: LEED v4 is requiring that more product contents and sourcing are known. Even if the contents or sources do not meet the LEED v4 thresholds, a LEED point is awarded for knowing this information. This further pressures producers to label their materials, and gives facility managers greater visibility in the process of selecting building materials, maintenance supplies, and cleaning products. Transparency is expected to drive improvement in product contents and raw material sourcing.

Questions about LEED v4? Contact me at 717-434-1570 or