You better believe that I have my elevator pitch down pat:

LEED is more than "paying for a plaque on the wall." The plaque ensures that a building project has been certified by an independent third-party.

That means:
•    Your project team has conducted a whole-building energy model to demonstrate high performance;
•    A water use analysis has been executed to ensure the effectiveness of fixtures and fittings;
•    You'll have commissioning to make sure you're getting what you think you're paying for in terms of mechanical operations;
•    Construction activity pollution prevention will be backed up with field documentation;
•    And your interior air quality will be cleaner than average.
The market recognizes the plaque, so there are PR opportunities too.

And that just covers the prerequisites.


The pitch has served me well over the past several years. However, a few weeks ago I received some interesting push back from a local member of our project team as we prepping for an out-of-state interview.

Although [this potential client] is private, there seems to be some hesitation regarding LEED on our their projects – and in reading between-the-lines of the interview criteria. If so, we may want to handle this sticky subject by offering up smart alternatives to LEED, such as select portions of ASHRAE 189.1 or commit to the jurisdiction's new, very stringent energy code, which is based on ASHRAE 90.1-2010.

Food for thought.

Then, it dawned on me. USGBC may have made a terrible mistake.

Without question, LEED version 4 (or LEED v4) is a greater challenge for project teams than LEED 2009. You may recall that USGBC punted in 2012 when it postponed the new LEED 2012 until the following year (and renamed it LEED v4). Then, this past October, USGBC announced that it would allow LEED users to register projects under the 2009 rating system until October 31, 2016. (The original date for LEED 2009 registration to close was June 15, 2015.)

I have many clients that are committed to LEED, but most will not take LEED v4 seriously until they are forced to. So, LEED 2009 will remain the de facto choice for nearly two more years.

What’s the problem? At this juncture, a scenario in which LEED 2009 is practically the default choice for certified green building renders the prospect of committing to—and paying for—the review process for certification an increasingly difficult pitch to make. As a proponent of LEED, this concerns me.

Over the past few years, ASHRAE Standard 189.1, Standard 90.1, even the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), have all closed the gap or surpassed LEED 2009 with regard to key performance stringencies and other criteria. Such documents are written in an enforceable, normative language with the intent of being adopted by a jurisdiction as code. They often contain regulatory framework that facilitates flexibility for owners and designers. Moreover, these codes and standards were never meant to supplant LEED. Rather, they serve to push, pull, and leapfrog each other as they gradually raise the baseline for what it means to be "green" on a building project.

For the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, the acronym would suggest that adopters are taking an initiative in the building design and construction industry and setting an example for others to follow. For the sake of its relevance and the greater good of the broader green building movement, let's hope LEED continues to lead.