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INSIGHTS: LEED 2009 and v4 BD+C Analysis and Comparison

Julia Andrulewich 001

Julia Andrulewich


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By Julia Andrulewich, LEED AP ID+C

All views and interpretations expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official policies of the United States Green Building Council or Green Building Certification Institute. Requirements and strategies are drawn from LEED v4 for Building Design and Construction. Please view the full guide for requirements and compliance directions.

As of October 31, 2016, LEED version 4 has replaced LEED 2009. While it is still possible to submit a registered project for certification review under the 2009 version until June 30, 2021, all new projects must be registered under version 4.

The challenge now is to learn about the new prerequisites and credits that come along with version 4, and how those changes will affect our projects. LEED v4 was introduced at USGBC’s Greenbuild Conference in November 2013, with many resources about the new version provided by the USGBC in the time since then. However, many of our clients have asked whether v4 is right for their project or if they should pursue certification under LEED 2009 while they had a choice. After a few years of providing our clients with the option of attempting either 2009 or v4, we no longer have the ability to recommend LEED 2009. Most often we’ve identified project-specific differences between the two versions upon request, but we’ve also broken down the key changes between LEED 2009 and LEED v4 for all projects seeking certification under the New Construction or BD+C Rating System.

The very first credit in LEED v4 for BD+C is new: a credit for utilizing an Integrative Process. The intent of this credit is to use analysis of energy- and water-related systems during or prior to the schematic design phase to discover ways of reducing energy and water loads in the building and inform future project documentation. Our team has participated in LEED charrettes to determine the path for attempting certification for all projects where it could be applicable. This credit takes that one step further by requesting documentation of simple energy modeling and water budget analysis and documentation of the impacts of those analyses.

Moving down the BD+C checklist, there is a new category of credit for Location and Transportation. Some of the credits under this heading are new for version 4, while others have shifted to this category from the previous version’s Sustainable Sites section. As with LEED 2009, the Location and Transportation credits will be easier to achieve for an urban development than for a suburban or rural project. New requirements for bicycle networks (approved paths and bike lanes) are reasonable although they will make the credit more difficult to achieve for suburban sites without access to bike paths. The new equivalent credit for SSc2: Development Density and Community Connectivity now offers partial credit for meeting either the surrounding density requirements or nearby diverse uses, with maximum points awarded if both are achieved.

The Sustainable Sites category, which consists of several credits similar to those in LEED 2009, also contains a few new opportunities for points. One new credit is for site assessment, which requires a survey or assessment that includes topography, hydrology, climate, vegetation, soils, human use, and human health effects, the relationships between these site features, and how they influenced the project design. The credits for open space, rainwater management, heat island reduction, and light pollution reduction all have counterparts in the LEED 2009 version, but each has updated thresholds and requirements for achieving the credit.

The LEED v4 Water Efficiency category has expanded significantly from one prerequisite to three and from three credits to four. The LEED 2009 prerequisite for water use reduction has been broken out into two prerequisites in LEED v4: one for outdoor water use and one for indoor water use. Outdoor water use reduction qualified for one point under WEc1 in LEED 2009, but is now is now required as part of the project as long as landscaping is in the scope of work. The third prerequisite, Building-Level Water Metering, involves installing permanent meters and committing to sharing the data with the USGBC. Additional points are awarded based on indoor and outdoor water use reduction, and there are new credits for metering of subsystems and analysis of potable water for cooling towards and evaporative condensers.

The Energy and Atmosphere prerequisites are very similar to those in LEED 2009. The fundamental commissioning prerequisite now includes a requirement for exterior enclosure commissioning as well as a current facilities requirements and operations and maintenance plan. Building-Level Energy Metering is a new prerequisite that requires the installation of meters or submeters and a commitment to sharing energy data with the USGBC. Additional credits can be earned for advanced metering and use of demand response technology. The Green Power and Carbon Offsets credits now requires a longer contract length (five years as opposed to two in LEED 2009) and 50% or 100% of the building’s power must come from green sources or renewable energy certificates, up from 35%.

LEED version 4 includes a major overhaul of the Materials and Resources credits, but like in LEED 2009, the Materials and Resources category provides many opportunities for architects and design teams to contribute specifications and recommendations for sustainability on the project. Construction and demolition waste management planning is now a prerequisite. In LEED 2009 there were two points available for waste management planning and diversion of waste from landfills. In LEED v4, the plan itself is a prerequisite, while proper execution can achieve up to two points under the Construction and Demolition Waste Management credit. The Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction credit also contains an option that is similar to the Building Reuse Credits from LEED 2009, but the similarities in this category end there.

LEED v4 no longer awards Materials and Resources points based on percentages of recycled content, regional materials, rapidly renewable materials, or certified wood. In the past few years, manufacturers have been establishing documentation of their products’ life cycle assessments and environmental product declarations. There are many resources and webinars available to explain how these documents are created, but the key point for LEED certification is that they are available for the majority of materials specified. Many manufacturers have come on board since this became a requirement for LEED, so the materials and documentation are frequently readily available. Points are awarded for environmental product declarations (EPDs), disclosure of sourcing of raw materials, and material ingredient reporting. All of these documents contribute to a healthier building and increase awareness of what materials are potentially impacting the health of the occupants, as well as the health of the environment.

The USGBC has streamlined and condensed the Indoor Environmental Quality credits for version 4. The prerequisites for tobacco smoke control and minimum indoor air quality performance are similar to the LEED 2009 requirements. The LEED 2009 Outdoor Air Delivery Monitoring, Increased Ventilation, and Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Source Control credits have all been combined into a single credit for Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies, worth up to two points. The Low-Emitting Materials credits have also been combined to a single effort for version 4. This credit sets thresholds for emissions from interior paints and coatings, adhesives and sealants, flooring, composite wood, and furniture. There are credits for Indoor Air Quality Management during construction and before occupancy, as well as thermal comfort and interior lighting control credits, similar to LEED 2009. Daylighting and quality views can also help achieve LEED certification. The one new IEQ credit in LEED v4 is for Acoustic Performance. This credit awards points for effective acoustic design pertaining to HVAC background noise, sound isolation, reverberation time, and sound reinforcement and masking as applicable to the project.

The Innovation credits are always changing as new pilot credits or advances in technology become available. An important change to note under the Innovation category is that to achieve one point for having a LEED Accredited Professional as a member of the project team, the LEED AP must have a specialty corresponding to the rating system. Here at Bergmann, we have LEED APs with specialties in Building Design and Construction and Interior Design and Construction, which means that we can help with new construction, major renovations, and interior fit-outs.

Regional Priority credits provide extra incentive to achieve certain credits that address specific areas of concern based on the project’s geographical area. In v4, the regional priority selections are based on the address of the project, a change from LEED 2009’s use of project zip code. This will not have a large impact and these credits will still vary from project to project.

The changes to the established LEED certification requirements may seem overwhelming or intimidating, but they also provide new and exciting ways to think more deeply about our projects’ impacts on the environment and on the people who experience them. We will continue to educate ourselves and our clients by providing checklist analyses, materials reports, and innovative new ideas and strategies.

Additional Resources

Contact us for more information and insight into the LEED certification process

Visit the USGBC’s website to learn more about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Designor to download credentialing documents

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