Learning from Early Adopters of LEED v4

January 14, 2016


LEED v4 was officially launched in fall of 2013 with a plan for all new projects to register under the new version by summer of 2015. But given increased rigor and multiple updates, the USGBC granted an extension until October 2016 to allow time for LEED users and members of the green building industry additional time to prepare for the v4 system (see press release).

Here at Re:Vision, we’ve been working hard to prepare and have kicked off several LEED v4 projects. While some credits have changed significantly, we believe these changes are a move in the positive direction towards more transparency, health, and performance in green building certification. LEED v4 is moving the baseline of sustainability forward and we’re excited to help coach teams through this learning curve.

Last week, Building Green published an article from early adopters of LEED v4 on their projects with lessons learned, tips for minimizing costs and maximizing impact. If you have a Building Green account, you can access the article here, otherwise some of our takeaway highlights are below.


  • “If you have a client that wants to move the needle but may not be ready for the Living Building Challenge, LEED v4 may be for you,” John Mlade, senior sustainability Manager at YR&G.
  • Integrated Process Credit – May be difficult for schools or other design-bid-build projects to earn because design-bid-build prevents involvement from some team members earlier in the process.

Location & Transit

  • Bicycle Facilities – Long term storage requirements can be problematic for some projects and bike infrastructure may be difficult to provide at a project level or may require local/city involvement.

Sustainable Sites

  • Light Pollution – Far easier to document than previous version but BUG compliant fixtures are not prevalent and will require additional research.
  • Heat Island Reduction – May be harder to achieve because roof and paved areas combined.
  • Rainwater Management – Difficult in areas that do not have rigorous stormwater management policies but has been easier to achieve in Northeast where a lot of cities already require similar management.

Water Efficiency

  • Credits are readily achievable and capture more strategies implemented than previous version.
  • Indoor Water Use Reduction – Water Sense labels are not as prevalent on commercial products (as they have been on residential) so be on the lookout for compliant products and be sure water using equipment also meets the Energy Star certification.

Energy & Atmosphere

  • Optimize Energy Performance – Most expensive credit to achieve because of requirements to bulk up building envelopes and add controls not previously required. (Re:Vision research has shown energy savings has been easier for residential projects to achieve because biggest changes to ASHRAE 90.1-2010 code were for commercial projects where there were not significant changes for residential projects). However, cost effective LEDs have made some energy savings much easier and cost neutral.
  • Advanced metering – Often an added cost and difficult/costly for campus or multi-building facilities.

Materials & Resources

  • Building Product Disclosure & Optimization – (3 new credits, 6 available points) New credits required teams much added research time and potentially lost negotiating power by providing more restrictive specs. While products may be providing HPDs, most HPDs don’t meet LEED criteria (required for Option 2 of Environmental Product Declarations). A lot of the early adopters were not able to attempt the Sourcing of Raw Material credit Option 2 but the USGBC is looking for a work around to maybe allow disclosure to a 3rd party instead of directly to the public.
  • Life-Cycle Impact Reduction – There is a lot of interest but also a lot of confusion for applying this credit. Currently, any software that reports LCA can be used and hiring experts to do the analysis has been estimated to be around $15,000.

Indoor Environmental Quality

  • Low-Emitting Materials – Simply reporting VOC content is no longer enough; team also needs to report VOC content from California Department of Public Health (CDPH testing source)
  • Indoor Air Quality Assessment – There are more requirements for the way the tools are calibrated and the run times of tests.
  • Daylight – Analysis requires daylight simulation and is more robust than v3 requirements.