Green Topics

Upgrade to LEED 2009?

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In April 2009 as part of its “LEED v3” initiative, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched new versions of its commercial rating systems: New Construction (NC), Schools, Core & Shell (CS), Existing Building Operations & Maintenance (EBOM), and Commercial Interiors (CI). Thousands of LEED-hopeful projects, meanwhile, were previously registered for the earlier version of the applicable rating system—mostly LEED-NC v2.2.

Although projects registered prior to the LEED 2009 rollout are under no obligation to switch to the new system, USGBC is encouraging them to do so by allowing projects to transfer at no additional charge until December 31, 2009.

Should you consider upgrading? LEED 2009 offers:

• A system in which the credit weightings have been evaluated in a more scientific manner, resulting in some LEED categories having more importance—and others less—than in previous versions.

• Use of the most up-to-date industry standards such as ASHRAE 90.1-2007.

• The new LEED Online 3 system with better technical support and improved credit forms.

• Fewer credit interpretation rulings (CIRs) to keep track of, because many previous CIRs have been inserted directly into the new credit requirements. • No substantial changes to most credits, so you can take most of your existing LEED work with you.

Sticking with pre-2009 systems like LEED-NC v.2.2 offers the following advantages:

• Relying on your design team’s knowledge of the old, familiar system.

• Avoiding the new Minimum Program Requirements (MPRs), which include mandatory sharing of whole-building energy and water data.

• Avoiding the need to reevaluate against newer standards for certain credits. EAc1: Optimize Energy Performance, in particular, needs to be reevaluated against the upgraded ASHRAE 90.1-2007 guidelines, which may involve a new round of energy modeling.

USGBC did not raise the bar across the board for LEED 2009, but it put more emphasis on preventing climate change. That means added points (on the new 100-point scale) for some credits, particularly those for energy efficiency and alternative transportation. The latter are most easily earned by urban projects, so if your project is rural or suburban and not an energy-efficiency standout, you may find yourself working harder to earn points.

For more detailed guidance and information on a handy comparison spreadsheet, see

Bill Bobenhausen, FAIA, contributed his analysis to this article.

Comments (2)

1 Need sample credit forms posted by Dave Intner on 10/01/2009 at 10:23 am

We have a project we're trying to evaluate for making the jump to v3; however, GBCI has not yet released sample templates for project teams to use. The USGBC site simply states:

"LEED Online v3 users: Sample credit forms are currently unavailable for LEED 2009 rating systems, but will be available in the future."

These would be very helpful in our analysis, to confirm inputs against the 2.2 values, to be sure we're not missing any variables. In theory, all the information we should need is in the Reference Guide. But it's a very significant decision for a large project, and filling out the templates for a few key credits would give us the certainty we need to make the jump.

2 2009 better for some projects posted by Christopher Schaffner on 10/08/2009 at 02:30 am

We've done a comparative analysis on many of our projects. Urban projects with high energy efficiency goals do much better under the new weightings. That developer spec building in the suburbs, targeting minimal efficiency gains? - no so much.

That feels right to me.

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September 25, 2009