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Is PVC Banned in LEED v4?

Posted August 27, 2013 12:32 PM by Tristan Roberts and Paula Melton
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED, BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Is LEED v4 leading architects to arbitrarily avoid PVC, to the detriment of their projects? The Vinyl Institute says it is. We check the facts. Would PVC-containing products like these carpet tiles from InterfaceFLOR be banned under LEED v4? The short answer is "no." | Photo – InterfaceFLORWould PVC-containing products like these carpet tiles from InterfaceFLOR be banned under LEED v4? The short answer is "no." Photo – InterfaceFLOR


The vinyl industry has been vocally opposed to the new LEED v4 MR credits, even going so far as to characterize MRc4 Option 2 as a ban on PVC. The Vinyl Insitute, which represents PVC polymer makers, warned BuildingGreen in an email that LEED v4 “can actually lead architects and designers to make bad decisions in order to secure credits so they can market their buildings.”

Should We Expect Energy Modeling to Predict Building Performance?

Posted June 20, 2013 3:10 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED, Energy Solutions

On this Department of Veterans Affairs Omaha VA Medical Center, energy modeling was used from the outset to analyze nine different massing schemes down to three more schematic schemes, then throughout the design of the selected scheme to optimize building massing, mechanical systems, daylighting, and onsite renewable energy usage.On this Department of Veterans Affairs Omaha VA Medical Center, energy modeling was used from the outset to analyze nine different massing schemes down to three more schematic schemes, then throughout the design of the selected scheme to optimize building massing, mechanical systems, daylighting, and onsite renewable energy usage. Image – Leo A Daly

The green building industry focuses far too much on energy modeling to predict performance, not to make early design decisions.

Let me put my headline question another way: Is prediction of building performance the highest use of energy modeling during building design?

10 Tips for Passing the LEED Green Associate Exam

Posted March 14, 2013 3:42 PM by Paula Melton
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED

Despite waiting till the last minute to study, I got a really good score and became a LEED Green Associate. Here’s where I spill all my secrets!

Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t usually procrastinate.

But when I read that being a LEED Green Associate (or, if you must, LEED Green Assoc.—but never LEED GA!) involved “basic” green building knowledge, I figured I had things pretty well under control. I started studying six days before the test.


There’s a second thing that everyone should get straight on: the exam goes far beyond the basics. It assumes extensive knowledge of the LEED building design and construction (BD+C) rating systems, and the only way to pass the test is to read, master, and in some cases memorize key parts of the LEED 2009 BD+C Reference Guide.

Owning the BD+C Reference Guide is not optional. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s cheaper than re-taking the test, and you’ll need it later when you start working on projects anyway.

Automated Reporting of LEED, AIA Continuing Education Hours

Posted March 11, 2013 5:20 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED, Op-Ed

Read the article, take the quiz, and sit back while your CEUs get automatically reported to AIA, GBCI, BPI, and NARI.

BuildingGreen is now directly reporting continuing education (CE) hours completed through our website to the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) for LEED Accredited Professionals and LEED Green Associates who use our course catalog to maintain their credentials.

When completing CE hours on, you can rest assured that your hours will be automatically reported with no further action on your part. BuildingGreen has long offered this convenience for AIA members and continues to do so. Reporting to GBCI took effect January 1, 2013.

To take advantage of this, you should double-check your account profile, however.

Check that your BuildingGreen account information enables automated reporting to AIA, GBCI, and more.

As DoD rethinks its green building needs, a recommendation to keep using LEED is just the tip of the iceberg.

This post is the first in a series on the federal government’s use of green building certifications. Part 2: Sustainable Federal Buildings: What's the Law?

This shows the first few megabytes of the Unified Facilities Criteria documents found on the Whole Building Design Guide. The list goes on...but the standard still includes LEED, for now.
Photo Credit: WBDG, screen capture

Special-interest groups have been fighting the LEED rating systems on multiple fronts ever since LEED got a foothold in government policymaking. These groups (primarily chemical manufacturers and timber interests) are making headway.

LEED still matters, for now

Despite these pressures, along with LEED’s weakness as a policymaking tool (like all voluntary rating systems, it really doesn’t work as a mandate unless the government is explicit about credits and energy performance targets that must be achieved), a recent report recommended that the Department of Defense should continue with its current certification policy: LEED Silver or equivalent.

DoD’s updated Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC), hot off the press, has stood by that recommendation for new construction:

In accordance with OUSD AT&L Memorandum, “Department of Defense Sustainable Buildings Policy”, DoD Components will design and build all new construction and major renovations projects: 1) in compliance with the Guiding Principles, 2) third-party certified to the US Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver level (or approved equivalent rating), and 3) achieve no fewer than 40% of the certification points related to energy and water conservation. In addition, all repair and renovations projects must conform to the Guiding Principles where they apply. [emphasis added]

How important is it for the military to keep using LEED? For the sake of public perception, it’s extremely important: if DoD thinks LEED is the best way to ensure green building design and construction quality, then a lot of other people will too.

On the other hand, LEED does not—and was never meant to—meet all of the military’s building needs. They’ve got a lot of other things going on, from carbon requirements to energy performance reporting to enhanced security needs, and their UFC documents are a great demonstration of the difference between building codes or standards (like the IgCC and ASHRAE 189.1—both of which USGBC helped develop) and building rating systems (like LEED).

GSA May Abandon LEED Endorsement

Posted February 5, 2013 12:39 PM by Paula Melton and Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED, BuildingGreen's Top Stories

Rather than releasing its final report on LEED and other rating systems, the agency posts recommendations and asks for more feedback.

A victory for lobbyists? It should be easier to pitch the industry status quo to individual federal agencies that don't specialize in buildings.

Want to have a say in whether federal agencies keep using LEED? Here’s your chance.

Following up on a 2012 report, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is requesting public comments on its long-awaited recommendations about green building certification systems. Here’s our quick-and-dirty summary of the committee’s findings. You have sixty days to get back to GSA.

Green building ratings systems = good

The first finding is that green building rating systems are a good thing. They “maintain robust, integrated frameworks of performance metrics, standards and conformity assurance.” And using them saves taxpayers money “by eliminating the cost to Government of developing its own standards.”

Agencies should pick what works for them

The GSA isn’t going to tell you whether LEED, Green Globes, or the Living Building Challenge is the best rating system for each agency’s mission. But they want agencies to keep these things in mind:

  • There should be specific guidance about which credits to pursue (we might call this the “bike rack clause”?).
  • For efficiency, agencies should use one rating system across their portfolios.
  • Each agency’s guidance should make it possible for the same rating system to be used for all building types.
Urban Green's EBies recognize professionals who work behind the scenes to make existing buildings perform sustainably.
Image: Urban Green

2/19/13 Update: Urban Green has posted a new EBie scorecard demonstrating how entries will be scored—worth checking out, with the submission deadline close on our heels!

The EBie Awards—the "Oscars of sustainable building"—will be announced by Urban Green, a chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, in New York City on June 19, 2013, so now is the time to throw your name in the hat.

In case you didn't tune in for the first EBie Awards, here's a rundown from the EBie website on what it's all about:

Google Gives USGBC $3 Million for Healthy Building Materials Research

Posted November 14, 2012 1:44 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED, Product Insights
This indoor space at Google has sustainably forested wood floors, soy-based furniture, and ample daylighting.
Photo Credit: Christophe Wu / Google

In one of the biggest announcements to come out of Greenbuild 2012 in San Francisco thus far, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has announced a $3 million grant from Google to support work on healthier building materials. Google has already been a pioneer in keeping toxic chemicals out of building products used in its building projects (see A Peek Inside Google’s Healthy Materials Program), but this grant takes its public support for research and advocacy in this area to a new level.

LEED Certified or Certifiable? Making the Case for Earning the Plaque

Posted July 25, 2012 2:06 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED

Illustration: Tristan Roberts

“Anyone else finding a trend of clients wanting LEED-certifiable projects but not wanting to commit to certification? I have three projects just this week toying with going this route.”

That was the opening salvo in a recent email discussion I was involved in among a group of architects. With the permission of those involved, I’ve anonymously synthesized some of the key takeaways here. I’d also like to hear from you: please post your experiences on LEED certified vs. certifiable projects below.

It’s about the cost, stupid

The following comment summed up some of the objections out there to pursuing LEED: “We are seeing a little green fatigue as well internally and externally; somehow making a project ‘certifiable’ instead of certified seems less onerous and costly.”

The New Anti-LEED

Posted July 18, 2012 3:47 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: BuildingGreen Talks LEED

The American Chemistry Council and other groups have formed the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition. Green or greenwash?

How many high-performance buildings on K Street?
Photo Credit:

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has opened a new front in its battle with LEED and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)—one with similarities to greenwash tactics we’ve seen before.

ACC has formed a group dubbed the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition(AHPBC), joining 25 other industry groups representing building materials and products interests. The coalition includes names like the Vinyl Institute, the Vinyl Siding Institute, the Windows & Door Manufacturers Association, the Treated Wood Council, and the Adhesives and Sealants Council, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

No more “arbitrary” restrictions!

As we’ve reported (see Chemical Industry Attacks LEED: BuildingGreen Checks the Facts), chemical and plastics trade groups have been making a recent pastime of claiming the federal government should stop using LEED and have been exerting their deep ties on Capitol Hill to pressure influential government groups like the General Services Administration (GSA) to stop using LEED.

The groups are apparently incensed over “arbitrary chemical restrictions” they perceive in LEED v4, the version of LEED currently under development, and are worried that LEED is “becoming a tool to punish chemical companies.”

According to its website, AHPBC:

… is composed of leading organizations representing a range of products and materials relevant to the building and construction industry who are committed to promoting performance-based energy efficiency and sustainable building standards. We support the development of green building standards through consensus-based processes derived from data and performance-driven criteria.

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