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USGBC Beta Tests LEED Version 4

Exterior rendering of the Student Service Buildin at University of Texas Dallas
Some 100 projects are involved in the beta testing of the U.S. Green Building Council’s fourth version of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Some 50,000 projects, including the Student Service Building at University of Texas Dallas, have relied on previous versions of the system, according to the USGBC. Wikimedia Commons/Stan9999

Ahead of the new LEED standards coming later this year, the USGBC is obtaining feedback from nearly 100 volunteer projects on the implementation process.

June 18, 2013—The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is close to completing its beta test of the newest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, due out later this year. Approximately 100 projects are seeking certification through the beta test of what is known as LEED v4, which is in draft form.

This is the first time that the USGBC has developed the implementation features concurrently with the technical specifications, according to Brendan Owens, the vice president of LEED technical development at USGBC. In past updates, completion of the technical specifications was followed by pilot testing.

“Obviously, whenever we put together ratings systems in the past, we’ve always engaged in detailed and boisterous engagement of the market, relative to the technical content of the ratings system, but that is sort of the tip of the iceberg for a lot of project teams,” Owens says.

“There is brilliant, deep subject matter expertise out there in the market and we wanted to find a way to channel that to be constructive for v4 development from the standpoint of implementation,” he adds.

The USGBC is developing the technical specifications and the implementation forms and documents along parallel tracks, engaging the nearly 100 projects in the implementation process by using the technical specifications in the current draft form. The beta test is designed to uncover any implementation issues early in the process.

“If,” Owen says, “they are having trouble finding products that comply with certain requirements, if they are having difficulty understanding the way a particular credit should be interpreted, if they are having trouble documenting a certain aspect of what is going on, we engage with them directly and say, ‘If you were writing the form for this credit and documentation, what would it look like?’”

The process has had no bearing on the substantive technical specifications of LEED v4, which has drawn approximately 22,000 comments through six rounds of feedback. But the beta test has led to changes in the way information is presented on forms, guides, and other information sources. For instance, some forms with overlapping information have been combined to reduce duplications.

The USGBC has built the number of participants currently in the beta test gradually, actively cultivating a spectrum of projects in various stages of development from conception to construction. Participant projects include single-family homes, schools, hotels, warehouses, and data centers.

“We wanted a diversity of projects,” Owens explains. “We wanted residential, we wanted multifamily, we wanted commercial, we wanted labs, we wanted health care. We actively cultivated the opportunity.”

Owens says that those participants in the beta test who initially assumed that the v4 requirements would be onerous or difficult to document have found that is not so. “The feedback is that they thought this was daunting, [but] they’ve been doing it all along,” Owens says.

Although the beta test will formally conclude when v4 is unveiled later this year, Owens says the USGBC considers documentation development to be a continuous process that is always open to improvements, especially those generated by the project teams working on LEED certification. “If they have ideas that improve the user experience, or the functionality or the outcomes, we are going to be incorporating those the way we incorporate them now,” Owens says.



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