Real Estate Law

And Then There Was LEED v4

By George M. Nicholos, Associate, Vandeventer Black LLP

U.S. Green Building Council Inc., (USGBC) recently rolled out LEED version 4 (LEED v4) of the Leadership and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system. LEED v4 was originally referred to as LEED 2012, but delays during the public commentary period necessitated the change to LEED v4. USGBC has authorized the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) to approve LEED certification for buildings under LEED 2009 or LEED v4 up until June 1, 2015. After that date, buildings may only be certified under LEED v4. LEED participants should be alerted to significant changes in LEED v4.

Participants in LEED projects should take care to note that biggest changes from LEED 2009 to LEED v4 are in the area of accountability. LEED v4 incorporates measures for material transparency, which requires a better understanding of the products used in a building and where the respective components in the materials come from. LEED v4 requires detailed environmental product declarations (EPD), healthy product declarations (HPD), and lifecycle assessments (LCA). In an attempt to curb criticism of “greenwashing,” which are projects that claimed to be green when they really only met a minimal level of certification in prior versions of LEED, LEED v4 introduces new prerequisite requirements for objective metering and requirements for the recording of building energy and water consumption. As a means of furthering integrated design, LEED v4 awards credit for an earlier convening of the design / construction team. LEED v4 also addresses new market sections including data centers, warehouses, distribution centers, hospitality facilities, and existing schools, retail and mid-rise residential projects.

As with prior versions of LEED, Owners, Contractors, Subcontractors, Design Professionals and other LEED project participants are urged to clearly specify project LEED responsibilities and limitations in their contracts. LEED certification participants should avoid making any express promises regarding future performance of LEED projects or guarantee that the project will obtain and maintain a particular LEED certification, but rather should endeavor to perform services in a manner sufficient to assure that the project receives the LEED level of certification intended. These measures are necessary to minimize a participant’s liability in the event that projected LEED results are ultimately not achieved or maintained. These precautions are increasingly more important with the incorporation of more rigorous performance and accountability based requirements in LEED v4.

These articles are meant to bring awareness to these topics and are not intended to be used as legal advice.

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