Beyond LEED®

Even though LEED® remains incomplete there are already new developments on the horizon. In the November 2007 issue of dwell magazine, sustainability icon Sim van der Ryn told Jennifer Roberts that it is time to look beyond LEED. Is it?

The forward-looking people at the Cascadia Region Green Building Council have recently developed a wonderful new challenge that goes beyond LEED. The CascadiaGBC is a bi-national chapter of the Green Building Council that encompasses Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. They are promoting The Living Building Challenge: In Pursuit of True Sustainability in the Built Environment.

The Living Building Challenge goes beyond the points system that is the foundation of LEED, and that has served us well on our journey to sustainable building. The categories in this new document have prerequisites only. The Living Building Challenge prerequisites are truly inspirational.

I suggest that you begin by reading the Executive Summary at the front, and the Background History and Summary of Prerequisites at the end of the document. Then enjoy the truly inspirational reading in between. I encourage you to check it out.

Want to get LEED® certification retroactively?

It happened to me again. I met an architect who had designed and built a great Green building. It was so green in fact, that she was sure it would meet LEED® certification standards.

Congratulations as going green – but caution in trying to certify your project.
Registering and Certifying a project near or after completion is a very difficult challange: the LEED process is proof and document based.
I refer you to my previous article on why LEED projects go awry. Even with an advanced Integrated Design Process, it is difficult to get all the documentation required after the fact.

Here are just two examples of how a project may fail to meet LEED certification standards retroactively:
1 .It is necessary to not only separate all waste but also to document that the separated materials were appropriately disopsed of. Receipts indicating weights of disposal must be kept. Unless the disposal company is aware that they are working on a LEED project, maintains the integrity of bin contents and requests detailed documentation from the landfill or recycling center, credits are left on the table.
2. Commissioning is required throughout the construction process, not only at completion. These critical credits may go unfulfilled because these in-progress calculations are not made or are not properly documented.

The best way to build a LEED project is to engage the client at the outset, form your integrated team, designate or hire a LEED coordinator and Register your project before you finish designing it.

For full LEED information visit

What went wrong?

 Why is my LEED® project in trouble?

We begin any new venture with the best of intentions. Building owners and developers who strive to reduce their environmental footprints by pursuing LEED certification for their projects are no exception. But sometimes project expectations go off-rail. How do LEED projects go awry and fail to meet Certification standards? First, for those new to LEED I must clarify the difference between a LEED Registered project and LEED Certified project. A LEED Registered project signals its intention to meet the standards to become LEED Certified, at any level – like using your turn signal when driving to signal your intention to turn. A project is Registered with the Green Building Council at the initial planning stage indicating the area of LEED pursued (New Constrution & Major Renovation, Commercial Interiors, etc) and level of attainment anticipated. Registering the project avails the team of all the templates and checklists necessary for submission to the Green Building Council. These templates help prove that required standards have been met. Many LEED Registered projects never earn enough credits to become LEED Certified – at any level. Good intentions unmet.

So where are the bumps in the road?

The first bump is failing to implement an Integrated Design Process. It is critical to success that every party involved in the project is on board: the owner, designers, engineers, trades, facility managers and users. The whole team must be well coordinated.

The second bump relates to the first one: Omissions in documentation. This is where your LEED project facilitator is important. The LEED facilitator will insure that drawings reflect credit requirements and will prepare templates for materials and the trades to keep the documents coming in on the schedule required. The facilitator can help keep the whole team in the loop as the project progresses.

The third bump is that elements of the project simply fail to be implemented. This can occur if energy modeling is neglected, if materials are substituted, if waste is not separated properly, etc. This bump occurs most frequently when sub-trades are not properly coached and are not on board.

A fourth bump can occur if the LEED templates are not completed properly and are not easily read. Credit synergies should indeed coordinate and reflect one another. This is another place where your LEED facilitator is of great value in seeing that the project succeeds and attains the LEED Certification sought.

Yes, LEED project documentation is time consuming and detailed. Unless you are prepared to dedicate a LEED AP staff member for the duration of the project, it is prudent to hire a LEED documentation facilitator to coordinate the project with you. They’ll direct the traffic to get you where you want to go.