U.S. Green Building Council releases LEED v4 for member review

October 18, 2012

Twelve years after the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) introduced a rating system to encourage the development of energy efficient building technologies, the LEED brand has grown into a nationwide measure of sustainability initiatives and innovation.

Engineers, designers and architects are able to plan a project around levels of LEED recognition, while commercial real estate firms are able to point to a certificate awarded for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design as contributing to increased employee productivity and concentration. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and while the USGBC can claim credit for spurring a boom in efficient building, the evolution of green technology has meant that the rating system is under constant review.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the latest upgrade to the certification, LEED v4, has come at just the right time. There are currently 14,044 LEED-certified projects in 140 countries across the globe, with another 34,601 under consideration. U.S. government-sponsored innovation initiatives such as the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub), a consortium of academic institutions, the private sector and energy development companies based in Philadelphia, are looking to transform commercial realestate across the country and business analysts assume that LEED will play a large role in its development.

"Green building is not a curiosity anymore – it's a huge market," said Aditya Ranade, a senior analyst with Lux Research in Boston. "The green building sector will be a $280 billion global industry by the end of the decade. LEED is dominant around the world, but there are other standards. Malaysia has its own Green Building Index, and China has developed its own three-star-rating system."

With 14,000 member companies, the USGBC is aware of the responsibility that it now holds for the continued development of sustainable building technology. On October 16, it released draft changes for members to comment on, including increased technical rigor for energy performance while new rating categories that address building material life cycles and indoor air quality all presented for public consideration. Economic data released by Lux Capital shows that more than $4 billion has been invested in the green building industry since 2000, with energy efficient systems the focus of a number of tech companies in Silicon Valley.

"In order for LEED to be relevant, it has to evolve," said Ashley Katz, a spokesperson for the GBC. "In 2000, people didn't know what low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint was. Now it's what everyone uses."