The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has introduced a draft of its LEED v5 for Operations and Maintenance (O+M) rating system for existing buildings. LEED v5 is the newest version of LEED. It marks a transformative milestone in the built environment’s alignment with a low-carbon future and addresses critical imperatives such as equity, health, ecosystems and resilience.
More than 100,000 projects are LEED certified globally. LEED v5 kicked off for existing buildings, while LEED v5 for Building Design and Construction (BD+C) will roll out in 2024.
The LEED v5 O+M draft is designed to deliver an understandable, actionable, and transformational rating system with a clear roadmap for progressive actions that facilitate LEED certification.
At the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, in conjunction with the release of the LEED v5 O+M draft, White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi announced a plan to create a new national definition of zero-emissions building. LEED v5 will align with this definition, including requirements for LEED Zero Carbon, and Platinum level projects that specify low to no operational GHG emissions to help the industry coalesce impactful strategies.
The move aims to empower and engage the market towards zero-emission buildings and will be referenced in federal programs and state and local policies. USGBC and other green building organizations will align around this national definition.
LEED v5 will also work to adopt minimum requirements on embodied carbon (see sidebar), moving closer toward net zero buildings. USGBC is leading the conversation on embodied carbon with the Embodied Carbon Harmonization and Optimization (ECHO) Project, a coalition of industry groups working to standardize reporting of embodied carbon emissions.
“Achieving the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement and fulfilling the corresponding pledges made by organizations and governments demands bold, large-scale initiatives,” said Peter Templeton, president and CEO, USGBC. “The launch of LEED v5 underscores our unwavering commitment to our mission of fostering sustainable building practices that embrace principles of equity, health, biodiversity, and resilience.
“Requirements within LEED v5, coupled with the federal government’s efforts to establish the new national definition of zero-emissions building, represent a pivotal moment in the built environment’s path toward decarbonization,” Templeton continued. “This alignment will reduce market friction and enable stakeholders to work together toward a common goal. Collaboration between government and industry is imperative to confront today’s challenges and shape a future that will benefit generations to come.”
A Clear Roadmap
Buildings are responsible for around 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions, with 28% stemming from operational emissions, which include energy needed to heat, cool, and power them, according to USGBC.
The LEED v5 O+M draft is designed to deliver an understandable, actionable, and transformational rating system with a clear roadmap for progressive actions that facilitate LEED certification. The draft offers industry benchmarking and scoring to reward performance while maintaining a measured data-driven approach to certification. This will assist LEED users in anticipating and preparing for several years of building operations, encompassing legislative mandates, impending climate risks, and expected industry trends.
As part of the launch, a beta version of the LEED v5 O+M rating system will open with a select group of project teams across a diverse range of projects. The projects will provide critical feedback that will play a crucial role in refining the language and functionality of the system. The beta phase will begin in the fourth quarter of 2023. Projects interested in participating in the beta will find an expression of interest form on USGBC’s website, along with more information about LEED v5.
What’s New In LEED v5?
- LEED v5 addresses all significant sources of carbon emissions in buildings.
- LEED v5 provides clear steps for delivering ultra-low greenhouse gas emissions buildings.
- LEED v5 rewards existing buildings for leadership and planning to hit future decarbonization targets for ultra-low carbon emissions buildings.
- LEED v5 will enhance the carbon literacy of the industry and incentivize existing buildings to work toward ultra-low carbon and zero-emission plans.
USGBC, RMI Partner To Develop Embodied Carbon Guidelines
USGBC and RMI (founded as Rocky Mountain Institute) have released a report — “Driving Action on Embodied Carbon in Buildings” — to answer questions about embodied carbon emissions and outline key actions to accelerate the decarbonization of the U.S. building construction sector.
The report establishes a set of recommendations and actions for embodied carbon, including:
- The state of the data on embodied carbon
- The opportunity to reduce embodied carbon from standard building practices
- Current and emerging benchmarking standards
- The carbon intensity of specific materials
- Embodied carbon savings potential from reuse, recycling and circularity
- Assessments of emerging and future low-embodied-carbon technologies
USGBC and RMI’s work will address embodied carbon emissions from building materials and be used to inform the regular development process for LEED v5.
“RMI is excited to work together with USGBC, providing relevant, cutting-edge research and information on reducing embodied carbon emissions as the rating system continues to push the building industry to be part of the climate solution by providing tangible approaches to achieve high-performance projects that are good for business and the planet,” said RMI’s Victor Olgyay, a carbon-free buildings expert at RMI.
“Addressing embodied carbon emissions in the building and construction sector is a challenge that will require an industry-wide approach and working with leading institutions like RMI,” said Melissa Baker, senior vice president at USGBC. “Our work together aims to provide recommendations and key takeaways to inform standard practices that will help us meet our global climate goals.”
As this area of high-performance building design comes into focus for more architects, designers and builders, the collaboration between USGBC and RMI will guide best practices in low-embodied-carbon solutions while fostering rapid uptake and better decision-making informed by the latest research.
- LEED v5 includes a credit for continual assessment and verification of measurable indoor air quality, including indicators for infection risk management.
- LEED v5 focuses on equity within cleaning operations and protections for cleaning personnel.
- LEED v5 recognizes that adaptation is critical and rewards operational preparedness for extreme events.
- LEED v5 allows projects to understand who is in the building and meet occupant needs with a health-centric approach, including identifying health resilience goals.
- LEED v5 asks teams to understand and address the social impact of a project.
- LEED v5 promotes equity, access, and economic empowerment through on-site renewable energy projects, ownership transfer, and energy rights for underserved and frontline communities.