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The Next Chapter of LEED

As the last public comment period closes on LEED 2012 we look at some of the most notable changes that members will be considering on June's member ballot.

By Ashley Katz

As the last public comment period closes on LEED 2012 we look at some of the most notable changes that members will be considering on June's member ballot.

LEED is a living document, and its evolution is critical to connecting the building market to new and innovative ways of thinking about the design, construction and operation of green buildings. With more than 8.3 billion square feet of space around the world participating in the commercial and institutional LEED rating systems, its past—and future—success is in part due to the fact that it is developed by the people who use it.\ The next version of the rating system, LEED 2012, is no exception. After undergoing four public comment periods, a key step in compiling industry feedback, LEED 2012 is in the final phase of the program delivery process: the member ballot. When it makes its debut at Greenbuild 2012 in November, the finalized version will continue to drive industry change and push our collective, global movement forward.

what’s new in leed 2012?
LEED 2012 builds on the foundational changes of LEED 2009, offering a more global perspective, a better user experience and new performance management tools to help projects measure and manage energy and water use. Some of the more notable revisions proposed for LEED 2012 include the following:

additional market sectors
While LEED has always been available to all building types, LEED 2012 will tackle unique market sectors, adding data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality, existing schools, existing retail and mid-rise residential to its roster of rating systems.

increased technical rigor
LEED 2012 incorporates requirements intended to result in improved environmental outcomes. Technical changes have been made in every LEED credit category, and reflect market data, stakeholder-generated ideas, expert engagement, advances in technology, and market acceptability of LEED and green building practices.

For example, for the first time in the Building Design and Construction (BD+C) and Interior Design and Construction (ID+C) rating systems, location and transportation issues are set out in a separate credit category from sustainable sites. The Location and Transportation category rewards projects for locating in densely populated, public transit-driven locations, which allow occupants to experience the environmental, economic and social benefits of community connectivity. ID+C projects will find these credits resemble some of what used to be in the LEED 2009 Sustainable Sites category, with some technical enhancements and a streamlined pathway to points by locating the fit-out in a LEED for Neighborhood Development-certified project.


The Materials and Resources credit category in LEED 2012 has been organized around the following four groupings to better define the environmental priorities of the LEED process and change the way project teams think about materials.


  • Blighted Buildings
  • Historic Buildings
  • Building Re-use

assessment + optimization

  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • Environmental Product
  • Declaration
  • Single Prescriptive Attributes

Human + Ecological Health

  • Chemical Avoidance
  • Responsible Extraction

waste management

  • C+D Waste
  • On-going Recycling
Expanded in scope, the Water Efficiency category addresses more building water uses than LEED 2009. The long-term ideal is to create a comprehensive water budget that allows project teams to determine major water uses and target efficiency measures at the areas of largest impact. In LEED 2012, the credits are reorganized as an incremental step towards an integrated water budget. For ID+C projects, the primary focus is on Indoor Water Use, which now includes requirements and rewards for addressing process and appliance water.

The Materials and Resources category is intended to change the way project teams think about materials. Organized around resource reuse, assessment and optimization, human and ecological health, and waste management, the credit category better defines the environmental priorities throughout the LEED project development process, requiring more transparent manufacturer reporting and encouraging projects to use materials with Life Cycle Assessment-based Environmental Product Declaration labels (learn more about EPDs on page 114). Commercial interiors projects will still see some familiar credits from LEED 2009, such as Construction and Demolition Waste Management, Tenant Space—Long Term Commitment, and Interiors Reuse.

Finally, the Indoor Environmental Quality category has been grouped into four main areas of focus: indoor air, light, sound and experience. New credits concerning acoustical design and substantially improved credits for daylight, views and interior lighting are intended to improve the health, productivity and performance of occupants using LEED buildings. ID+C projects will see more points in the Indoor Environmental category than the other rating systems, emphasizing the additional control and focus on the occupant health, productivity and experience, when compared to other impacts.

revision of credit weightings
The revised LEED point distribution more closely aligns the rating system requirements with the priorities articulated by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) community. Points have been allocated based on a credits achievement of a more focused set of impact categories. The LEED 2012 impact categories include:

  • Reduce contribution to global climate change
  • Enhance individual human health, well-being and vitality
  • Protect and restore water resources
  • Protect and restore habitat and ecosystem services
  • Promote sustainable and regenerative material resource cycles
  • Build a green economy
  • Enhance our communities through social equity, environmental justice and improved quality of life

The rating system will still have 100 base points, and all credits within the LEED 2012 system, old or new, are weighted using the new impact categories and valued relative to other credits in the rating system.

LEED 2012 reflects the blood, sweat and tears of a tireless and fully-engaged green building community, who will be a part of its debut at Greenbuild 2012. Please join us as we continue to drive industry change and push our collective, global movement forward this November at the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo.

Visit for more information on the conference or to register.


As the media manager for the U.S. Green Building Council, Ashley Katz manages media strategy and relations for USGBC, its LEED green building program and the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo. Katz has been a member of USGBC’s Communications team for over five years following previous roles with various public relations agencies in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached at