LEED Levels Up

The USGBC's new Pilot Credit 80 makes it easier than ever to specify sustainable products and earn LEED points with the adoption of BIFMA's level certification.

10.01.2013 by Robert Nieminen

Eco-labels, eco-scorecards, third-party product certifications, Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs), Health Product Declarations (HPDs)—the sheer number of green building terms thrown around these days is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Even if you’re a LEED Accredited Professional, it can be hard to keep up with the ever-changing world of sustainable design. The coming launch of LEED v4—the latest iteration of the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) ubiquitous rating system—will increase that learning curve even further.

But before you go jumping off the green bandwagon, there’s good news: if you’re responsible for specifying products and furnishings for LEED projects, life is about to get a whole lot simpler.

Architects, designers and facility managers pursuing LEED certification may now be able to earn points for specifying level®-certified furniture products under the USGBC’s new Pilot Credit 80: Environmentally Preferable Interior Finishes and Furnishings (MRpc80)—a credit that specifically recognizes products that have been certified to the ANSI/BIFMA e3 Furniture Sustainability Standard.

According to the USGBC, the purpose of MRpc80 is to increase the use of interior finishes and furnishings with validated multi-attribute environmental and social profiles. This represents a significant shift away from previous versions of LEED, which only focused on single-attribute certifications measuring things like recycled content or VOCs.

“With LEED v4, we’ve placed a very heavy emphasis on life-cycle assessment and created [a system] that is focused on encouraging simultaneous, multi-attribute optimization,” explains Brendan Owens, vice president of LEED technical development for USGBC.

“We’ve given [specifiers] the basics of single-attribute evaluations,” he adds. “Now all we’re asking them to do is combine all that stuff and say, ‘Alright, let’s make good decisions across this entire range of issues.’”

Environmentally-conscious designers and architects are more than happy to oblige because they understand that good design isn’t just about aesthetics or even performance anymore; it’s also about mitigating the negative impacts that materials can have on our health and the environment.

“We are exposed to hundreds of chemicals daily; we are unaware of many of those, which may be causing us harm by either breathing fumes or dust, by ingestion or by touch,” notes Deborah Fuller, RID, IIDA, LEED AP, sustainable knowledge leader at HOK. “We are seeing many more reports that show how chemicals have a direct effect on human health.” 

Fuller suggests that being aware of these chemicals and trying to eliminate them from both finishes and products is the first step in providing healthier spaces to clients—essentially what MRpc80 was designed to do.

“The general idea is that [USGBC is] trying to create transparency in the marketplace, so the specifier understands what’s really in that product and how it affects the occupant,” says Alicia Snyder-Carlson, a senior consultant at Green Building Services, Inc.

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Level-certified products, such as this lounge seating from National Office Furniture, can now contribute points to LEED projects, thanks to Pilot Credit 80.
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