WASHINGTON—The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) next update to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building program, coined LEED 2012, will include updates to the Materials & Resources (MR) credit category. The updates reflect thousands of write-in comments received through the first LEED public comment period and include changes to existing LEED credit categories as well as two new credit categories, Integrated Process (IP) and Performance (PF).
The Materials & Resources (MR) credit category, which addresses waste reduction while improving the environmental impact of materials selection and waste disposal, has been revised to include an increased focus on the application of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is a powerful analytical technique used to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life, from extraction, manufacture, use, reuse and disposal.
“By encouraging the use of LCA in LEED we’re encouraging project teams to use analytical tools that are based on information about resource flows through our environmental as well as economic systems. Our expectation is that project teams will make more informed decisions as a result,” says Brendan Owens, vice president of LEED Technical Development, USGBC. “While LCA has limitations, it does a number of things very well and it is one of the best ways conduct trade-off analysis to guide decisions about the specification of products.”
In addition to LCA, USGBC has added new MR credits that encourage project teams to specify materials that have been sourced responsibly, as well as products screened to assess the impacts the product might have on human health on both a local and global level.
To encourage increased transparency of information about products, a new credit rewards the use of materials for which Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) have been made. This practice encourages product manufacturers to engage in disclosure activities that provide building product specifiers and procurement officials with consistent and complete information about their products. Increased transparency around product attributes enables more informed decisions about product specification.
“As a whole, it’s critical we move toward understanding the impacts our building materials have relative to extraction, manufacturing, use and disposal over a product’s lifetime. The goals we’ve set for LEED are achieved when we reward building designers and operators who specify the best performing products from an environmental impact standpoint,” Owens concludes.
To view a video presentation on the LEED MR credit category in LEED 2012, narrated by Brendan Owens, visit http://bit.ly/LEED2012MRvideo.
USGBC expects that utilization of MR credits around EPDs, responsible raw material sourcing and avoidance of chemicals of concern will be beneficial to manufacturers of building materials. Additionally, LEED credits that heavily incentivize the use of building products sourced and manufactured in close proximity to the project that already comply with a variety of best practices and regulations will allow their products to stand out regionally as well as globally.
The second public comment period for LEED 2012 closed on Sept. 14, 2011. To learn more about LEED 2012 and review the proposed drafts and supporting materials, visit www.usgbc.org/LEED/development.