Events Articles & Newsletters. Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In 2009, the US Green Building Council (USGBC), which provides the framework for recognizing “green” buildings, revised the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programs and criteria with one interesting new feature. LEED certifications obtained under the 2009 revision can now be challenged and removed at any time after certification. Revocation of a certificate can be based upon a project’s failure to meet stated minimum program requirements.

Government and private entities involved in construction are familiar with the LEED program that outlines criteria to achieve various levels of LEED certification based on energy conservation, reuse of materials, and energy efficient design features. The LEED 2009 revision identifies seven categories of minimum program requirements that must be met for LEED certification. Among these requirements are compliance with minimum floor area requirements, compliance with a minimum building area to site area ratio, and use of a reasonable site boundary. Many of the points awarded under the LEED certification process are based upon achieving minimum percentages or ratios to establish energy efficiency, air quality, lighting efficiency, or storm water control. Also, to be LEED certified requires that a project be complete and permanent to the site, contain no less than 1,000 square feet of gross floor area, and that the gross floor area can be no less than 2% of the gross land area within the site boundary. Failure to meet these requirements through error or misrepresentation may result in revocation of LEED certification.

LEED certification then requires certified projects to share whole project energy and water usage data for a period of five years after occupancy or certification, depending on the nature of the project. Presumably, this data will be used by the USGBC for future modifications to the LEED standards. Failure to maintain and share such data can also result in decertification of a LEED project.

The new LEED provisions will impact the availability and permanence tax incentives, grants, current and proposed building codes, and project financing where any such activities are tied to achieving LEED certification. As LEED building is becoming more prevalent, expect the USGBC to continually evolve the LEED standards. However, at this time it is prudent for public entities, owners, design professionals, and contractors to explore available means to protect themselves from any potential LEED decertification.