The U.S. Green Building Council ("USGBC") recently launched its LEED Volume Program - a new program geared toward building owners and property managers who are certifying more than 25 projects per year.

The Program is primarily designed for government, education, real estate organizations, retail, and the hospitality industry as a means to streamline the LEED certification process. According to the USGBC, since its launch, LEED Volume has already attracted 8 participants. In 2006, the LEED Volume Pilot Program engaged 38 participants which included such companies as Best Buy, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and PNC Financial Services Group. The USGBC reports that the Pilot Program ultimately resulted in over 350 LEED certifications.

The primary benefit for participants in the Volume Program is that it simplifies the LEED documentation that would otherwise be necessary for multiple projects, thereby saving considerable time and money for organizations certifying projects. Under the Program structure, organizations certifying a portfolio of projects are able to define a prototype by choosing a set of prerequisites and credits that are common to all of the projects it plans to certify. The Green Building Certification Institute ("GBCI") reviews the prototype and, if acceptable, precertifies the prototype. Participants then apply for certification of actual buildings, using the pre-approved documentation under the prototype and providing additional information for only those credits that differ from the prototype.

In order to ensure that a Program participant's portfolio of projects will be able to meet LEED's technical standards, the USGBC requires that participants develop a "Quality Control Plan" that provides detailed processes that the participant will undertake to deliver projects that meet LEED's requirements.

The USGBC audits the first three projects completed under a prototype and then continues auditing projects on a less frequent basis. If projects fail to meet the requirements established under the prototype, the USGBC imposes penalties and organizations may have to document the reason for the failure(s) and the steps it has taken to remedy the shortcomings. In instances where there are multiple audit failures, participants may have to start the process over and resubmit the prototype for precertification.

The fee structure for the LEED Volume Program provides that organizations must pay a prototype fee of $40,000 (USGBC members) and then a bundled fee for project registration and certification ($35,000 for the first 25 projects). Should projects fail to meet the prototype requirements, the USGBC may impose a corrective action fee up to $20,000. While the cost savings would vary depending on project specifics, the USGBC anticipates a 70 percent reduction in fees for the average participant.