LEED 2012: Introduction to the New Rating System Including the Integrative Process Credit

In recognition of Earth Day, we are taking this opportunity to kick off our series which highlights forthcoming changes with the most recognized green building program – LEED.

1st LEED CI Platinum project in CaliforniaFor more than a decade, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards have set the bar for high performance buildings. One of the reasons that LEED has been able to drive such market transformation is because it is always evolving to improve and adapt to changing market conditions, user feedback, and new technologies. During previous modifications, the fundamental structure of the LEED Rating System remained largely intact; the changes that took place from one version to the next were relatively few and focused primarily on redistributing points across the various credits to better align with environmental impacts and human benefits.

In March of 2012, the USGBC completed the third public comment period for the latest draft of the Rating Systems, LEED 2012, which is anticipated to be released in November of this year. Unlike previous revisions, LEED 2012 will bring major changes across each of the credit categories, revised point distributions and technical content that aims to increase the rigor of LEED. The proposed changes are all driven by market data, advances in technology, and most importantly stakeholder engagement, as evidenced by the more than 5,000 public comments received by the USGBC over the past several months. As the release date of these changes inevitably approaches, it is critical that sustainable design and construction teams understand the new green building standard in order to effectively navigate LEED 2012 and better service their clients’ sustainability goals.

Over the next several months, we will reveal the major changes taking place with LEED 2012 across each of the credit categories and provide useful tips for evaluating and navigating the new Rating System and how it could affect your future projects. As a commercial general contractor, our focus will be on the Rating Systems which apply to commercial renovation projects such as tenant build-outs and building retrofits.

Our first installment provides an overview of one of the new credits within LEED 2012: Integrative Process (IP). The IP Credit 1 maximizes environmental impact through the analysis of key systems interrelationships. The idea being that during programming and continuing throughout design, project teams are required to identify and execute collective opportunities for high performance, cost effective outcomes across different disciplines and building systems.

For example, to achieve one point, project teams must apply the Integrative Process to both Site Selection and Energy-Related Systems. Take for instance the site selection process. When evaluating multiple sites, project teams are now required to assess at least two base building options to determine which provides the greatest opportunity for reaching their environmental goals. With Energy Systems, teams are obligated to evaluate at least two of the following areas for energy reduction: programmatic and operational parameters; basic envelope attributes; lighting levels; thermal comfort ranges; and plug and process load needs. An additional point may be achieved through analyzing water-related systems or performing an integrative cost analysis.

Overall, the new Integrative Process credit change seems minor at first glance. It still provides formal guidelines and requirements for integrated design and construction, a process that many LEED projects already undertake. Only time will tell how feasible this credit will be to achieve LEED points as it depends largely on the documentation requirements that have yet to be finalized. Ultimately, encouraging all projects to apply the principals of the Integrative Process will prove beneficial in the long run – provided that documenting the process is straightforward and consistent.

Stay tuned for our next installment of our LEED 2012 series which will cover the Site and Transportation credits.

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