LEED’s Next Step

Heightened focus on energy and carbon emissions reductions has changed expectations and priorities for Canada’s green building industry. The CaGBC has kept pace by introducing our Zero Carbon Building Standard in 2017 and bringing new certification programs and tools to Canada through our GBCI Canada launch earlier this year. LEED also continues to evolve to meet rising expectations.

As Canada’s oldest and most successful green building rating system, LEED has 13 years of proven success and has produced more than 3,800 certified projects across the country. The cumulative impact of these projects is remarkable: a reduction in GHG emissions of 2.49 million carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) tonnes, which is like taking 530,000 cars off the roads for a year; energy savings of 12.9 million eMWh, which is enough to power 435,000 homes in Canada for a full year; and water savings of more than 24 billion litres – equivalent to three hours of water coursing over the Canadian Horseshoe of Niagara Falls.

Canadian project teams continue to successfully leverage LEED to drive market transformation with the latest version of LEED, with 600 registrations under LEED v4.

Next steps for LEED

LEED’s holistic view is largely responsible for its success, with an emphasis on providing healthier indoor environments for occupants while reducing emissions, maximizing energy efficiency, reducing waste and powering innovation. However, within this framework, continuous improvement is necessary. That is why we have begun rolling out LEED v4.1, with the promise of making the world’s most popular green building rating system a more powerful tool than ever for project teams.

Project teams will be able to take advantage of the updated rating systems as soon as they are released, and balloting is expected to occur in 2019. Focused on streamlining, clarifying and strengthening requirements, LEED v4.1 will offer key refinements to serve the ultimate goal of enhancing the experience of projects pursuing LEED certification.

It will incorporate valuable insights from Canadian project teams and the experience gleaned from working on thousands of LEED certified projects. Upgrades to the rating system are being released as drafts (“beta” updates) over the course of 2018, with the March 2018 rollout of LEED v4.1 O+M being the first of these.

LEED v4.1 Operations + Maintenance: Streamlining certification by focusing on outcomes

In order to reduce environmental impacts and improve the health and wellness of occupants, we must always consider the critical role of existing buildings. The operations of our buildings must be substantially decarbonized by 2050 in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and over 50 per cent of the building stock in 2050 will consist of buildings that already exist today. LEED v4.1 O+M addresses this issue by putting the focus on assessing emissions from building operations as well as transportation. A project’s energy performance score is determined in part by its GHG emissions per capita and unit area, while its transportation score is determined by per-capita emissions.

LEED v4.1 O+M’s updates were introduced to better enable teams to optimize operations and achieve significant reductions in emissions from existing structures, while building upon v4’s emphasis on improved energy performance, human health and integrative design. By focusing on performance outcomes such as reduced energy and water use, and not on prescriptive measures to improve performance, this update dramatically streamlines and greatly simplifies certification. Fully 90 per cent of the points available in LEED v4.1 O+M are based on simple key performance outcomes such as energy and water use, providing broad flexibility in choosing how to achieve performance objectives.

The certification process has also been improved in LEED v4.1 O+M. By introducing annual recertification, LEED can now be integrated more seamlessly into annual performance objectives and budgets. This also reduces the likelihood of gaps in data tracking due to changes in personnel, equipment or processes. 

Leveraging the Arc benchmarking platform across entire portfolios

A key aspect of the streamlined LEED v4.1 O+M rating system is its leveraging of the Arc platform, which is an online tool that helps collect, manage and benchmark building data and improve sustainability performance. On the Arc platform, data is assessed in five categories: energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience. The performance metrics correspond to those that represent 90 per cent of the points available in LEED v4.1 O+M, which allows Arc to serve as an on-ramp to LEED certification. Operations can be monitored and improved over time, and certification can easily be pursued when performance warrants. It also enables building owners to use one platform to track performance across their portfolio of LEED and other buildings, globally. This allows for performance to be compared based on a consistent set of key metrics, while highlighting opportunities to improve performance, and possibly also identifying additional buildings for LEED certification.

Use of the Arc platform is provided free to LEED projects for a period of five years, making it easier for LEED Building Design + Construction (BD+C) projects to monitor performance against design expectations, comply with LEED requirements to provide energy and water use data, and determine the feasibility of O+M recertification.

Tackling emissions

It is anticipated that LEED 4.1 for Building Design and Construction (BD+C) will include updates to challenging Materials credit options, daylighting and acoustics. There will also be greater alignment and integration of the various rating systems for homes and multi-family buildings. Perhaps most interesting will be the updates to how energy performance is assessed. Standards and practices have evolved since LEED v4 was first balloted, and version 4.1 is an opportunity to ensure LEED continues to drive change to address the most pressing environmental issue of our time: climate change. The CaGBC is working with stakeholders, its Energy and Engineering Technical Advisory Group and the LEED Canada Steering Committee to identify the best approach for tackling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from building operations in the Canadian context.

In recognition of the climate change imperative, a metric that assesses efforts to reduce GHG emissions is being considered. This metric would encourage careful evaluation of energy efficiency measures, the selection of energy sources (particularly for heating and hot water), and onsite renewable energy generation options. Equal weighting could be provided to overall building energy efficiency in recognition of its particularly complicated and critical role. Consideration is being given to a new, clear measure of energy performance based on assessing energy savings relative to a baseline with a fixed energy source for heating; historically, cost savings has been used rather than energy savings, and the energy source has changed as a function of the energy source chosen in the proposed design.

A better LEED for a better tomorrow

It’s clear we cannot forge a greener future without ensuring the sustainability of both our new and existing building stock. The latest update to the LEED O+M rating system, and the upcoming changes to other LEED rating systems, will simplify and streamline this endeavour and provide helpful tools and technology to aid the process, making it easier for the industry to demonstrate leadership and be recognized for these achievements.

To participate in the LEED v4.1 O+M beta or to learn more, visit cagbc.org/leedv4-1


Mark Hutchinson is the vice president of green building programs at the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC).

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