How LEED v4 Differs from Previous LEED Versions

How LEED v4 Differs from Previous LEED Versions

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system has become the hallmark of whether or not a building has followed proper protocol for reducing its environmental impact. Truly, it’s a recipe for success for builders who want the most functional and transparent process when bringing their green building projects to life.

With a lifespan of more than 20 years, the USGBC offers a multitude of LEED versions, each one slightly improved upon the former. And while each new version provides enormous value, LEED v4 breaks the mold. This is apparent when considering the most glaring changes from versions of the past, considering the heightened emphasis on: materials’ components and their environmental footprint, smart grid thinking, water proficiency, and an attribute-based rating system instead of a performance-based guideline. And while the overall framework for sustainability remains unaltered, some notable changes that you must stay current on are as follows:

How Many Rating System Adaptations Exist?

Twenty-one to be exact—and the criteria fall into one of five categories:

  1. Building Design & Construction (BD+C)
  2. Interior Design & Construction (ID+C)
  3. Operations & Maintenance (O+M)
  4. Neighborhood Development (ND)
  5. Homes

New Impact Categories/System Goals

A brand new addition (for any LEED version) includes goals to appropriately track each credit. When creating v4, the USGBC considered thousands of public comments and published six drafts to appropriately address the question of, “What should a LEED project accomplish?”

The seven system goals are:

  1. Reverse Contribution to Global Climate Change
  2. Enhance individual Human Health and Well-Being (Three credits that address this goal: MR EPD, MR Sourcing of Raw Materials, and MR Material Ingredients (HPD))
  3. Protect and Restore Water Resources
  4. Protect, Enhance and Restore Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
  5. Promote Sustainable and Regenerative Material Resources Cycles
  6. Build a Greener Economy
  7. Enhance Social Equity, Environmental Justice and Community Quality of Life

Keeping You on Your Toes: Credits, Grouping, and Systems Have Changed



Notice the transition from LEED 2009 to LEEV v4, green credits are new and MRc4, MRc5, MRc6, and MRc7 are now grouped under MR Sourcing of Raw Materials. Additional changes to the LEED Materials & Resources credit can be found here.

Decoding HPDs and EPDs

HPDS and EPDs have a shared goal: Give architects, builders, contractors, etc. complete transparency when considering building materials and allow them to effectively weigh their environmental impression.

An EPD is an Environmental Product Declaration (and a familiar asset to previous LEED versions) that provides quantifiable data on the environmental impacts of a product’s lifecycle. They’re also independently registered in the International EPD system and are publicly accessible.

HPDs are Health Product Declaration(s) that give full disclosure on the effect of “hazardous” chemicals that are found in building products. These declarations are made up of lists compiled by the GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals and other government bodies.

Why Do They Matter?

Before HPDs, EPDs were limited in that they didn’t give a universal view of all the factors that go into making informed decisions based on product health characteristics. Together, builders now have a clearer framework for how to optimize sustainable efforts and minimize harmful impact.

Tying It All Together

Depending on who you ask, sustainability could have a range of definitions, varying from very specific to very general goals. With this in mind, the USGBC created LEED (and now LEED v4) to lay the groundwork for a streamlined, sustainable business model. And while no version is perfect, and there is still much to be done with regards to fleshing out consideration being given to multiple impact categories at once or using highly-targeted indicators to increase accuracy of performance data, the attainment of totally green buildings isn’t nearly as distant as it was once.