What Are the Differences Between LEED V3 and LEED V4?

As the standard in green building best practices, the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system is the world’s preeminent green building rating program, with 1.5 million square feet of building space certified to LEED every day. LEED version 3, also known as LEED 2009, is now up for revision as USGBC members cooperate to vote on its next iteration, LEED v4.

What is LEED V4?

Repeated voting periods have refined this latest version into what is expected to be the most comprehensive overhaul of the program. Its launch was anticipated in time for the 2012 Greenbuild conference, but its complexity and stringency sent it back into public comment periods and voting rounds to solidify a consensus on its scope and content. According to USGBC, LEED v4 material is now expected to feature in LEED professional credential exams by July 2014.

In the meantime, USGBC members and people seeking LEED accreditation are asking what the differences will be between LEED v3 and LEED v4. The list of new and revised features is fairly long, but this overview should serve to highlight some of the key differences for those wondering what the new rendition will entail.

Firstly, it should be noted that those accredited under version 3 won’t need to retest in order to maintain their credential, and the LEED professional credential exams will contain LEED v4 material by June 30, 2014. So, for anyone who has been studying current materials or is seeking to beat the decidedly more stringent and complex content of version 4, now would be the time to take a LEED accreditation course and sit for the exam.

Differences Between LEED V3 and LEED V4

1. LEED V4 has an expansion to include rating systems for different building types and renovation types:

  • For LEED BD+C (Building Design and Construction), where LEED v3 included New Construction and Major Renovation, Core and Shell Development, Schools, Retail, and Healthcare, LEED v4 now also includes Data Centers, Warehouse and Distribution Centers, Multifamily Midrise, Hospitality, and Homes and Multifamily Lowrise
  • For LEED ID+C (Interior Design and Construction), where LEED v3 included Commercial Interiors and Retail, LEED v4 now also includes Hospitality.
  • For LEED O+M (Operations and Maintenance), where LEED v3 included Existing Buildings, Retail and Schools, LEED v4 now also includes Data Centers, Warehouse and Distribution Centers, and Hospitality.

2. LEED V4 changes are geared toward the user experience, including (from USGBC.org):

  • The new LEED Online portal is easier to use and simplifies the process and requirements for credit submittal
  • The customer experience now includes customer account management, the LEED Coach service and Proven Provider
  • A LEED Dynamic Plaque, allowing you to track your LEED performance in real time
  • Restructured reference guides, incorporating a new interactive web-based version, which offers video tutorials and downloadable templates and presentations
  • Three new webinar suites dedicated to v4
  • More accessible forms and calculators that are easier to use, and that can be seen without a registered project

3. LEED V4 changes to credit categories and prerequisites:

  • The LEED v3 credit categories included Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovation in Design, and Regional Priority. LEED V4 will now also include Location and Linkage (transportation), and Awareness and Education.
  • There are some updates to the prerequisites for these credit categories. Some examples:
Credit Category New Prerequisite Revised Prerequisite
Sustainable Sites Environmental site assessment now applicable to Schools and Healthcare; Site management policy Updated reference standard for construction activity
Water Efficiency Building level water metering Water use reduction now split into Outdoor and Indoor water use reduction
Energy and Atmosphere Building level energy metering Fundamental commissioning of building energy systems now called Fundamental commissioning and verification; Updated reference standard for minimum energy performance
Materials and Resources Construction and demolition waste management; PBT source reduction – Mercury; Ongoing purchasing and waste policy; Facility Storage and collection of recyclables
alterations and additions policy
Indoor Environmental Quality Green cleaning policy Minimum indoor air quality performance; Environmental tobacco smoke control; Minimum acoustical performance
  • Credit Category
  • Sustainable Sites
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy and Atmosphere
  • Materials and Resources
  • Indoor Environmental Quality
  • New Prerequisite
  • Environmental site assessment now applicable to Schools and Healthcare; Site management policy
  • Building level water metering
  • Building level energy metering
  • Construction and demolition waste management; PBT source reduction – Mercury; Ongoing purchasing and waste policy; Facility
  • alterations and additions policy
  • Green cleaning policy
  • Revised Prerequisite
  • Updated reference standard for construction activity
  • Water use reduction now split into Outdoor and Indoor water use reduction
  • Fundamental commissioning of building energy systems now called Fundamental commissioning and verification; Updated reference standard for minimum energy performance
  • Storage and collection of recyclables
  • Minimum indoor air quality performance; Environmental tobacco smoke control; Minimum acoustical performance

4. The LEED Steering Committee developed and approved a list of Impact Categories focused on what LEED projects should accomplish:

  • Reverse contribution to climate change
  • Enhance human health and wellbeing
  • Protect and restore water resources
  • Protect biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Promote sustainable regenerative material resource cycles
  • Build a greener economy
  • Enhance community, social equity, environmental justice and quality of life

After three years of review and collaboration from hundreds of volunteers and thousands of stakeholders, the changes from LEED V3 to LEED V4 are nuanced and intricate. While there are more detailed changes than we were able to share here, hopefully this serves as a guide for better understanding what’s new and what’s different about LEED V4.

Here are a couple of additional resources:

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