October 21, 2020

Earning LEED Multi-Attribute Optimization in v4.1

Tommy Linstroth Founder and CEO at Green Badger LEED Fellow

by Tommy Linstroth
Founder and CEO at Green Badger
LEED Fellow

It can be done… but you’re really going to have to plan for it!

The MRc2 credit that was dead-on-arrival in LEED v4, Multi-Attribute Optimization, now has a very slight pulse in LEED v4.1. The credit thresholds have been re-written so that only 5 products are needed, and there’s actually a confirmed standard to demonstrate compliance.

The challenge that remains? As you’ll see, there are still only a handful of these products, so you better plan on using all of them and have them identified from spec to installation. There’s literally no room for error. What strategy have you been using to achieve this credit on your projects? Let us know in the comments section!

For more LEED credit guidance, check out these posts on earning LEED Sourcing of Raw Materials and Indoor Air Quality Assessment.

MRc2 Multi Attribute Optimization Green Badger Ultimate Guide to LEED v4

Requirements for LEED Multi-Attribute Optimization, MRc2 Option 2, for v4.1

1 Point: To earn one point, you need to use at least 5 permanently installed products that comply with one of the criteria we’ll discuss shortly from 3 different manufacturers.

  • Life Cycle Impact Reduction Action Plan (value at 50% by cost or ½ product)
  • Life Cycle Impact Reductions in Embodied Carbon (value at 100% by cost or 1 product)
  • Life Cycle Impact Reductions in Embodied Carbon – 10% reduction global warming potential (value at 150% by cost or 1.5 products)
  • Life Cycle Impact Reductions in Embodied Carbon – 20% reduction in global warming potential and 5% reduction 2 other impact categories (value at 200% by cost or 2 products)

And that’s the cliff notes version. The full language will have you mis-pronouncing eutrophication, learning about tropospheric ozone, and pounding bourbon like you’re Al Swearegen.

Al Swearegen

So, what does any of that mean? Let’s try and break this down in plain English.

You need 5 permanently installed products from 3 different manufacturers. These products need to either have a plan in place to reduce lifecycle impacts OR show some actual reductions. Here’s what this entails.

What qualifies as a Lifecycle Impact Reduction Plan?

The manufacturer needs to have a product specific LCA using EN 15804 or ISO 21930 for the product it is claiming. If it has an EPD that qualifies under Option 1 here, you’re in good shape. 

There, the manufacturer has to provide a publicly available action plan to mitigate or reduce life cycle impacts. It must be critically-reviewed, and include the following components.

  • Description of the LCA used by the manufacturer to complete the analysis (pretty straightforward, would already be found in the EPD).
  • Identification of the largest life cycle impact areas identified in the analysis and a narrative description of the impact areas targeted for reduction in the action plan. 
  • Description of specific steps anticipated in implementation of the action plan, with dates and a timeline for implementation.

This is just a plan for reducing the product’s impact down the road – to get 50% credit (or ½ a product), the manufacture needs to develop a plan to reduce impact, but it doesn’t actually need to be implemented. You’ve got to crawl before you walk. 

What qualifies as Life Cycle Impact Reductions in Embodied Carbon?

This one gets complicated pretty quickly if you read all the details. Literally, check it out below if you’re a glutton for punishment:

Products that have demonstrated environmental impact reductions for the specified functional unit based on a current third-party EPD or verified LCA that conforms to the comparability requirements of ISO 14025 and ISO 21930. Here’s where your good old EPD comes in. On top of that, it needs to be demonstrated that there is a reduction in the global warming potential (GWP) impact category. Any reduction in GWP is good for 1 product, a 10% reduction counts for 1.5 products, and 20% reduction AND at least a 5% reduction in 2 other impact categories yields 2 products. 

What are these impact categories, you may be asking?

Well, I’ll tell you. The impact categories are:

  • Global warming potential (greenhouse gases), in CO2e;
  • Depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer, in kg CFC-11e;
  • Acidification of land and water sources, in moles H+ or kg SO2e;
  • Eutrophication, in kg nitrogen equivalent or kg phosphate equivalent;
  • Formation of tropospheric ozone, in kg NOx, kg O3 eq, or kg ethene; and
  • Depletion of nonrenewable energy resources, in MJ using CML / depletion of fossil fuels in TRACI.

Moles H+? MJ using CML? Kg NOx? W. T. F.

bill nye the science guy

Seriously, this would drive Bill Nye to drink, muchless this hapless guy. 

The good news is that the documentation being provided makes this pretty easy to understand, and there’s nice, easy to read charts that demonstrate compliance – you don’t need to count any moles, megajoules, or kilograms. Just read the chart like below:

mrc2 option 2 leed multi-attribute optimization

This image shows you what the documentation looks like and you don’t need a labcoat to understand it. These are the 5 impact categories called out in the credit mentioned, and any associated reductions (or additions) from the lifecycle analysis. In this case, the Eco Touch insulation from Owens Corning is demonstrating a 17% reduction in GWP. This earns 1.5 products (or 150% by cost) towards credit compliance. IF the GWP was over 20%, it would count as 2 products (or 200%) because at least 2 of the other 4 impact categories show a reduction of at least 5% (in this example, all 4 other categories do). 

To restate, using documentation similar to the above: if the GWP shows ANY reduction (is a negative number, not 0 or a positive number), THEN it counts as 1 product. If it is at least 10% reduction (-10) then it counts as 1.5 products. Finally, if GWP is a 20% reduction or greater AND at least two of those other impact categories show a 5% reduction, then it counts as 2 products towards the goal of 5.

MRc2 Option 2 Multi-Attribute Optimization LEED v4 Strategies

Strategies for LEED Multi-Attribute Optimization, MRc2 Option 2, for v4.1

Here’s the plan. We need to get 5 total products that either have a plan or show reductions in LCA impact categories. There are thousands of products on a construction site so this can’t be too hard, right? Well as we mentioned in the introduction, this is possible – but there’s barely 10 products we’ve seen with the required documentation, so you’ll be using all of them!  

Side note: Some of the products here are at odds with products available for Material Ingredient Optimization, so you may have to choose which point you’re going after.

Here are the products Green Badger has documentation on that qualifies for Multi-Attribute Optimization (special shoutout the the LEED User forum discussion that pointed some of these out!):

  • Flooring: 
    • Interface Modular Carpet Tiles on Glasbac, Nylon 6,6 styles (39% GWP reduction) – Counts for 2 products
  • Insulation
    • Owens Corning Eco Touch Fiberglass Insulation (17% GWP reduction) – Counts for 1.5 products
    • Owens Corning Foamular NGS XPS *83% GWP reduction! But also increase over baseline for all other categories) – Counts for 1.5 Products
  • Gypsum Board
    • USG Sheetrock Ecosmart Firecode X Panels (15% GWP reduction) – Counts for 1.5 products
  • Toilet
    • Kohler Highcliff Toilet (13% GWP reduction) – Counts for 1.5 products
  • Wall Panels
    • 3form Pressed Glass Panels (21% GWP reduction) – Counts for 2 products
    • 3form Chroma Panels (35% GWP reduction) – Counts for 2 products
    • 3form Varia Panels (6% GWP reduction) – Counts for 1 product
  • Paint
    • Sherwin Williams Loxon (Lifecycle Impact Reduction Plan) – Counts for 0.5 product
    • Sherwin Williams Harmony (Lifecycle Impact Reduction Plan) – Counts for 0.5 product
    • Sherwin Williams Pro Mar 200 (all sheens) (Lifecycle Impact Reduction Plan) – Counts for 0.5 product 
    • Sherwin Williams Pro Mar 200 HP (Lifecycle Impact Reduction Plan) – Counts for 0.5 product
    • Sherwin Williams Pro Mar 400 (all sheens) (Lifecycle Impact Reduction Plan) – Counts for 0.5 product
    • Sherwin Williams Preprite Block Filler (Lifecycle Impact Reduction Plan) – Counts for 0.5 product
    • Sherwin Williams Preprite Primer/Sealer (Lifecycle Impact Reduction Plan) – Counts for 0.5 product
    • Sherwin Williams Multi Purpose Interior/Exterior Latex Primer (Lifecycle Impact Reduction Plan) – Counts for 0.5 product
    • Sherwin Williams Pre-Catalyzed Waterbased Epoxy (Lifecycle Impact Reduction Plan) – Counts for 0.5 product
Download your free LEED v4 materials coversheet

Let’s put the strategy together. 

Slapping down Interface carpet tiles (2 products), USG Sheetrock Ecosmart Firecode X drywall (1.5), Owens Corning Eco Touch Insulation (1.5) and the glorious Kohler Highcliff (1.5) toilet will result in 6.5 products. That leaves 3.5 to go. 

If you’re using 3form wall panels, you’re likely set. Otherwise, it comes down to Sherwin Williams paint – and you’ll need a lot of it! Each product has an impact reduction plan, which counts as ½ a product – so we need at least 7 to round out the math. Fortunately, each sheen of paint counts as a separate product, so let’s say we’re using the ProMar 200 primer, flat, semi-gloss, eggshell, and gloss. That’s 5 – almost there. 

Finish it off with some PrepRite Block filler and PrepRite Primer/Sealer and you’ve reached that magical total of 10 – good for 1 point!

leed multi-attribute optimization

Summary for LEED Multi-Attribute Optimization, MRc2 Option 2, for v4.1

Clearly, there is almost no wiggle room for earning the Multi-Attribute Optimization credit. The good news is that if you take this very scripted approach with the intent of earning this credit from the start, you can almost guarantee success. 

Additionally, for a product to qualify for Multi-Attribute Optimization, it pretty much has to have a Product Specific EPD, so you’ll already have tallied 11 products (valued at 1.5 each since all their EPDs are externally reviewed), resulting in 16.5 products towards the EPD Option 1 goal of 20 (or if its a Core and Shell or Commercial Interiors you’re earning the point and are well on the way to the exemplary performance bonus point). 

Let’s recap how to earn 1 point for Multi-Attribute Optimization:

  1. 1 point may be achievable, using a sum of 5 products across 3 manufacturers
  2. Take a scripted approach from the 6 manufacturers who have Multi-Attribute Optimization documentation
  3. Spec/sole-sourcing these products will ensure compliance (and may not be an option on federally funded projects
  4. This will also get you 75% of the way to earning EPD Option 1

There are some pretty easy best practices that can really facilitate the documentation for materials and even low-emitting products.

Here’s one that you think would be commonplace, but at least in this Badger’s neck of the woods (literally), we don’t see all that frequent – using a required LEED cover sheet for all subcontractorsBy having a coversheet, where you require the subcontractor to provide cost and any relevant LEED data (recycled content percentages, distance from extraction and manufacture, VOC content, etc), you get all this information up front. Or reject the submittal and send it back. Pretty straightforward. You can download your free coversheet here.

Download your free LEED v4 materials coversheet
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