February 14, 2019

Introducing the LEED v4.1 Update

This is part one in Green Badger’s series of deep dives into the changes for LEED v4.1 and how they may affect project teams moving forward. For information on USGBC’s April 2021 updates to LEED v4.1, check out this post. For more resources, visit the other posts in our series below:

Part Two: Environmental Product Declarations, Option 1

Part Three: Sourcing of Raw Materials and Material Ingredient Reporting

Part Four: Low Emitting Materials

Part Five: Construction Waste Management

Introducing the LEED v4.1 Update

 (a.k.a. the, “Oh crap, not a single project ever earned that credit in 3 years, we better fix things,” version.)

USGBC recently released a long overdue update to LEED version 4, aptly titled LEED v4.1 (though maybe we all have very high hopes up for v4.20?) and it has some pretty beneficial changes for project teams. While they updated a number of design credits, if you know the Badger, you know all we care about are those pesky construction credits, which typically fall into Materials, Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality.

This is the first of many posts from the Badger detailing the changes from 4.0 to 4.1, and most importantly – what it means for those of you neck-deep in LEED paperwork on your project.

So, let’s start with a high-level overview of what the changes are for construction-related credits.

Follow-up posts will get more into the nitty-gritty as we walk through what the posted changes are, and – because of course there’s yet again new requirements with very limited supporting reference materials, clarifications, or even credit calculators – our sense of how those changes may actually impact you.

Introducing the LEED v4.1 Update

Construction Waste Management in LEED v4.1

Welcome back commingled!

Things get easier for projects using certified commingled recycling facilities – you can now earn 1 point with 50% reduction, commingled and 1 more material stream, or 2 points for 75% with commingled and two other material streams. Option 2 is also now a viable option for total waste reduction. Teams must recycle at least 75% of any demolition waste, and reduce total waste to 7.5 lbs/sf or less (except warehouses projects, which remain at 2.5 lbs/sf or less).

Environmental Product Declarations in LEED v4.1

Always stick with your first Option, but perhaps have a backup

Option 1 becomes even more achievable. Project teams need 20 products with EPDs, while Core and Shell, Warehouse and ID&C projects need 10 (due to lack of finishes, this used to be tough on those projects). Industry wide EPDs count as full weight instead of half (though there are limits to applicability), while externally reviewed Type III EPDs count at 150% (1.5 products).

Side note: Industry wide EPDs need provide a separate cover or summary sheet for LEED v4.1 that list a whole bunch of stuff, so existing industry wide EPDs are likely insufficient.

Option 2 goes from being unachievable to maybe achievable. The new requirements are for projects to use either 10 products or by 10% of cost, products that high a lifecycle impact reduction plan (counts at 50%) or can demonstrate third party verified reductions in carbon by 0-10% (100%), 10-20% (150%) or 20+% (200%). We asked USGBC to provide a sample of what that actual documentation looks like, but they didn’t answer. The Badger thinks we’ll keep this one in our back pocket for the time being and continue to focus on Option 1

Sourcing of Raw Materials in LEED v4.1

Two achievable points!

The old option 1 is – as so eloquently sung by Kansas – dust in the wind. Totally gone. Now there are two points for Leadership Extraction Practices (a combination of recycled content, certified wood, rapidly renewable materials, etc.). 1 point is earned at 20% by cost, and a second point is earned at 40% by cost. The cap on products that were labeled structure/enclosure has also been removed, turning this credit from marginal to very, very achievable.

Material Ingredient Reporting in LEED v4.1

A familiar look at your favorite acronyms

The MIR update for Option 1 will look pretty familiar to the old version, but continue USGBC’s press towards third-party certification yielding dividends if you can find products with them.

Option 1 of Material Ingredient reporting stays nearly the same – 20 products (except for Core and Shell, Warehouse and all ID&C projects, where its 10) that have ingredient reporting such as HPDs, Declare, Cradle to Cradle, etc.  All count as 1 product, unless it is third party verification of the content inventory, in which case it counts as 1.5 products (150%). FYI, if you look in the HPD Collaborative site, they have 950 products that they show as meeting LEED v4 Option 1. Only 69 of those are listed as third-party verified (and eligible for the multiplier).

Option 2 requires 10 products OR 10% by cost of products that have Material Ingredient Screening and Optimization Action plans (50% weighting), Advanced Inventory & assessment (100% value) or Material Ingredient Optimization (150% weighting). What does that mean? If you’ve got really tightly put together HPDs that are using Greenscreen assessments, Declare labels with third party verification of Red List Free, or Cradle to Cradle v3 Silver or higher, you’re making strides.

Option 1, pretty achievable. Option 2 – jury’s still out, but you should be able to find a whopping 10 products with some combination of good HPDs, Declare labels or C2C certified products.

Low Emitting Materials in LEED v4.1

You can now earn more than 1 point here without pulling all your fur out!

The biggest change is there are A) more product categories, as ceilings/walls/thermal has been broken into ceilings, walls, and insulation (what a difference a comma makes vs a /), and instead of requiring you to earn every single category for all products to get to 3 points, you can choose any of the categories, and get 1 point for meeting 2, 2 points for meeting 3, and 3 points for meeting 4 (and an exemplary performance point for earning 5 categories – out of a now total of 8). So now when none of the adhesives you use have CDPH testing, you don’t get completely screwed (and apologies to the 5 sealants there are out there that have it). Also, products must meet the updated standards – for emissions, it is now the CDPH Standard Method v1.2 2017, while for VOC Content of Adhesives/Sealants, SCAQMD Rule 1168 jumps from 2005 to 2017, and Paints/Coatings SCAQMD Rule 1113 goes from 2011-2015.

Lastly, instead of 90% emissions compliance, the number drops to 75%, and applies to all categories except flooring and ceilings, which are both at 90% (instead of 100%).

IAQ Management During Construction

Big changes here – too much to type at once – here we go…

If air handlers are used, filters must be MERV 8 as per ASHRAE 55-2017, instead of 2010. Oh, and don’t smoke weed within 25’ of the building (I’m looking at you Denver projects)

Looking to win your next LEED project? Check our Green Badger’s LEED bidding tips for general contractors. With Green Badger, you can now export monthly one-page LEED summary reports that have all our credit progress in one place to share with the whole time. Find out more about our LEED summary exports here.

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  1. Sue Bryant says

    You note that industry wide EPDS require a separate cover sheet list of stuff, but the beta guide seems to indicate that product specific declarations require the reviewer credentials and LCA software used. Are these typical for the “old” EPDs? And do all the new EPDs have to reference the new ISO 14025? It seems easier but now I am wondering if there are very few materials with all the required information.

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