October 22, 2021

Setting up for Successful LEED Submission to GBCI

Presented by Lauren Rochell
Architect and Senior Sustainability Associate
The Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems

Presented by Lauren Rochell
Architect and Senior Sustainability Associate
The Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems

Setting up for a Successful LEED Submission to GBCI

Apart from keeping LEED reviewers happy, if LEED credits are not achieved or credits are denied, it puts out risk in the quantifiable evidence of all the hard work that went into the project. This can make team members jaded during the LEED review process.

If you’re asking people for information for the third time, or having to do the work yourself for the third time, it can make the LEED review process quite stressful. So how can we make everyone happy and set ourselves up for a successful LEED review process?


  1. Scorecard
  2. Specifications
  3. Submittals
  4. Spreadsheets
  5. Strategies
  6. Smart Submissions
LEED Consulting - LEED v4 BD+C Scorecard

1. Setting up your LEED Scorecard

There are two different strategies I suggest for setting up your LEED scorecard: creating a Credit Buffer or being strategic about Credit Avoidance. 

Credit Strategy: Credit Buffer

Creating a ‘credit buffer’ means you end up submitting more than you need, which will lead to less review comments during the LEED review process.

  • Aim for a 5-point buffer to avoid having to respond to as many final review comments
  • Add High- and Low-Probability Maybe columns to assess confidence, and flush out Maybe points as much as possible by construction phase

Credit Strategy: Credit Avoidance

The other strategy is to avoid certain credits that you know will result in LEED review comments or will take more time to achieve. 

  • Determine credit strategy based on confidence with credit achievement and time efficiency, (while also ensuring the project is built to a high standard). 
  • LEM and Enhanced IAQ Strategies require considerable time commitments but also have considerable benefits for occupants. 
  • BPDO credit achievement is significantly improved by using Green Badger.

Tips: Take advantage of available v4.1 credit substitutions – note some addenda are more beneficial than others, and all v4.1 addenda issued are fair game.

2. Specifications – Div 1

Set up your project specificifications solid from the beginning. Every team will have a different way of doing this, but here are the suggestions I recommend for outlining in Division 1. For the sustainable construction requirements, provide a list of definitions so everyone understands from the beginning (if they actually read them) or so you know where to send people when they have questions.

Division 1 spec section

Division 1 Section Suggestions

  • Sustainable Construction Requirements 
  • Construction and Demolition Waste Management 
  • Construction Indoor Air Quality Management 
  • Commissioning
  • Building Enclosure Commissioning

Sustainable Construction Requirements

  • Include credit requirements, definitions, SCAQMD tables, etc.  
  • Include sustainability submittal cover sheet and current LEED scorecard

Tips: There is no elegant way to explain the thresholds for Low-Emitting Materials. Suggest promote 100% compliant products in specs and allow for wiggle room during materials tracking

2. Specifications – Div 2+

If Division 1 is the default space for all relevant LEED project information, they rest of the sections are about making sure that your submittals are going to be solid. Don’t just assume that your subs are going to read your Division 1 and leave it at that.

Part 1 – Reference Section

  • Reference Div 1 Sustainable Construction Requirements

Part 1 – Submittals

  • Be specific about what product data, certificates, additional info is required for supporting documentation.

Part 2 – Product Requirements

  • Include product specific LEED requirements such as VOC limits, formaldehyde requirements, FSC contributions (or don’t — but be consistent!)


  • Don’t assume subs will receive/read Div 1
  • Beware of MASTERSPEC’s predetermined language
  • Keep reference standards up to date with current LEED requirements (not an easy task)

3. LEED Submittals

Construction LEED Kick-Off – Topics

Here are the topics I generally cover in our LEED kick-off meetings to make sure everyone on the team is on the same page:

  • Submittal work flow 
  • Submittal organization 
  • Sustainability cover sheet 
  • Supporting documentation 
  • Expectations of subs/vendors

Submittal Workflow

Here are some example of how a LEED submittal review process could be managed:

Example #1: GC > LC + AE > GC

In this example, the general contractor gives the submittal to the LEED consultant and the engineering team, and they hand it back to the general contractor. (This includes the product data as well as the LEED supporting documentation).

Versus Example #2: GC PD > AE > GC > GC LEED > LC > Architect > GC

This is an example of when the LEED submittal gets separated from the product data submittal. Here, the General contractor submits a product submittal, which then goes to the architect and engineering firm, which goes back to the general contractor. Then, the general contractor hands off the LEED submittal to the architect and it goes through a whole other process.

product data reporting form for leed v4 projects

I hear from general contractor’s that it’s easier to separate the product data submittal from the LEED submittal, but I haven’t found that to be the case. It is best to have all of the information submitted together. Here’s what your submittal should include for consistency and so your submittal reviewer can effectively review everything:

Submittal Organization

  1. Cover sheet for Product A
  2. Product data for Product A
  3. Supporting docs with contributions highlighted for Product A

+ And repeat


  • Don’t forget about design phase-related submittals: plumbing fixtures, exterior lighting, solar reflectance, etc
  • Include Construction IAQ and C+D Waste Management Plans in submittal review 
  • *Use submittals to hold GCs accountable for installing LEM compliant and BPDO contributing products 
sustainable submittal sheet

3. Submittals – Cover Sheet

Other names for submittal cover sheets: Green Data Form, Sustainability Submittal Sheet 

Important Info to include

  • Interior and/or Exterior-applied (diagrams in v4 ref. guide) 
  • Cost
  • Volume for wet-applied products
  • Definitions of standards
  • Project-specific requirements (ex: Healthcare)

Determine whose cover sheet to use

  • Green Badger has one available for download 
  • Sometimes the form in the spec does not fulfill project goals 


  • Keep it succinct – number of pages, unnecessary words
  • Be consistent with terms (example: GEE vs CDPH vs VOC Emissions Evaluation)
  • Make it project specific (ex: Healthcare requirements)

4. Spreadsheets

In general, what’s going to help with clean documentation for a LEED reviewer is that everyone knows their responsibilities. I like to track everything that’s on LEED online off of LEED online so you don’t have to waste time on their platform. I recommend doing as much of the work outside of LEED online as possible.

External/Team Tracking

  • Responsible Party – include name 
  • Required Documentation 
  • Communication, Updates – include dates 
  • Action Items
  • Est. Date of Completion
Other names for submittal cover sheets: Green Data Form, Sustainability Submittal Sheet 

Internal Tracking

  • Credit Form Complete? Y/N 
  • Files Uploaded to LEED Online 
  • Ready for Review? Y/N

Team Responsibilities

Ensure all teams are in agreement on credit documentation responsibilities: 

  • Plan exhibits 
  • Calculators
  • Materials tracking 
  • Uploading to LEED Online 
  • Credit Forms
  • QAQC


  • Consider having team members sign letter of agreement if concerned with responsibilities being challenged
  • Use the action items spreadsheet as a working document as well as an agenda for team meetings

5. Strategies

Split Review, Campus Approach

  • Determine registration and submission pathway strategically to align with project timeline and goals

Design and Construction Phase Coordination

  • Assess the experience level of the team to determine how much support is needed. Make sure team members understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
  • Kick-off meetings – full team attendance to ensure all are in agreement on credit responsibilities
  • Submit as many credits during design phase as possible (if you’re doing a split review), including innovation credits, then later on there’s less construction phase credits you would need to submit
  • Training Sessions – familiarize with terms, certifications; invite subs, project engineers, interns

Uploading / Submitting

  • Batch uploading vs one credit at a time
  • Review and zip prior to uploading to LEED Online at once
  • Defer design credits to construction phase 

Tips: Wrap up design and construction phases before team members move on to other projects (!!!!!!!!)

6. Smart Submissions

Time Management

  • Limit LEED Online use
  • Pre-pay design review fee
  • Avoid user errors by compiling documentation as submittals are reviewed


  • Maintain consistent file nomenclature Extract and highlight supporting information Limit LEED Online users

Final QAQC

  • Cross-reference credit forms for required documentation Check v4.1 credit substitutions
  • Upload v4.1 credit form (if you want)
  • Check Ready for Review


  • Provide review comment response narrative for each credit. 

Additional Ideas

  • Mid-review clarifications LEED Coach
  • Green Badger resource tools


Become or hire a person who understands LEED fundamentals, cares about the mission behind LEED, is a team player, and invests their time in sustainable design and construction. This will streamline the LEED submission process faster than any other strategy!

For more strategies on a successful LEED review process, check out this post Consistency is Key for LEED Online Submission to GBCI written by Dave Hubka, Director of Program Development at Rivion.

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