LEED 2009 Requires More Bang for Your Buck

LEED 2009 was rolled out by the U.S. Green Building Council this week. The new rating system seeks to do the following

  • make credits and prerequisites consistent across all commercial and institutional rating systems,  LEED commercial and institutional rating systems,
  • weight points based on the environmental impact each strategy will make on the project, and
  • incentivize the achievement of credits that address geographically specific environmental priorities. 

In essence, LEED 2009 now requires developers to earn more bang for their buck. Points are no longer awarded in a vacuum. Instead, the weighted point system ensures each building being certified meets a certain level of positive environmental impact. It should come as no surprise that the most heavily weighted credits are those involving energy use and CO2 emission.


The most interesting change (in this humble blogger’s opinion) is the new geographical bonus points. Previous versions of the LEED rating system did not take into consideration the geographical region of development. Each credit was awarded equally whether the project was located in downtown Los Angeles or located in downtown Denver (aside from certain Sustainable Site points for proximity to mass transit stations, density, etc). 


LEED 2009, however, recognizes that environmental priorities differ among various regions of the country. The challenges in the Southeast differ from those in the Northwest, for example. Thus, the new rating system offers developers an opportunity to earn up to four bonus points for using those strategies that have an impact on a certain region’s highest environmental priorities. There are no new credits, but developers earn two for the price of one.


For example, bonus points can be earned in every zip code in New Jersey for achieving a level of increased energy efficiency and protecting and restoring natural habitats. In rural Michigan, bonus points may be earned for preserving prime agricultural land and reducing light trespass. In downtown Los Angeles, they may be earned by reducing water consumption and utilizing natural daylighting.


All in all, LEED 2009 is a great step forward for the USGBC, making its rating system flexible enough to deal with a variety of different types of developments and geographical areas, while ensuring that each certified project achieve a quantifiable level of “green.”