The membership of the U.S Green Building Council recently approved major changes to the LEED rating system, now known as LEED v4, including a significant overhaul of the materials and resources credits. In short, the changes to LEED are so dramatic that they will send ripples into other industries and shift expectations on sustainability reporting and performance far beyond the building industry. 

The changes are:

1. Harnessing the power of transparency

For the first time, a building product can contribute to a LEED point just by disclosing information related to environmental and health impacts.

Yes, this means that even if your product contains carcinogens and has a King Kong-sized carbon footprint, it theoretically could contribute to two LEED points just by being transparent about these unfortunate facts.


2. Using LCA as a product differentiator

Earlier versions of LEED have relied on single-attribute proxies, such as recycled, reused or bio-based content for identifying building materials with reduced environment impacts. LEED v4 is pioneering the use of verified life cycle assessment (LCA) data in an attempt to more holistically assess environmental impacts across the entire life cycle of a product. A new credit asks manufacturers to provide Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) or third-party verified life cycle assessments.


3.Responsible sourcing of (all) raw materials


The credit requires manufacturers to report extraction locations and supplier commitments to responsible practices for 90 percent of a product’s raw materials. It will be interesting to see how manufacturers handle this one, given that supply chain information, when available, can be seen as strategic and highly confidential



4. Hazard-based ingredients reporting

Products can contribute to one point by declaring all ingredients more than 0.1 percent by weight, and another point if companies can prove that they are avoiding some of the most hazardous chemicals as determined by several governmental lists.  In this void, NGOs, corporations such as Google, and dozens of architecture firms have banded together to create the Health Product Declaration, a hazard-based standard format for reporting ingredients and health warnings, which is recognized by LEED v4.



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