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New version of LEED brings big changes to material selection

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by Jean Sorensen

A rush to register LEED projects under the expiring 2009 version is expected to occur as the deadline for LEED Version 4 (LEED v.4) lands on the North American construction industry June 2015.
New version of LEED brings big changes to material selection

It includes significant revisions impacting the materials and resources sections.

"We expect there will be a scramble to register projects under the old system," said Veronica Owens, a green building specialist with B.C.'s Light House Sustainable Building Centre.

The new version will result in a major shake-up of how project materials earn credits.

Owens said the centre is taking a proactive approach and hopes to have an online tool for assessing materials and credits this year.

It is also arranging training sessions. One such session is taking place at Buildex Calgary.

Halsall Associates Ben Campbell, project associate, and Umesh Atre, project manager, will be presenters on a Buildex panel, which will review the changes and discuss how contractors can still gain required credits, even though the new rating system is much more restrictive and requires more documentation.

"Under the current rating system, there are a number of credits earned for different attributes or certification," Campbell said, referring to credits earned for items such as recycled content, material sourced regionally or wood from a sustainable managed forest.

Under the LEED v.4 these designations all go into one category and become more of a bonus point that can be added if other over-arching criteria are met.

The over-arching criterion examines the life cycle environmental effect of a chosen product, whether it is cradle to gate or cradle to grave.

"You are looking at the environmental impact of the product," he said.

Owens said the thrust of the new LEED requirements promote environmentally-friendly product choices and is based upon the growing realization that energy costs for structures are escalating plus building envelopes are becoming tighter.

There is a concern about products off-gassing that can affect individuals within buildings.

It can lead to issues such as  sick building syndrome.

Owens said the new requirements will also make manufacturers more accountable as to the source and processes involved in material derivation, what chemicals are used in the manufacturing process and also what is required when disposing of the product at the end of its life.

The new requirements will bring greater product transparency to the consumer.

Acceptable products will carry Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) information, which has been compared to a nutritional chart on food products, and is subject to third-party verification.

This new rating system still provides room for manufacturers with ways to shield proprietary product information, but still provide information on products.

Owens said some manufacturers are ahead of the curve in providing this information, such as the flooring sector.

InterfaceFLOR of Atlanta, Georgia, became the first in North America to receive an EPD certification based upon independent verification in 2009 and offers information on its internal environmental and conservation methods as a company.

Shaw Industries, another well known North American company, in 2013 received not only EPD certification, but also Health Product Declaration (HPD) for its EcoWorx carpet tile.

It was the industry's first fully recyclable, non-PVC carpet tile backing and it was used on Shaw carpet tile products.

The HPD rating relates to products that will be used in health facilities or schools.

Campbell said that initially the circle of products that will be available for use under the LEED v. 4 requirements might grow tighter if manufacturers have not moved fast enough to adapt. However, savvy manufacturers are expected to see it as a new marketing opportunity by putting EPD or HPD data on products.

Campbell said that his panel's presentation will include where to find acceptable products.

"There are databases online and they are in response to this issue of it being difficult to find product," he said, adding they are new and are being added to as manufacturers come on stream.

Campbell and Atre will also provide insight into how the old LEED rating systems for materials and resources compare to the new standard and where a construction-engineering-and-architect team can gain further points.

"We will look at typical practices and best practices under the old system and what does it mean to the new one," he said, adding that the presenters will suggest new strategies that can help make up credits.

Owens said that both the Canada and the U.S. Green Building Councils are putting information and seminars online. LEED v.4: Changes to Materials and Resources and How it Impacts Your Project is taking place on Nov. 6 starting at 8 a.m. at Buildex Calgary.

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