LEED v4 O+M Comparison

By Chloé Billingsley,
Sustainability Coordinator – Built Environment
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)

and Gabby de la Vera,
Sustainability Coordinator – Wellness
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)

photo of a notebook labeled CertificationObtaining LEED certification has quickly become one of the best and most recognizable ways a business can show that they are serious about sustainability. By being LEED certified, a property is committing to reducing their carbon footprint and creating a safer environment for their tenants. Many customers may also like to know that they are purchasing from a company that cares about the environment. It’s easy to see that going for LEED certification of any level can be beneficial to many people, but how does a business know which version to go for? Aside from hiring a consultant team to help with your certification, knowing the differences between LEED v4 O+M, v4.1 O+M and v4.1 ARC can help you understand a bit more about each one.  

LEED v4 was launched in November 2013 and the subsequent versions v4.1 and v4.1 ARC came later. LEED rating systems were heavily criticized before LEED v3 (2009). Some of the main issues stated were a lack of scientific robustness, unequal credit ratings, and user misuse like “point-chasing” instead of being thoughtful about true sustainability. LEED v4 was a step up from v3, and the biggest changes were made by creating more rigorous standards and changes to the scorecard. Many similar credits were combined to simplify the scorecard and create harmonization. 

LEED v4.1 was released in 2018 and included even more rigorous updates to minimum requirements and the scorecard. The following is a quick summary of the changes that occurred to create v4.1 O+M. 

  • Location and Transportation: the only credit available was now made a mandatory prerequisite in v4.1  
  • Sustainable Sites: a few credits were changed while some were removed altogether.  
  • Water Efficiency: all credits have been transformed from optional to a mandatory prerequisite.  
  • Energy and Atmosphere: a new prerequisite called “Energy Performance” was created, some credits were changed/renamed, and some were removed altogether.  
  • Materials and Resources: the three different “Purchasing” credits were combined into one, a new credit and prerequisite were created, and one credit was removed. 
  • Indoor Environmental Quality: a new credit and prerequisite were created, and a handful of credits were removed. 
  • Innovation Category: v4.1 made it mandatory to have a LEED AP on your project team and the  
  • Regional Priority category was removed 

Comparing LEED v4 to v4.1, there are many changes to the credits that allow for ease of understanding. If we look deeper, we can see that many of the credits were also changed due to stricter regulations and government oversight. For example, the entire Water Efficiency category is now mandatory because water has become a scarce resource in many parts of the world. Many of the credits are now performance-based to show that the building is actively contributing to sustainability and not just claiming to do so, also known as “greenwashing”. Another positive to using v4.1 is that it is cheaper, whether you are a USGBC member or not. Flat fees are the same, but the rate per square inch of your property is more affordable if you choose v4.1. Certification length is the same between both versions, so you won’t have to worry about one lasting longer than the other. If your property is up for the challenge of following these guidelines and maybe saving a bit of money, then v4.1 may be a better option for you! 

LEED v4.1 Arc 

USGBC partnered with Arc to offer a new pathway for LEED recertification and continued improvements in building operations. Adding Arc to a project team’s toolkit allows the team to evaluate areas of improvement or compliance, as well as identify where they are leading by example with exemplary performance. Arc makes determination of LEED recertification eligibility more efficient and easier. Many previously certified LEED projects are even able to obtain recertification solely through performance data. Follow these simple steps to use Arc for recertification: 

LEED recertification: How to use Arc 

There are two pathways to recertifying your LEED project using Arc. 

  • Option 1: Begin recertification process with LEED Online 
  1. Log in to LEED Online with your USGBC user account. 
  2. Locate your certified project from within your project list and navigate to the “Details” tab. Select “Recertification.” 
  3. You will be redirected to Arcskoru.com and prompted to activate the project, if you have not already done so. If you do not receive the prompt, you may not have the correct LEED team permissions to activate the project—contact us for help. (Please include the building’s LEED ID, name, address and other information you think will help us locate your project.) 

Note: If the LEED building ownership has changed hands since the original certification, then you will need to complete a standard “Change of Owner” form and email it to the GBCI legal department. This will ultimately get you access to the project, but does require a few extra steps. 

  • Option 2: Begin recertification process with Arc 
  1. Log in to Arcskoru.com with your USGBC user account. 
  2. Projects that you are eligible to activate or access will be available in your “Projects” list. You can also search for your project by name and ID by selecting the magnifying glass on the upper right-hand side of the header.   
  3. If you do not see your LEED-certified project in your project list or you cannot access the project, you will be prompted to request access from the current administrator; otherwise, you may not have the correct LEED team permissions—contact us for help. (Please include the building’s LEED ID, name, address and other information you think will help us locate your project.) 

Although the majority of Arc projects seek recertification, Arc can be used similarly to LEED Online to generate scores in those five categories for initial certification as well. Here are the steps: 

  1. Log in to Arcskoru.com with your USGBC user account. 
  2. Navigate to the left-hand menu under “Project Tools” and select “LEED Certifications.” You’ll see the option to register for LEED v4.1 O+M certification. 
  3. All data and documents previously uploaded to Arc will be synced to LEED Online upon completing registration. Data integrations will also remain intact. You’ll have the option to use LEED Online directly to manage your performance data or to continue using Arc.  

LEED v4 Arc streamlines the process of certification and recertification  

LEED v4  and LEED v4.1 O+M Pricing 

LEED pricing in general varies based on square footage of the project size and if the company is a member of USGBC. Between v4 and v4.1, the latter is going to be more cost-effective, as price per square foot is less than v4. Any appeals, formal inquiries, and expedited review costs are the same between v4 and v4.1. LEED ARC pricing is a flat fee of $4,000 for members and $5,000 for non-members, and an expedited review is an additional $5,000. 

LEED ARC Pricing  

Previously certified LEED buildings are allowed access to Arc for free, to track their performance in five categories; energy, water, waste, human experience, and transportation. The LEED registration fee includes Arc and projects and teams will be able to use the platform to track both energy and water data required for LEED.  

In the event that a team would like to submit the project’s score for review, or seek an initial LEED O+M certification or LEED O+M recertification using Arc, regular LEED certification fees will apply. These fees are the same as those for LEED O+M certification. The certification fee covers the initial review and subsequent annual reviews, for five years. 

Overall, if your company chooses to pursue LEED certification of any kind, it is better than not being certified at all! Achieving LEED certification is something that every business should be very proud of because it does not come easily. As newer versions are created, they become more rigorous. So, choosing LEED v4.1 opposed to LEED v3 is most likely going to be more difficult, but the results will be well worth it. If you are unsure of which version to pick, doing your own research and hiring a consultant is crucial to determining which rating system is best for your company’s mission and goals! 

Comparison of LEED O+M Versions

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