LEED Version 4.1: Biggest Story at Greenbuild 2017

By Kunwar Rana
Sustainability Analyst
LEED Green Associate
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)

The biggest story at Greenbuild 2017 in Boston was the announcement of LEED v 4.1 by the U.S. Green Building Council. There have been fewer LEED v4 certified projects than anticipated and there is also only a modest number of new construction v4 buildings in the U.S.

The foundation for LEED v 4.1 will be the “existing credit requirements” in LEED v 4 because there are many credits that are rarely being pursued. This is being described as “the next evolution” because this is not a full version change of the rating system, hence the nomenclature of moving from v4 to v4.1 and not to v5. The development for the v5 is currently underway in collaboration with the creators of the already approved ASHRAE 189.1- 2018 and the 2018 IgCC. For existing buildings, LEED v4.1 will be new, improved and agile to make it easier for every type of existing building to achieve LEED certification or be on a path to do so. Version 4.1 will be released in first quarter 2018 and credits will be immediately available for use through a piloting period that will run concurrently with an approval process that will include public comments and a balloting of the members in 2019. The plan is to release LEED v4.1 O+M Building Operations and Maintenance first, through pilot credits available to use and this will be followed by BD+C, ID+C, Residential, and ND. There is also a possibility of O+M for interior spaces as opposed to the whole building only. There has been a lot of discussion regarding removing prerequisites for O+M projects but still, no final decision has been made.

The first goal of LEED v4.1 is to address market barriers and lessons learned from LEED v4 project teams.

These are the credits that are expected to see a change:

MR Credit: Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction – Requires a lot of paperwork and only 27% of projects have achieved this credit. The credit can only be pursued if reusing existing building resources or demonstrating a reduction in materials use through life-cycle assessment. For new construction only, life-cycle assessment option is available and meeting the other options such as historical building reuse, renovation of an abandoned building, building and material reuse is very difficult to achieve.

MR Credit: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – EPD’s (Environment Product declaration) has been considered the biggest movement in green buildings, still not widely accepted in the market. The change will be moving away from USGBC promoted EPD’s to globally accepted EPD’s.

MR Credit: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization –  Option 1, Sourcing of Raw Materials requires using 20 different products from 5 different manufacturers with an extraction report, has never been achieved. Also, option 2, Leadership Extraction Practices, is less achieved and will see a change.

MR Credit: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization Materials Ingredients, was only achieved by 17% of projects (the lowest rate of achievement for any credit) and it will require serious reconsideration for the whole credit of material ingredients.

EQ Credit: Low- Emitting Materials, although 75% of projects have achieved this credit, the credit will see changes and will be streamlined as it requires a lot of research and documentation.

EQ Credit: Indoor Air Quality Assessment, despite being achieved by 89% of the projects using option-1, that requires building flush out, not a single project has achieved option-2 that requires air testing that is too expensive and requires actual testing of 32 parameters.

EQ Credit: Daylight, the credit is only achieved by 31% of projects and will see a change. Though many researches have proved that daylighting plays a crucial role in workspaces, increasing productivity, energy savings and employee satisfaction, still the credit is not actively pursued. Option 3, under this credit, requires illuminance measurements that can be very time consuming in buildings with large footprints.

EQ Credit: Acoustic Performance, this ties with the MR Credit: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization Materials Ingredients as the least achieved credit accounting to only 17% of projects and simply doesn’t reflect where the current market is and will be changed.

SS Credit: Site Development – Protect or Restore Habitat, requires restoring 30% of the total project site including the building footprint using native or adaptive vegetation and soils.  24% of project achieved this credit as it is only pursued by projects that have sufficient land and will be revamped.

SS Credit: Rainwater Management, the credit is not able to capture the best management practices (Low impact and Green Infrastructure) available and are not widely achieved by projects, this will be revamped.

The second goal is to update the performance metrics.

Energy and Atmosphere – The LEED v.4 is very less performance based and there is a serious debate to make LEED a more performance based system to keep track of building performance after it is LEED certified. The new version will see ASHRAE 90.1-2013 as the baseline for energy performance, but it might become very hard for projects to get points under current energy cost savings metric and might prevent projects from getting LEED certified. Will it be more beneficial for projects if a different metric is used instead of energy cost savings? We might get that answer in LEED v4.1 or v.5.

The third goal is to expand the market for LEED. International standards will be added wherever appropriate.

The following credits are some examples:

EA Credit: Demand Response, this credit is achieved by 20% of projects because there are many places where the utility provider doesn’t offer demand response.

EA Credit: Green Power and Carbon Offsets, this credit requires carbon offsets and REC’s to be Green-e-Energy certified which are not available in every market.

LT Credit: Sensitive Land Protection: Although the credit was achieved on 79% of projects, some locations such as India and China are finding it difficult to achieve this credit, and it will be changed.

Like Regional Priority Credits aimed to be in the US, six new international advisory councils are being convened to harmonize credits across the globe.

The fourth goal is to improve performance throughout the life of buildings, reward leaders based on their performance and incorporate performance reporting to enable building owners to track progress towards environmental, social and governance goals. The main aim is aligning the credits, across all rating systems, including WELL, Sites, LEED Neighborhood Development and the Cities program.


  1. Stuart D. Kaplow, P.A. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2018, from https://www.greenbuildinglawupdate.com/
  2. Holmes, S. (2018, January 18). What’s new in LEED: LEED v4.1. Retrieved March 21, 2018, from http://www.usgbc.org/articles/whats-new-leed-leed-v41

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