USGBC Announces Alignment, Harmonization of LEED Rating System

July 16, 2007

Washington - The U.S. Green Building Council has announced the next steps in the evolution of its LEED® Green Building Rating System, which will make the system more flexible and adaptive but still maintain its technical rigor and consensus-based integrity. LEED has been the nationally accepted benchmark for green building design and construction since its introduction in 2000.

"LEED catalyzed the green building movement; it gave the market a common language for defining green and a roadmap on how to get there," explains Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO & founding chair, USGBC. "We anticipate certifying our 1,000th building in the next few weeks, and we have upwards of 13,000 commercial buildings and homes in the pipeline. Taking LEED to the next level involves the investment of time, expertise and dedication from USGBC's richly diverse membership," he adds, "but we're confident the elegant framework envisioned for LEED responds to marketplace needs, while keeping intact both the creativity and the technical rigor that are LEED's hallmarks." 

"We've spent the last year-and-a-half listening to our members and users, and looking at the technical aspects that need to be included in LEED's next evolution," says Tom Hicks, USGBC vice president of LEED. "But we've also considered its broader business processes, our evolving markets, and performance extensions that will enhance the user experience. 

Four key initiatives have emerged for this initiative. The first is the harmonization and alignment of LEED credits across the rating systems to bring the core elements of LEED into one elegant rating system.

"LEED has evolved to address the complete building life-cycle (residential and commercial). As a result, there has been some drift among similar credits in different rating systems," says Scot Horst, LEED Steering Committee chair, USGBC.  "Harmonizing and aligning credits across all LEED rating systems will create, in essence, a single LEED ‘bookshelf,' making the system more adaptive and flexible, but allowing for additional credits that need to cover additional building types such as healthcare or manufacturing facilities."

Technical framework development on the "back-end" of LEED will integrate the core elements of all the rating systems, reduce duplication and "credit drift"  and make the information needed for certification more accessible to the users.

The second initiative involves technical development work within LEED that includes incorporating Life Cycle Assessment (LCA); adding regionally-based credits to the rating system; seamlessly certifying and connecting design, construction, and operations and maintenance: and reconfiguring credit organization by environmental impacts in order to respond to specific high priority performance concerns, such as carbon dioxide emissions and climate change.

"This is a high priority area because these elements get at the heart of how the rating system will continue to deliver the highest performing buildings over the long term," notes Horst. 

The third area is the introduction of a regular development schedule so that the community will know what development activities will take place when-allowing users and USGBC members to more actively engage in LEED's growth and development.

The new update cycle for LEED is envisioned as follows:

  • USGBC's volunteer member committees and working groups identify the new issues, ideas, and technologies that should be incorporated into LEED
  • USGBC communicates the proposed updates, with planning and the development of new and/or revised credits following 
  • All proposed updates will then go through USGBC's established consensus process, with opportunities for public review and comment before being put forward for member ballot

Throughout the cycle, new ideas and scientific advances can be introduced and tested by individual project teams via Innovation in Design (ID) LEED points or alternative compliance paths. In this way, building owners and project teams will also help inform the LEED Steering Committee about the ideas and advancements that should be integrated into the rating system during the next round of updates.

LEED's new development timetable will drive consistent improvement and continuity, eliminating the need for protracted whole-version updates of individual rating systems and software-like "versions."

The final initiative is an evolution of the LEED committee structure around three core areas: Technical Development, Market Segment Focus and Certification Process.   

"Like the fundamental integrated design principles of green building, a more integrated committee structure will drive integration of core rating systems elements, allow for special category needs to be addressed in harmony with the core elements of LEED, and reduce duplication of support needed," adds Fedrizzi. Details about how committees will be formed are in process, as are the Working Groups that will support the committees by providing expertise and resources.

"LEED has a long history of inclusion and collaboration," explains Fedrizzi.  "It took more than 600,000 volunteer hours from some of the best minds in the industry to launch LEED and it's the continuing involvement of these volunteers through our committee structure that will ensure LEED's evolution is on target."

For additional information, contact Taryn Holowka, director of communications for USGBC at (202) 828-1144, or go to

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