USGBC Set to Launch LEED 2009 Rating System

2009 heralds the implementation of the much-anticipated evolution of the United States Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system. This overhaul incorporates eight years of user feedback in the form of Credit Interpretation Rulings, several years of committee meetings, and months of member comments — LEED 2009 resets the bar for how high-performance buildings will be certified.

What’s New
LEED 2009 reworks the rating system for: New Construction, Core and Shell, Commercial Interiors, Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance, and Schools. The reworked rating systems now aligns the prerequisite/credit structure of each, into their “most effective common denominator,” so that with few exceptions (i.e. Joint use of facilities on the LEED for Schools checklist), the same set of credits is offered under each rating system.

Also, similar to the other revamped rating systems, LEED 2009 for Schools incorporates several notable changes. While the credits are now better aligned, and the overall structure and categories of the Project Checklist remains similar — the number of possible credits will increase from 79 to 110, and perhaps more importantly, the weighting of those credits has been redistributed.

The most evident redistribution is in the Energy and Atmosphere category with an increase from 17 to 33 possible points (from 21.5 percent to 30 percent of all points). For example, where a new school that is 42 percent more energy efficient than the ASHRAE baseline 90.1 Standard currently receives the maximum possible credit of 10 points, based on LEED for Schools 2007, the reworked 2009 checklist will give that same project 18 points. With buildings in the U.S. accounting for 38 percent of energy use and 39 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions (, this realignment underscores the importance and more focused priority of reducing a project’s energy consumption and resulting carbon footprint.

A completely new component for LEED 2009 is the inclusion of Regional Priority Credits. You might think of these credits as “bonus points” that are granted for obtaining certain existing points deemed regionally critical by regional USGBC Boards. For instance, if the West Region USGBC Board identified water reduction as a critical local issue, then teams and projects could get an additional point for obtaining credits in the Water Efficiency category. A total of four such Regional Priority Credits is possible.

According to the USGBC, the full rollout of the new standard will be completed by September of 2009, with workshops and reference guides available in the February-March 2009 timeframe. The actual standards go live in March. Projects currently registered under the present rating system will have the option, but not required to upgrade to LEED 2009, during the transition period when the new system is launched. For individuals seeking to become LEED Accredited Professionals, an updated version of the current exam reflecting the new changes will be available after LEED 2009 launches. For more information, please visit

Steven Turckes is an architect and Principal with the Chicago office of Perkins+Will and is the national leader of the firm’s K-12 practice. Perkins+Will is a national leader in providing innovative and thoughtfully designed sustainable facility solutions for schools. For more information, visit