Greenbuild International Conference Discuss LEED Change

Last Updated:
Fri, 2014-08-01 09:32

This week’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, sponsored by the USGBC, brought several thousand architects, contractors, builders, educators, and other building professionals to the city of San Francisco. Over the course of several days industry leaders shared innovation, experience, knowledge, and new ideas for sustainable building. With a new version of LEED standards on the horizon, discussions focused on moving forward and achieving better results.

Greenbuild sign The location for Greenbuild was fitting, and it was no accident that one of the greenest cities in America was chosen to host event. The city of San Francisco has implemented a comprehensive set of policies and incentive programs to improve the performance of new and existing buildings. The city boasts 84 ENERGY STAR-labeled buildings that cover over 37 million square feet. Over 67 million square feet of buildings have been Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified by the USGBC.


Attendees had numerous opportunities to engage in discussions and explore the changes that will come with LEED v4, which is in its 5th public comment phase and is set to launch some time in 2013. According to Brendan Owens, USGBC VP of LEED Technical Development, the latest version of LEED will ensure that the rating system is advancing as quickly as technology. “Twelve years’ worth of case studies and 15,000 projects through the pipeline gave us the opportunity to learn from projects and brought intelligence back into the rating system, “ Owens said. The goal of many of the changes was to ensure that LEED continues to be a catalyst for innovation in products that achieve the desired level of performance. The system is structured so that it leads to performance targets.

Materials credits are being restructured around whole building life cycle assessments, which allows the LEED system to reward green building tenants for doing more with less. Project teams are rewarded for use of historic, abandoned, or blighted buildings.

Because the fastest growth in LEED projects is outside of the U.S., LEED v4 also takes steps to create one set of common language that can be applied globally.

Many of the upcoming changes are also focused on improvement of infrastructure to support the rating system and simplify the user experience. LEED Online will be improved with a reduction in the number of forms, better formatting, and streamlined reporting requirements.


In keeping with the theme of performance, Scot Horst, USGBC Sr. VP, presented innovative ideas for going beyond the LEED certification to achieve higher levels of performance in a building. Attendees were especially intrigued by the notion of upgrading the standard LEED certification plaque to be a real time, digital display that would indicate how a building is performing at any given time in terms of water use, energy, etc. The concept uses key performance metrics and data tracking to achieve better results throughout the life span of the project.

Keeping It Green

Sustainable practices were carefully incorporated into the planning of the event, and participants were encouraged to follow suit during their visit to further reduce waste and minimize carbon footprints.

The event was housed in the Moscone Center, a LEED Gold certified building complete with a rooftop solar installation, centrally located within walking distance to hotels, restaurants, and public transportation. The location was so well “connected” that shuttles to and from hotels were rendered completely unnecessary and were not provided.

Exhibitors were asked to do their part by following the Mandatory Exhibition Green Guidelines to ensure that booths were constructed and operated with sustainability in mind. Requirements included use of low VOC materials, energy-efficient lighting and electronic components, use of recycled materials, and limited amounts of printed and promotional giveaways. A move in and move out program was established to ensure that items such as wood, carpet, and shrink-wrap were properly collected and diverted from landfills. Leftover usable materials will be donated to local charities.

Compost, co-mingled recycling, and landfill waste receptacles were available throughout the venue, with volunteers on hand to ensure the proper sorting of waste. Collection stations were set up in the lobby at the end of the conference for the return and recycling of conference lanyards.

Two local community projects that focus on food production in low-income areas of San Francisco will benefit from USGBC support in the form of materials and equipment provided to build, manage, and maintain the projects. Potrero Hill Texas Street Farm and Tenderloin Vertical Garden will provide a local source of produce and revenue as well as educational resources and outreach for the underserved residents of these neighborhoods.


Everblue team at GreenbuildBeing in the presence of professionals who are completely immersed in, and dedicated to healthier, more sustainable building practices in their daily work was inspirational and brought the positive impacts of green building to life. The industry continues to advance and evolve thanks to the passion and commitment of those who bring a holistic view to the building process. With the upcoming release of LEED v4 the bar will again be raised.

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