Applying Technical and Science-based Approaches to the LEED Green Rating System

Posted on 9/18/2014 11:39:56 AM By Paul Bertram

On August 27, 2014, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) announced a new initiative designed to ensure the use of sustainable and environmentally protective products in buildings by applying technical and science-based approaches to the LEED green building program.

According to Brendan Owen, VP, LEED Technical Development, U.S. Green Building Council, the USGBC Supply Optimization Working Group, will work with the ACC to address comments not fully reconciled during the LEEDv4 comment period prior to the launch of LEEDv4. This recent announcement proposes that the Material Ingredient Supply Chain Optimization Working Group will continue to define and refine the implementation of Option 3 of the MR Credit: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Material Ingredients in LEED v4. This includes creating guidance to assist project teams in product specification.

However, in his piece, Truce and Surrender at USGBC?, Bill Walsh points out, “According to Environmental Building News, what is new is that the ACC has returned with the prediction that ‘risk assessment’ will now receive ‘greater consideration throughout USGBC’s process.’  If so, the result will be unequivocally negative for LEED, which currently favors ‘hazard-based’ approaches to reducing unhealthy chemicals in the built environment.”

american chemistry council, usgbc, leed, leedv4

“Full Disclosure” Intent

The intent is to reward project teams for selecting products for which the chemical ingredients in the product are inventoried using an accepted methodology and for selecting products verified to minimize the use and generation of harmful substances.

This is perceived by many as checklist exercises that are far from being technical or scientific.

At the recent CSI Construct Annual Convention, many who attended the Material Transparency and Evaluation Workshop indicated that “Full Disclosure” evaluation of material chemistry is beyond practicing Architects’ and Specifiers’ subject matter expertise.

Many of the manufacturers and suppliers in attendance at this session, said that they would like to see rewards for formal corporate process/procedure.  Evaluation might be based on material/component chemistry make up of products either based on, or similar to, the ACC’s “Responsible Care Program” to encourage the innovation and the design of products that effectively and positively impact people and the environment through continuous improvement.

In discussions that I have had with various chemists, toxicologists, industrial hygienists, clinical scientists and biologists regarding building material evaluation based on reported hazards of specific chemistries related to “human health” impacts, they indicated strongly that a hazards analysis must include “Risk & Exposure” for a comprehensive technical and scientific evaluation.

The good news is that there is recognition that some level of “Human Health” chemistry reporting needs consideration in material evaluation and specification but NOT at the expense of “Functional Performance and Compliance.”

csi, leed, usgbc

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