LEED v4 Made Easy for Product Manufacturers

Achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points can seem daunting to many glass and metal manufacturers, despite materials and resources being one of the major LEED credit categories. GreenCE, an education partner of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) put on a webinar hosted by Devotion Phillips, education coordinator with GreenCE, to help make LEED v4 more accessible to manufacturers.

Phillips explained that the USGBC does not certify building products, nor does it prohibit any products, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or technology.

“While a given product may not contribute to any specific credit, there are no products that are forbidden on LEED projects. Many product manufacturers incorrectly see themselves as unconnected with LEED beyond, of course, providing the products that make up our built environment. That couldn’t be farther from the truth,” said Phillips. “However, manufacturers must meet a few criteria before project teams are likely to give them preference on LEED projects.”

According to GreenCE, LEED is mentioned in 71 percent of projects valued at $15 million or more, making the opportunity to offer LEED points to specifiers more and more desirable.

Glazing contributes points to the LEED rating system through energy, daylighting and views. The first part of each credit is based on disclosure, the second on optimization.

In the upcoming LEED v4.1, the USGBC plans to update those credits to make them easier to achieve. This may include awarding additional points to verified health product declarations (HPDs), a list of health effects cause by the materials within a product. Currently, HPDs don’t need to be verified to contribute to points.

The ASHRAE 90.1 energy standard, an international standard that provides minimum requirements for energy efficient building designs, will also change.

“If you think about it, ASHRAE 90.1 was released in 2001 when the iPod was first released. It’s time for an update. Manufacturers could benefit from those energy updates,” said Phillips in the webinar. “Requirements will be streamlined for credits, including low-emitting materials, daylight and rainwater and heat island reduction. These changes could help manufacturers by making certain credits easier to achieve by project teams.”

The USGBC plans to launch a draft of the rating system for review in the first quarter of this year. During that review period, the USGBC plans to offer a test period for the proposed changes so that project teams can review the changes.

“The USGBC will initiate the standard LEED process for public comment and ballot so everyone can engage with the rating system and provide feedback,” said Phillips.

LEED requires that to contribute to a project, teams must provide documentation issued by the manufacturer, not from a third-party testing lab or distributor.

“If no manufacturer’s literature is published, no credit can be counted. The LEED documentation should be a credit-by-credit breakdown of your products’ contribution to LEED. Literature also includes published transparency documents such as the HPD,” said Phillips.

From the architects’ point of view, project fees are shrinking, deadlines are shorter, lawsuits are rampant and technology is exploding, giving them many more options for specification than ever before.

“Manufacturers need to get the right LEED information in the right form to the right person at the right time,” said Phillips. “By establishing your company as an expert in your field through continuing education, design professionals will rely on you to help them assess these questions, putting you in a position to be specified when your product is right for the job.”

Phillips suggested that manufacturers invest in HPDs, which can cost as low as $5,000 if using a third party, and environmental product declarations (EPDs), which can cost as much as $50,000.

“Show specifiers what makes your product green and reduces impact up front, using programs that cater to specifiers. Education equals specification,” said Phillips. “You can establish yourself as an industry leader when you educate design professionals about your product. Continuing education, through online courses or webinars, is the most effective way to diversify your marketing strategy.”

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