Leedv3

LEED Version 3 has some new aspects, and the green building community is trying to understand the ins and outs.  One aspect has been talked about strenuously in the past week, and I thought we should ground ourselves a little bit.  Let’s take a step back and look at Minimum Program Requirements (“MPRs”), the concept of de-certification, or certification revocation, and whether this all means that projects can lose certification if they do not perform as designed.

The 411 on MPRs:

LEED V3, as of today, has seven MPRs.  These are “minimum characteristics that a project must possess in order to be eligible for certification under LEED 2009.”  See LEED 2009 NC Rating System [pdf], pgs. xiv-xv. The MPRs apply only to projects registered under LEED 2009.  Let me say this again: MPRs do not apply to non-LEED 2009 projects!  Thus, in order to be eligible for LEED 2009 certification, a project:

    (1)  Must comply with environmental laws;
    (2)  Must be a complete, permanent building or space;      
    (3)  Must use a reasonable site boundary;
    (4)  Must comply with minimum floor area requirements;
    (5)  Must comply with minimum occupancy rates;
    (6)  Must commit to sharing whole-building energy and water usage data; and
    (7)  Must comply with a minimum building area to site area ratio.

You can find further explanation of MPRs on the USGBC’s website.  There’s also supposed to be a LEED 2009 MPR Supplemental Guidance document published in June 2009, but I can’t find it anywhere.  We’ll keep you posted as to this … In any event, keep in mind that MPRs will evolve over time, so don’t get too attached.

What If You Don’t Comply:

If a LEED 2009 project does not comply or cannot comply with the MPRS, here’s the certification revocation language: “CERTIFICATION MAY BE REVOKED FROM ANY LEED PROJECT UPON GAINING KNOWLEDGE OF NON-COMPLIANCE WITH ANY APPLICABLE MPR.  IF SUCH A CIRCUMSTANCE OCCURS, REGISTRATION AND/OR CERTIFICATION FEES WILL NOT BE REFUNDED.”

The lawyers in the house will note the permissive language “may be revoked.”  I read this to mean that someone has the option to revoke certification.  Who can do this?  Stephen Del Percio mentioned the interesting issue of third-party standing to revoke certification, but I believe the party that issues certification will be the party that has the option to revoke.  That’s just my opinion, though. 

Bottom line, if a project doesn't comply with the MPRs, its certification may be revoked.  If it hasn't obtained certification, it won't be eligible for certification.  

So Why Do We Need MPRs?

There are three main goals with the MPRs.  First, MPRs are designed to give clear guidance to customers.  Second, MPRs help protect the integrity of the LEED program.  And third, MPRs reduce challenges that occur during the LEED certification process.

You can imagine the kinds of situations these MPRs have been designed to prevent.  Chris Cheatham opened a thread on the subject, to which, Michael Kawecki, Axiom Sustainable Consulting, commented: “The MPRs are intended to stop some of the abuse that is going on … You should talk with USGBC and hear some of the projects that have come through – tollbooths, boats, the list goes on.”  I haven’t verified Mr. Kawecki’s remarks with the USGBC, but what he says seems consistent with the espoused goals of the MPRs as set forth in the LEED 2009 NC Rating System documentation.

Energy and Water Data Reporting:

Now here’s where this all gets pretty juicy.  We all know the USGBC is trying to close the performance gap — to get certification to the point where designed performance approaches actual performance and where certification actually means that a building outperforms a non-certified building.  In this regard, on June 25, 2009, the USGBC issued a press release talking about the energy and water data sharing MPR.  In the press release [pdf], Scot Horst, Senior VP of LEED, USGBC, said:

We’re convinced that ongoing monitoring and reporting of data is the single best way to drive higher building performance because it will bring to light external issues such as occupant behavior or unanticipated building usage patterns, all key factors that influence performance.

The press release explains that the “USGBC will be able to use the performance information collected to inform future versions of LEED.”  But the press release doesn’t say that the USGBC or the GBCI, or whomever, will monitor this pipeline of energy and water data to yank points away from projects and then de-certify them.  Maybe they will, but I haven’t seen where that idea comes from.

What about Performance Monitoring?

Lawyer Shari Shapiro discussed the concept of de-certification for the veritable GreenerBuildings.  She questioned, “What happens to a 10-year property tax abatement if the project loses its LEED certification after two years due to failed energy savings?”  Wait, "failed energy savings?" — I guess this may be where the idea is coming from.  The use of the phrase "failed energy savings" while discussing decertification seems to imply that someone will: (1) monitor the data pipeline, (2) discover that the actual performance of a certified building does not meet the design performance of the same, and (3) yank EA/WE points to take certification from the project?

But wasn't this information going to be used to inform future LEED iterations, or to improve the system or help projects?  So I emailed Ashley Katz, Communications Manager for the USGBC, for clarification.  Ms. Katz responded:

USGBC is monitoring the data to inform the future development of the rating system, as well as inform owners on how their building is performing. We’re planning to develop a yearly scorecard that grades each building as a way to inform owners of their performance and where they stand in relation to their predictions and to other buildings out there.  There’s no certification revocation involved based on performance –we’re merely asking projects that can provide data to do so (there are 3 ways that projects can fulfill this specific MPR …). If the project refuses, then we won’t certify them (or take their certification away if necessary).

The concept of a yearly scorecard is interesting — we'll see how this develops.  But, in summary, as a precondition to certification, you must commit to share energy and water data.  That’s it.  You just need to share it, and there are three ways you can comply with this data sharing MPR.  If you can't comply, too bad: Your project cannot be certified.  

This is Good News:

If you're going to share the information, you might as well do it right.  And I believe project teams now have an extra incentive to use smart technology to make data sharing easy.  In doing so, they’ll have access to information to improve the actual performance of a project.  Project teams won’t have to act on the information, but they can if they want to.

Which brings us to the conclusion of one of the longest articles you’ll ever read on this site.  There’s one main point:  with the MPRs and de-certification, there’s a difference between sharing and performing.  LEED V3 projects that don’t share may be de-certified.  LEED V3 projects that don’t actually perform as designed still maintain certification.  And this is why we haven’t heard the last of the so called performance gap with certified buildings.