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Cx Monitor: Changes to LEED v2009

| Hannah Walter

As of April 8, 2016 all projects registered under the LEED v2009 BD+C for New Construction rating system will be required to achieve a minimum 18% reduction in energy cost over ASHRAE 90.1-2007. This is an 8% increase over the previous minimum requirement of 10%. Additional increased energy thresholds apply to other ratings systems as well. The USGBC’s release can be found here. This change does not affect any project registered before April 8, 2016.

This increased threshold is intended to be transition between the increased stringency of LEED version 4 which will be mandatory for all projects after October 31, 2016. LEED v4 requires a minimum 5% improvement (3% for renovations, and 2% for core and shell projects) over ASHRAE 90.1-2010. ASHRAE 90.1-2010 is quickly becoming more relevant as local jurisdictions adopt it or the IECC 2012 (or better) as code. So far, 26 states have adopted these more stringent codes. Therefore, a project in those states that only met the 10% minimum over 90.1-2007 technically would not be code compliant buildings.

It should be noted that when transitioning from LEED v2.2 to LEED v2009, in 2007 the USGBC issued a mandate that projects had to achieve a minimum of 2 points under EAp2/EAc1, which equated to a 14% energy cost reduction over ASHRAE 90.1-2004 where the previous minimum was minimally meeting the mandatory and prescriptive sections of 2004 or Chapter 11, energy cost budget. The 18% was not arbitrarily chosen as it equates to the rough difference in cost reduction between 2007 and 2010. LEED v2.2 from January 2006 to June 2009, with the point threshold enforced in June 2007. So though transition to the new standard is much shorter, it is not unexpected as we move into the new rating system for good.

As with any growth, there may be some pains. But these are necessary for the performance of our projects to continue to improve. Some may be concerned that these performance changes will have added first costs to most LEED projects. However, with proper energy analysis early in the project using energy modeling and Life Cycle Cost Analysis, a project can determine the most efficient and cost-effective design to meet these increased thresholds. If utilized early, these analyses can present alternatives for architectural, lighting and mechanical systems to guide the team to achieving their LEED and energy goals.  Overall, this transition to a higher energy performance threshold for LEED v2009 projects will make project teams aware of upcoming changes that LEED v4 will bring.