In response to growing concerns from the market, USGBC is postponing plans to ballot the next version of LEED until 2013.

In a surprise move, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced this week that it is postponing plans to ballot the next version of LEED until as late as June 2013. With this announcement, USGBC promises to keep LEED 2009 available for a full three years from now, although it intends to gradually ramp up incentives for teams to move to the new version of LEED during that time.

BASF headquarters
Image courtesy KPF
The KPF-designed BASF headquarters recently achieved double LEED Platinum certification, reflecting support for LEED 2009 from one of the largest chemical companies in the world.

The move came in response to a growing outcry from architects and other building industry professionals—including many who have been core supporters of LEED since its inception—who had three related concerns:

• The proposed changes in the rating system were too much, too fast, especially in a weak real estate market.

• Some of the changes needed more refinement , especially in the Materials & Resources category, where whole new approaches to material selection had been introduced and had changed significantly with each public comment draft.

• Tools and resources needed to achieve the credits would not be widely available by the time the new system was slated to launch in November 2012.

Compounding these concerns were doubts about the ability of USGBC’s sister organization, the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) to develop an effective certification process in such a short timeframe—fears that linger after the release of LEED 2009, which was marked by an ill-fated attempt to outsource the certification process to third-party certification bodies and glitches that marred the usability of LEED Online.

LEED users conveyed their concerns directly to USGBC staff and board members, expressed them in formal comments on the various drafts, and debated them on the LEEDuser forums, where Robert Watson of EcoTech International, founding chair of the LEED Steering Committee, argued vehemently for a more measured approach to changes in LEED.

No longer tied to a particular year, USGBC is also reverting to a version naming system for the rating system, so the new version will be called “LEED v4” instead of “LEED 2012.”

Even as it frustrated the many volunteers on the LEED committees who have labored for years on many credits in the proposed draft and are anxious to see them introduced to the market, the new announcement was celebrated by many practitioners in the industry.

”It is gratifying to see that an organization that is nearly twenty years old with 15,000 member organizations still can as be nimble and responsive as the start-up we remember,” noted Russell Perry, FAIA, vice president and office director at SmithGroupJJR. “The Council heard many of its members when we said that we were going to need some time to test out the new ideas and make sure they worked in our markets.”