Administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC®), LEED® is the premier rating system for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. Due to the system’s end-goals of protecting both the environment and the health of each building’s inhabitants, many U.S. federal and state government entities often require new construction for government use to adhere to LEED guidelines. Worldwide, there are more than 93,000 registered and certified projects representing more than 19.3 billion square feet of space.

Despite these facts, adoption of LEED guidelines has not grown as quickly as anticipated with the release of LEED v4 in 2016. In an effort to encourage greater adoption and collaboration, the USGBC recently released LEED v4.1, which is now in beta—meaning projects can be submitted using either the 4.0 or 4.1 standards.

What is LEED v4.1?
Simply stated, LEED v4.1 is not a massive restructuring of the rating system like LEED v4. But it offers minor tweaks here and there to make it easier to qualify for credits in certain categories. There are also changes meant to encourage design tactics geared towards creating a healthier interior environment. For example, credits are now offered for incorporating “daylighting” design tactics, which use windows, other openings and reflective surfaces to maximize visual comfort or to reduce energy use.

What does any of this mean for the hardscapes industry?
LEED v4.1 upgrades of particular interest to the hardscapes industry include:

  • It is now easier for projects to qualify for Materials and Resources (MR) credits by using products from manufacturers who provide the required environmental transparency documentation regarding how the products are manufactured.
  • Some Sustainable Sites (SS) credits have adjusted thresholds based on market feedback, such as Rainwater Management requirements that now include a lowered minimum percentile for rainfall events and more guidance for zero-lot-line projects. Thus, the use of permeable pavers can have a greater impact on a project’s ability to obtain LEED credits.

What hasn’t changed?
The following considerations have remained intact and should be kept in mind when working on a project that could potentially obtain LEED certification:

  • Credits are still available under the Sustainable Sites category for use of light-colored pavers or roofing materials with a solar reflective value that helps mitigate the Heat Island Effect.
  • Credits are available for creating open spaces, and hardscaping is allowed to make those spaces pedestrian accessible without counting against impervious surface restrictions like a roadway or parking lot.
  • A permeable pavement system that incorporates Rainwater Harvesting and new technology to clean and reuse the resource could potentially be eligible for credits for Innovation.
  • LEED for Homes also provides a great opportunity for permeable pavers under the Sustainable Sites Rainwater Management credit.

Most important take-aways:

  • Remember to ask project engineers if projects will require submittals from the material supplier for potential LEED credits.
  • When working with a potential LEED-certified project, contractors should request applicable LEED information from their Belgard rep to be submitted to the project engineer.
  • Promote the use of permeable pavers, light-colored pavers and rainwater harvesting systems when applicable.
  • Remember that Oldcastle’s Architectural Products and Infrastructure groups can together provide a complete offering of green solutions for land development projects, including LEED projects.