LEED Zero: Kicking Sustainability Up A Notch

For many years, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)’s LEED program has re-shaped the building stock and helped to skyrocket the number of energy and water efficient buildings on the market. But as more cities, states and countries begin to incorporate net zero requirements for our projects – and as innovations in building technology improve alongside those policies – the need for a more stringent, progressive set of guidelines has emerged.

USGBC CEO Mahesh Ramanujam announced the organization’s LEED Zero platform, a complement to LEED that verifies the achievement of net zero goals, to an audience of architects, engineers, prime contractors, building owners and policymakers at the 2018 Net Zero Conference in Los Angeles.

On September 15, USGBC’s vice president of LEED technical development Corey Enck will be hosting a workshop to discuss LEED Zero, focusing on how the certification expands the verification life cycle of high-performing buildings. LEED Zero provides a framework for building projects to transition from leadership in design to leadership in performance. The certification takes LEED v4.1 – the most recent version of USGBC’s rating system – to the next level, to certify net zero energy, carbon, water and waste performance levels.

LEED Zero Carbon is designed for projects that operate with net zero operational carbon — meaning emissions generated by energy consumption and occupant transportation to and from the site. Buildings may also achieve compliance by documenting annual carbon emissions avoided or offset. The energy category applies to buildings with an annual source energy use balance of zero, while the water category recognizes projects that achieve a potable water use balance of zero over a period of 12 months. The final performance level, waste, is designated for buildings that earn GBCI’s TRUE Zero Waste Platinum certification. This program is intended to be achievable by LEED projects certified under the BD+C or O+M rating systems or registered to pursue LEED O+M certification.

The workshop is being presented as part of this year’s Net Zero Conference (NZ20), hosted virtually on September 15 – 16, 2020. Presented in partnership with USGBC-LA, the event is the world’s largest net zero building conference and a hub for thought-leaders and industry-shapers in climate, carbon, energy, water, waste and transit. The conference will share educational information, case studies and lessons learned by teams who are on the ground building LEED Zero projects, such as Entegrity’s Headquarters in Arkansas – the first LEED Zero certified building in the U.S.— which won a Net Zero Trailblazer Award at the 2019 event.

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