This spring marks the evolution of the LEED green building certification program with the launch of LEED 2009. The new version of the rating system introduces major technical advancements to the LEED credits and points. One of the most widely anticipated updates to the certification program is the launch of Regional Priority Credits, or RPC’s. These credits are designed to provide incentives for the achieve-ment of credits that are considered most important for defined environmental areas. The development of the Regional Priority Credits is a first step towards making LEED even more responsive to local environ-mental necessities.
Because environmental priorities may differ between different bioregions, the Regional Priority Credits tackle the unique challenges and opportunities for addressing critical environmental issues for various bioregions throughout the country.
The unique challenges in the Northeast differ tremendously from those in the Southwest, from the usage of heating oil to the urgency of water conservation.Densely populated urban locations often feature credits related to Stormwater Management or Heat Island Reduc-tion, while Site Protection and Building Reuse credits are frequently prioritized in rural locations with low population densities.
Regional Priority Credits are not new LEED credits, but instead are existing credits that have been identi-fied as being particularly important or beneficial for a certain region. In their first iteration, RPCs are found in five LEED rating systems: New Construction, Core & Shell, Schools, Commercial Interiors, and Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance.
For each project, six credits will be flagged as priorities in each of the various five rating systems, based on its location and organized by ZIP code. RPC points will be counted in the same way as LEED Innovation in Design points and will earn up to four additional points towards its certification total.
USGBC worked with its network of 78 local chapters to develop the regionally-focused credits. The proc-ess was a testament to the deep dedication of USGBC volunteers towards the advancement of the green building movement and LEED. The local chapters also engaged ecologists and Geographic Information System (GIS) experts to help develop the credits.
With only broad guidance, the volunteers identified ecological characteristics and pressing environmental conditions for their given regions. The end result was a collection of unique environmental “zones” com-posed of those local conditions and issues. The issues the volunteers identified greatly determined what priority credits were selected, while the boundaries they drew for the zones determined which ZIP codes would receive which priority credits. The volunteers gathered every ZIP code for every zone in their area, tagging each with its set of six Regional Priority Credits. All parties involved in the process learned from the Regionalization experience.
At the Chapter level, the volunteers gained a better understanding of local environmental issues. But while Regionalization was originally seen as an enlightening experience for Chapter volunteers, USGBC national was happy to learn new lessons as well. For example, the LEED Steering Committee – aware of the imprecise ability of certain LEED credits to fully address envi-ronmental issues in some locations – felt a new urgency to refine the rating systems’ credits.
The development of the Regional Priority Credits represents a major development and allows LEED to evolve as a better, more refined tool for green building. LEED is now beginning to recognize contextual differences between project locations. Regional Priority Credits provide the incentive for a LEED-registered building to pursue the credits – and will address the issues – that are most pertinent to its environment.
To learn more about the Regional Priority Credits, visit www.usgbc.org/leed2009 .