Green building is a dynamic industry that continually evolves. As new technology emerges, as more architects and builders push the boundaries, and more companies invest the time and effort required to build green, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is at the forefront of industry innovation.
USGBC continually gathers data, feedback, and research to improve and refine Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and takes advantage of the latest technology and most efficient strategies—always staying abreast of market trends and retiring outdated ideas.
To spur innovation and reward project teams for going above and beyond requirements, in addition to the 100 points of LEED, teams can earn up to six bonus points for innovation. However, oftentimes teams overlook these opportunities, leaving valuable points unclaimed.
“It’s in a project’s best interest to use all of the innovation points because they’re essentially bonus points; they’re like extra credit. It could put you over the line between Certified and Silver and between Gold and Platinum,” says Batya Metalitz, technical director of LEED at USGBC.
Of the six available points for innovation, the first point is the easiest to achieve. When projects work with a LEED Accredited Professional (AP), they earn one point. The other five innovation points are a bit more challenging.
To get started, teams can search through USGBC’s Innovation Catalog, where successful strategies have been compiled. The catalog is available in the LEED Credit Library, and it provides guidance on what USGBC hopes to see with each strategy.
Even if a team has an idea that’s not in the Innovation Catalog and not part of LEED, they can submit it anyway. The more innovative the better. It might be worth a point.
Teams can also earn innovation points by demonstrating exemplary performance in meeting the requirements of existing LEED credits. For example, if the requirement was a 50 percent reduction in the use of potable water consumption for irrigation and the team achieved a 75 percent reduction, that extra effort could be submitted for consideration as exemplary performance.
Piloting New Credits
USGBC’s pilot credits offer one more way for teams to gain innovation points, while also providing USGBC with a way to field-test new ideas. Project teams can register to attempt any of USGBC’s 50 available pilot credits. In some cases, where defined, teams are allowed to substitute requirements from the 100-point rating system with pilot language instead, which can prove highly beneficial on a team’s scorecard. This comes into play when USGBC wants to test a new path for a LEED requirement.
An essential feature of the pilot credit program is the feedback survey, which asks teams to discuss how difficult the credit was to achieve and what holes existed in the marketplace. “These are innovative ideas so some of them are pushing the market forward, “says Metalitz.
Pilot credits stay open for a minimum of one year, but can stay open even longer, until USGBC has collected enough data about what works and what doesn’t work. “The idea is that nothing goes into the next version of LEED that hasn’t been tested by projects for at least a few years already,” says Metalitz.