Disclosing, optimizing materials chosen for a project can earn LEED v4 points

Disclosing, optimizing materials chosen for a project can earn LEED v4 points

LEED V4 material and resources building product disclosure credits are being pursued on the Alice West Fleet Elementary School project in Texas. Photo courtesy of AIA

Product selection is a critical piece of an architect’s job. The more they learn about what is containedwithinthe products chosen for buildings, the more they understand how important product selection can be.

With the increasing emphasis on materials transparency, architects have access to many tools that can give a fuller comprehension of material content and impacts on environment and health, allowing them to make better choices, according to theAmerican Institute of Architects.

These tools also are key to earning points in LEED v4’s Materials and Resources category. Understanding the tools available, where they are found and how to use them gives us the ability to not only meet the demand for LEED-certified projects but to significantly enhance the built environment. 

In LEED v4, there are three Materials and Resources credits under the Building Product Disclosure and Optimization section. In each category, there is one point available for disclosure and another point available for optimization of product selection. The two credits listed below are specifically about finding products with disclosure documentation:

  • Environmental Product Declarations
  • Material Ingredients

Environmental product declarations (EPDs)

The EPD credit covers environmental impacts, which look at effects in three categories: atmosphere,waterand earth. These are disclosed via life-cycle analysis. Manufacturers must report the environmental impacts of their products with a USGBC-approved disclosure document. EPDs can be found in many places online, including manufacturers’ websites. There are many EPDs available now, with more available every day. Find 20 products with a USGBC-compliant EPD, and you earn one point for the disclosure portion of the credit. Find 40 qualifying products from five manufacturers and earn an additional “exemplary performance point” in the innovation category.

Looking for EPDs? Here are three good places to start:

Material ingredients

The Material Ingredients credit is focused on the negative effects that building materials can have on our health. For instance, according to environmental researcher Michael Braungart, close to 50 percent of the chemicals found in breast milk are linked to building materials. This is just one example of the pervasive ties between human health and the built environment. A better understanding of what goes into our buildings is a critical first step in minimizing or preventing potentially harmful exposures.

As with the EPD category, the point for disclosure is earned through identifying 20 different products from at least five manufacturers with USGBC-compliant disclosure documentation. And if you can find 40 qualifying products from five manufacturers, you can earn an additional point in the innovation category for exemplary performance.

There are a number of different LEED v4-acceptable disclosure documents covering health impacts. It important to remember that you only need one of these documents for each product to meet the requirements of the disclosure credit:

Earning the credits

There are several straightforward steps to take to earn these points for any given project:

  1. Find these documents during the design and documentation phases of the project
  2. Ask for disclosure documentation in both your submittal requests and the performance requirement portion of the applicable spec sections
  3. As these are construction submittal credits, provide the information in your document set so the contractor can track this information during the submittal process (using this chart), in the samewaythey track recyAmercled and regional percentages

Keep in mind that the USGBC Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Group is active on this topic, and the requirements are updated quarterly.

Topics: Architectural Firms, Associations / Organizations, Automation and Controls, Building Owners and Managers, Certifications, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Energy Saving Products, Engineering Firms, Great Commercial Buildings, Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Trends and Statistics, Technology, Urban Planning and Design, USGBC

Companies: The American Institute of Architects

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