What to Expect in the New LEED v4 Materials and Resources Credits
By Paul Nutcher, CSI CDT, USGBC, AIA Allied
The new Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design version 4 (LEED v4)
will incorporate some of the most significant changes in the LEED® Green
Building Rating System® since it was first released by the U.S. Green
Building Council in 1999. The latest LEED v4 was released in November with
new categories, prerequisites and credits during GreenBuild 2013 in
Philadelphia. The rating system requires unprecedented product ingredient
scrutiny and transparency requirements, and a previously unrequired
life-cycle perspective, especially, in regards to building products and
their energy and environmental impacts. The new rating system continues to
offer project teams standards, acceptable third-party certifiers and
identifies science-based measurement tools for assessing and verifying the
sustainable attributes of building products. Manufacturers that assess their
products against the standards and requirements in the LEED credits can
potentially use that assessment to go to market with a "green" marketing
position and messaging. Those that don’t bother to make the effort, which
may necessitate product innovations, may risk obsolescence.
LEED v4 will task project teams to select products and materials which have
undergone third-party testing and other processes to document the life-cycle
environmental impacts of their materials and products. To transform the
current process of product selection to the new process in LEED v4, the
USGBC has completely "gutted" the Materials and Resources category (which
has always been the most product-oriented category in LEED). The MR Credits
in LEED v4 have been renamed and the language within them contains new
requirements. Generally, single product attributes such as recycled content
and regional materials will remain important to LEED v4 project teams,
however, for this new version they also will be tasked with selecting
products from a life-cycle perspective, not just products with single
sustainable attributes. This significant shift in the assessment of green
products in LEED v4 changes how building products will be measured for their
energy and environmental impacts and will be covered in this article.
In the last issue of DCD Magazine two of four new LEED v4 Material Resources
(MR) Credits of relevance to products were covered. This issue will cover
the remaining credits of special interest to building product manufacturers
and their customers that will be tasked to source materials and products for
LEED v4 projects. It should be noted that there is another new credit in the
Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) category of LEED v4 that would be of
particular interest to manufacturers and AEC professionals but would be
beyond the scope of this article. This credit tasks project teams with
sourcing Low-Emitting Materials. But for now, the focus is on the Materials
and Resources category.
For the sake of review, we covered two MR credits in the last issue, which
MR Credit 1: Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction
MR Credit 2: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization –
Environmental Product Declarations (EPD)
The MR Credit 1: Building Life Cycle Impact Reduction would impact the
project team on major renovations to an existing building. The MR Credit 2:
Building Product Disclosure and Optimization - EPD is more product-specific
and addresses Environmental Product Declarations; generally, the credit
provides direction on the requirements and standards a manufacturer needs to
follow to prepare an EPD.
The two remaining MR credits to cover are:
MR Credit 3: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Sourcing of
MR Credit 4: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Material
As mentioned last issue, the USGBC wants to move project teams away from any
guesswork in determining building products for meeting the requirements in
the LEED Materials and Resources category and instead require them to apply
a more scientific-based approach to verifying sustainable products. We have
already covered the new MR prerequisites so those will not be repeated.
Overall Changes to Materials and Resources
In the revised Materials and Resources category, the new prerequisites and
credits have in effect absorbed many of the single product attribute credits
in past versions of LEED, such as recycled content, locally sourced
materials, and bio-based products, among others. This means design
professionals will have to relearn the requirements for credit compliance in
order to gain points toward certification through product specifications.
Several credits are new and others have been eliminated in an attempt to
reward LEED project teams for specifying materials on a life-cycle, which
means products that come with an EPD will contribute more points toward the
The new MR Credits address this holistic, life-cycle thinking by tasking
project teams to reduce the following environmental impacts:
global warming potential (greenhouse gases), in CO2e;
depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer, in kg CFC-11;
acidification of land and water sources, in moles H+ or kg SO2;
eutrophication, in kg nitrogen or kg phosphate;
formation of tropospheric ozone, in kg NOx or kg ethane; and
depletion of nonrenewable energy resources, in MJ.
Just as project teams were rewarded for sourcing products via a Regional
Materials credit in LEED v3-2009, this OPTION within the new version
encourages local sourcing. However, the radius from the construction site
for extraction, manufacturing and purchasing of the product has been reduced
to within a 100 mile radius of the construction site. And lastly, the
structure and enclosure assemblies cannot constitute more than 30 percent of
the value of the compliant building products.
MR Credit 3: Building Product Disclosure
and Optimization – Sourcing of Raw Materials
This new credit in LEED v4 is again asking project teams to source products
with life-cycle data that has been third-party verified or self-declared
reports from the manufacturer. Unlike the previous LEED v4 MR credits, this
credit seeks products with ingredients that have been mined, extracted or
sourced in an environmentally and socially responsible way.
Option 1. Raw Material Source and Extraction Reporting (1 point)
The project team must install a minimum of 20 products from at least five
different manufacturers that have public documentation identifying their raw
material suppliers that include:
"raw material supplier extraction locations, a commitment to long-term
ecologically responsible land use, a commitment to reducing environmental
harms from extraction and/or manufacturing processes, and a commitment to
meeting applicable standards or programs voluntarily that address
responsible sourcing criteria." (Source: LEED v4 for Building Design and
While third-party verified corporate sustainability reports (CSR) which
include environmental impacts of extraction operations and activities
associated with the manufacturer’s product and the product’s supply chain,
are valued as one whole product for credit achievement calculation. The
USGBC will also accept the following CSR frameworks:
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Report
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines
for Multinational Enterprises
UN Global Compact: Communication of Progress
ISO 26000: 2010 Guidance on Social Responsibility
USGBC approved program: Other USGBC approved programs meeting the CSR
Option 2. Leadership Extraction Practices (1 point)
Use products that meet at least one of the responsible extraction criteria
below for at least 25%, by cost of the total value of permanently installed
building products in the project.
Extended producer responsibility. Product purchased from a
manufacturer (producer) that participates in an extended producer
responsibility program or is directly responsible for extended producer
responsibility. Products meeting extended producer responsibility criteria
are valued at 50% of their cost for the purpose of credit achievement
Bio-based materials. Bio-based product must meet the
Sustainable Agriculture Network’s Sustainable Agriculture Standard.
Bio-based raw materials must be tested using ASTM Test Method D6866 and be
legally harvested, as defined by the exporting and receiving country.
Exclude hide products, such as leather and other animal skin material.
Products meeting bio-based materials criteria are valued at 10% of their
cost for the purposes of credit achievement.
Wood Products. Wood Products must be certified by the Forest
Stewardship Council or USGBC-approved equivalent. Products meeting wood
product criteria are valued at 100% of their cost for the purposes of credit
Materials reuse. Reuse includes salvaged, refurbished, or
reused products. Products meeting materials reuse criteria are valued at
100% of their cost for the purposes of credit achievement calculation.
Recycled content. Recycled content is the sum of postconsumer
recycled content plus one-half the pre-consumer recycled content, based on
cost. Products meeting recycled content criteria are valued at 100% of their
cost for the purposed of credit achievement calculation.
USGBC approved program. Other USGBC approved programs meeting
leadership extraction criteria.
For credit achievement calculation, products sourced (extracted,
manufactured, purchased) within 100 miles (160 km) of the project site are
valued at 200% of their base contributing cost. For credit achievement
calculation, the base contributing cost of individual products compliant
with multiple responsible extraction criteria is not permitted to exceed
100% its total actual cost (before regional multipliers) and double counting
of single product components compliant with multiple responsible extraction
criteria is not permitted and in no case is a product permitted to
contribute more than 200% of its total actual cost.
Structure and enclosure materials may not constitute more than 30% of the
value of compliant building products.
MR Credit 4: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Material
Ingredients, 1-2 points
This credit attempts "to reward project teams for selecting products for
which the chemical ingredients in the product are inventoried using an
accepted methodology and for selecting products verified to minimize the use
and generation of harmful substances." Further reward is available to
manufacturers who product third-party verified life-cycle impact
OPTION 1: Material Ingredient Reporting (1 point)
The project team must select at least 20 different permanently installed
products from at least five different manufacturers that use any of the
following programs to demonstrate the chemical inventory of the product to
at least 0.1 percent (1,000 ppm).
Manufacturer Inventory. The manufacturer has published complete content
inventory for the product following these guidelines:
A publicly available inventory of all ingredients identified by name and
Chemical Abstract Service Registration Number (CASRN)
Materials defined as trade secrete or intellectual property may withhold
the name and/or CASRN but must disclose role, amount and GreenScreen
benchmark, as defined in GreenScreen v1.2.
Health Product Declaration. The end use product has a published,
complete Health Product Declaration open Standard.
Cradle to Cradle. The end use product has been certified at the Cradle
to Cradle v2 Basic level or Cradle to Cradle v3 Bronze level.
USGBC approved program. Other USGBC approved programs meeting the
material ingredient reporting criteria.
OPTION 2: Material Ingredient Optimization (1 point)
Use products that document their material ingredient optimization using the
paths below for at least 25 percent by cost, of the total value of
permanently installed products in the project.
GreenScreen v1.2 Benchmark. Products that have fully inventoried chemical
ingredients to 100 ppm that have no Benchmark 1 hazards:
If any ingredients are assessed with the GreenScreen List Translator,
value these products at 100 percent of cost.
If all ingredients have undergone a full GreenScreen Assessment, value
these products at 150 percent of cost.
Cradle to Cradle Certified. End use products are certified Cradle to
Cradle. Products will be valued as follows:
Cradle to Cradle v2 Gold: 100 percent of cost
Cradle to Cradle v2 Platinum: 150 percent of cost
Cradle to Cradle v3 Silver: 100% of cost
Cradle to Cradle v3 Gold or Platinum: 150% of cost
International Alternative Compliance Path – REACH Optimization. End
use products and materials that do not contain substances that meet
REACH criteria for substances of very high concern. If the product
contains no ingredients listed on the REACH Authorization or
Candidate list, value at 100% of cost.
USGBC approved program. Products that comply with USGBC approved
building product optimization criteria.
OPTION 3: Product Manufacturer Supply Chain Optimization (1 point)
Use building products for at least 25 percent by cost, of the total value of
permanently installed products in the project that:
Are sourced from product manufacturers who engage in validated and
robust safety, health hazard and risk programs which at a minimum
document at least 99% (by weight) of the ingredients used to make the
building product or building materials, and
Are sourced from product manufacturers with independent third party
verification of their supply chain that at a minimum verifies:
Processes are in place to communicate and transparently prioritize
chemical ingredients along the supply chain according to available
hazard, exposure and use information to identify those that require more
Processes are in place to identify, document, and communicate
information on health, safety and environmental characteristics of
Processes are in place to implement measures to manage the health,
safety and environmental hazard and risk of chemical ingredients.
Generally, project teams will need to source 20 products sourced from 5
different manufacturers that all have EPDs and other environmental
documentation in order to gain points in the new MR Credits. By contrast,
the LEED v3 rating system required sourcing products based on a percentage
of the total cost of all the materials in the LEED project. Furthermore,
regional materials must be extracted, manufactured and installed all within
100 miles for the project team to gain any benefit. This required only a 500
mile radius for points toward achieving locally sourced materials credits in
past versions of LEED. And, overall there are many more standards and
requirements to follow including some that will potentially task project
teams to have at least a working knowledge of chemistry and understand
chemical interactions of chemical compounds. LEED v3 focused on single
product attributes, materials costs and there was not a limit on the
product-type quantity, but LEED v4 seeks life-cycle thinking, ingredient
transparency, the number of products are weighted by criteria, material cost
and there are some limits on material quantity.
While it might seem easy to ignore the new requirements in this latest
update to LEED, the rating system is too important to ignore, because many
of the changes in LEED v4 have already been or will be captured in new
versions of other rating systems, such as the Collaborative for High
Performance Schools (CHPS), Green Globes, The Living Building Challenge, and
Energy Star, as well as some building codes including the California Green
Building Standards Code (CALGreen). Since the LEED rating system is very
similar to these other programs, which are both voluntary and mandated
programs, knowing how to meet the requirements in LEED v4 will pay-off down
While it is also very easy to focus on LEED categories such as the Energy
and Atmosphere category and avoid going for the MR credits because these
other categories contain a large amount of points toward certification of a
green building, it will be difficult to gain higher levels of certification
at the Gold and Platinum levels without points in the MR categories.
Therefore, the project teams that focus on getting LEED v4 right in terms of
sourcing green products and materials will thrive in the coming years as
more as more emphasis is placed on reducing the energy and overall
environmental impacts of buildings.
Part 1 of What to Expect in the New LEED v4 Materials and Resources
Credits by Paul Nutcher appeared in the November/December Design Cost Data
the author: Paul Nutcher, CSI CDT, is the president of Green Apple
Group, LLC, a marketing and sustainability consulting firm for building
product manufacturers. He is a speaker, technical writer, and consultant to
manufacturers on architectural specifications, education programs,
sustainable design and construction, and marketing. He has a decade of
building industry experience including leadership roles with the U.S. Green
Building Council (USGBC) and the Construction Specifications Institute
(CSI). He has residential and commercial LEED project experience and holds
the Construction Document Technologist (CDT) credential from CSI. He can be
contacted at 407-579-8683, or