New LEED Guidance by USGBC with Building Reopening Strategies for COVID-19

USGBC Releases New LEED Guidance to Address COVID-19 Supporting Buildings with Reopening Strategies

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has released four new Safety First Pilot Credits in response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The credits outline sustainable best practices that align with public health and industry guidelines related to cleaning and disinfecting, workplace re-occupancy, HVAC, and plumbing operations. The credits can be used by LEED projects that are certified or are undergoing certification.

The Safety First credits are part of USGBC’s economic recovery strategy released last month, which focuses on sustainable solutions to rebuild a stronger and healthier economy by prioritizing healthy people in healthy places.

The credits were created in direct response to COVID-19 and focus on the safety of those working in a building. These credits are available to all LEED 2009, LEED v4, and LEED v4.1 projects.

“These new credits are a first step in helping the building and construction industry demonstrate its commitment to sustainable strategies as part of building a healthier, more resilient future,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president & CEO of USGBC. “Supporting environmental and occupant health is a critical part of supporting community health and, as we look ahead, we know LEED and the USGBC community will play a role in delivering solutions that lay a better foundation for our economic and environmental well-being.”

The Safety First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space credit requires facilities to create a policy and implement procedures that follow green cleaning best practices that support a healthy indoor environment and worker safety.

Unlike the need to develop new vaccines and medical treatments for COVID-19, current disinfectants and cleaning processes are effective against the Coronavirus, and sustainable options exist. In addition to product considerations, the credit also requires procedures and training for cleaning personnel, occupant education, and other services that are within a management team’s control.

The Safety First: Re-Enter Your Workspace credit is a tool to assess and plan for re-entry, as well as to measure progress once space is occupied. It identifies sustainable requirements in building operations and human behavior that take precautions against the spread of COVID-19. It aligns with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Re-occupancy Assessment Tool and requires transparent reporting and evaluation of decisions to encourage continuous improvement.

The Safety First: Building Water System Recommissioning credit helps to build teams to reduce the risk that occupants are exposed to degraded water quality.

Building and business closures over weeks or months reduce water usage that can potentially lead to stagnant water and water that is unsafe to drink or use. The credit integrates recommendations from industry organizations and experts, including the U.S. EPA and CDC. It requires buildings to develop and implement a water management plan, coordinate with local water and public health authorities, communicate water system activities and associated risks to building occupants and take steps to address water quality from the community supply, as well as the building.

The Safety First: Managing Indoor Air Quality During COVID-19 credit builds on existing indoor air quality requirements and credits in LEED. Building teams should ensure indoor air quality systems are operating as designed and determine temporary adjustments to ventilation that may minimize the spread of COVID-19 through the air. Additional considerations include increasing ventilation and air filtration, the physical distancing of occupants, and the following measures outlined in public health and industry resources, as well as guidance found in the Re-Enter Your Workspace credit. The guidance also encourages monitoring and evaluating indoor air quality on an ongoing basis.

These credits are based on current, known information. USGBC will refine its recommendations and is looking for feedback on the new credits.

In addition to these new LEED pilot credits, projects can also take advantage of Arc Re-entry, a set of resources launching tomorrow to help facility teams assess and communicate recovery efforts, as well as the WELL Health-Safety Rating. GBCI will be providing third-party certification support for the WELL Health-Safety Rating.

For more than a quarter-century, USGBC has defined global best practices for designing, constructing, and operating sustainable buildings and spaces through LEED. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the world’s most widely used green building rating system and promotes the use of strategies that reduce environmental impact, enhance human health and support economic development. Currently, there are over 102,000 projects across nearly 180 countries and territories participating.

With much of the country entering into an initial reopening phase, businesses and government must rebuild people’s trust and demonstrate how the estimated 5.6 million commercial buildings in the U.S. are focused on health and committed to positively impacting communities moving forward. Third-party verification systems like LEED provide guidance on best practices and encourage transparency. USGBC is focused on sharing its recommendations with all projects, regardless of whether they are pursuing LEED certification, in an effort to continue to support economic recovery while also laying the foundation for society to be more sustainable, healthy, and equitable.

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