“What materials were used to make this building?”

It’s a question that LEED v4 now asks architects, designers, building owners, and developers to answer as part of the certification process. For many in the design world, that question and others related to it represent the most striking differences between now-retired LEED 2009 (aka v3) and LEED v4.

LEED v4 presents major changes across all credit categories. The category that arguably draws the most scrutiny is Materials and Resources. This vastly overhauled section encourages the use of more sustainable materials and incentivizes manufacturers who present quality information on the following:

  • What products were used in construction
  • How the product was produced
  • What the product contains

How should architects and specifiers smoothly adapt to this must-know category? What kind of information should they expect from product manufacturers? Who reliably vets that information? What should an architect do to specify green materials with greater confidence, speed, and owner satisfaction?

Take the case of material disclosure information such as Health Product Declarations (HPDs). “I think some may be afraid to interpret HPDs,” says Gale Tedhams, director of sustainability for Owens Corning, a Fortune 500 building products manufacturer based in Ohio. Tedhams reports the usual and understandable reply is: “I’m not a chemist. How am I supposed to know that?”

Tedhams suggests four ways to better understand the Materials and Resources category:

  1. Attend Professional Conferences and Webinars. LEED v4 is comparatively new, finalized in late 2013. The architect and design community, as well as manufacturers, are still sorting out best practices when it comes to Materials and Resources credit strategies. In a rapidly evolving environment, peer gatherings at public events like Greenbuild and the AIA Conference on Architecture factor large. “Conferences are really good venues to learn more about what product certifications mean and what’s behind them,” Tedhams advises.
  2. Identify Trusted Vetting Agencies. Tedhams says there are a number of helpful agencies assisting manufacturers in the delivery of reliable, accurate, and understandable Environmental Product Declarations, Health Product Declarations, and Cradle to Cradle certifications. Organizations like UL Environment, SCS Global and Cradle to Cradle are good places to start.
  3. Search Online.Google Portico and Mindful Materials are areas where a lot of architects go for specification information. The information is already loaded. All you have to do is specify it,” according to Tedhams. UL SPOT is also a good place to search green products or even download a Revit add-in app. Be sure to view the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED v4 website.
  4. Research Manufacturers’ Websites. Tedhams says her company has worked hard to present design professionals with trusted, transparent information. “We identify all the different certifications that we employ and what products are certified by them. We also have an architectural and engineering information center with a lot of continuously-updated information,” she recommends. Those product certifiers include GREENGUARD, EcoLogo, recycled content verification through SCS Global Services and ICC-ES, and Cradle to Cradle Material Health Certification, among others.

As you pursue LEED certification for your projects, keep in mind the help available to you in earning credits in the Material and Resources category. To learn more, visit here.