The new LEED-OM mantra: raising the bar, but increasing flexibility.

 The LEED® program continues to evolve, with a new revision for its program to certify existing buildings. Those seeking to LEED-certify their facilities, or attain LEED professional accreditation, should be aware of the new rules.
Overseen by the USGBC (, a private industry-supported organization, LEED was originally designed to foster better and more sustainable new buildings. In 2004, several years after its New Construction (NC) program had been underway, it began to do the same with existing buildings through its LEED-EB program. That process called upon facility managers to improve energy and water use efficiency, switch to ‘greener’ cleaning and other materials, and enhance the environmental quality of workspaces and grounds.

After two major revisions, LEED-EB is becoming LEED-OM (for O&M). The new program was accepted in January 2008, and (after Feb. 8, 2008) all existing buildings that seek certification will be asked to follow the new LEED guidelines, which are scheduled for publication by early April. Buildings already involved in seeking LEED-EB status will be allowed to switch to LEED-OM at no charge.

Individuals seeking to become LEED-EB accredited, however, should continue to study the existing LEED-EB Reference Guide for version 2.0 (published October 2006) until the new LEED-OM test is ready, which will not occur until late 2008 or early 2009.

So What Changed?

Reporting has been streamlined, the number and distribution of credits is slightly different, greater latitude has been given (less prescriptive, more performance-based), and the bars set a bit higher in some places.

To get to first base with LEED-EB, a variety of prerequisites must first be met before points can start to accumulate toward certification. Typical prerequisites include meeting minimum standards for water and energy efficiency, and elimination or control of toxic materials (e.g., asbestos, smoking). LEED-OM has reduced the number of prerequisites and dropped one involving control of erosion, not because that’s no longer desired but rather because such activities may now instead be required by law.

At the same time, however, the number of points needed to achieve certification has been raised: the prior minimum was 32, but that’s now 34. The bars have also been raised on achieving higher certification levels (Silver, Gold, and Platinum). A higher minimum level of energy efficiency is needed (based on one’s score using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager system), but those attaining even higher efficiency may now earn more points (30 instead of 23).
The same is true for water: the number of credits for doing better is raised from 5 to 10.

Fewer credits are available for improving Materials and Resources (e.g., minimizing and handling of construction waste) and for Indoor Environmental Quality. Once again, this is not because those goals are less desirable but (in some cases) because regulations now require higher standards to be met, whether or not one is seeking LEED status. On the plus side, credits for Innovations in Operations, wherein one may develop programs not presently recognized by LEED, are increased from 5 to 7. By increasing the total number of credits (from 85 to 92), USGBC offers a greater range and flexibility for participants to succeed in its program.

Polishing The Standards

To attain Silver status, 43 points are now needed (up from 40). Gold needs 51 points instead of only 48, and Platinum requires 68 instead of 64. Within those limits, however, a great deal of latitude is given to foster creative ways to achieve them. As with LEED-EB, facility managers will find a variety of new opportunities to gather credits for options such as: expanding alternative commuting transportation (e.g., carpooling, promoting use of hybrid cars), more efficient use of water in landscaping, using renewable energy (from both on and off-site sources), reducing toxic materials (e.g., lamp mercury), and documenting the dollar impacts of their success.

An Expanding Program

As of late 2007, LEED-EB had 535 projects seeking certification (i.e., registered) covering 148 million gross square feet. Of those, 59 (covering 20 million gross square feet) had already been certified at various levels. While still only a small fraction of total LEED projects (over 8,000 facilities have registered), LEED-EB is a growing opportunity for those seeking to make their existing buildings better places to work, shop, and learn.

To learn more about LEED in general, go to To download a synopsis of the changes to the LEED-EB program, go to ES