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In 2013, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design v4 (LEED v4) and Dovetail Partners provided a report that evaluated the changes and implications for use of wood as a building material and within green building projects. Some of the most substantial changes in LEED v4 were made to the Materials and Resources credit category with direct impact to the use of wood. To provide the most current information for green building projects, this new report examines the changes associated with the adoption of LEED v4.1. The transition to LEED v4.1 was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the deadline for project registrations under older standards was continued through June 30, 2022. Since that deadline has passed, new project registrations and certifications are now under LEED v4 or v4.1, and as of April 21, 2023, LEED v4 project registrations must use the most recent addenda versions of LEED v4.1 credits. As of August 2023, there are 13,693 LEED v4.1 projects globally, including 9,844 LEED v4.1 projects in the United States and 653 in Canada.

This report builds from the previous review of LEED v4, and readers are directed to revisit that prior report for additional context. This new report focuses on the LEED v4.1 standard and examines the Building Design + Construction (BD+C) rating system, changes to the Materials and Resources credits, and possible impacts to the use of wood. Based upon this examination, there are changes in LEED v4.1 that can support the more efficient documentation of specific credits related to sourcing materials and may positively impact the use of wood if the required product information continues to be made available by manufacturers. Also, the approach to recognizing legal, responsible, and certified sources of wood, which was a pilot credit in earlier standards, continues to be recognized. Overall, the changes can be described as reflecting feedback from the marketplace to improve participation and project outcomes. LEED v4.1 provides modest updates and addresses a goal of improving credit uptake, including the whole building life cycle assessment (WBLCA) credit and expanding the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) credit usage, both of which have been successful. These changes have increased awareness of the role of embodied carbon and contributed to mainstreaming these practices in codes and procurement policies. The full impact of LEED v4.1 will emerge as the standard is more widely used; meanwhile, LEED v5 is in development with a draft anticipated in 2023.

Special thanks to WoodWorks for support in the preparation of this report.

Additional appreciation for the review by Edie Sonne Hall, Founder and Principal,Three Trees Consulting and Annie Perkins, LEED Green Associate, Sr. Director, Green Building and Supply Chain, Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

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