What Is LEED v5?

City park under blue sky with Downtown Skyline in the Background

LEED v5 is the latest iteration of the LEED system, representing a significant turning point in aligning the built environment with a low-carbon future. LEED v5 tackles essential priorities such as equity, health, ecosystems, and resilience.

LEED v5 revolves around a revamped framework for the LEED rating system. At its core are the primary system goals: climate action, quality of life, and ecological conservation and restoration. These broad focal areas will steer the development of upcoming rating system versions and will function as the criteria for prioritizing the recognition and rewards granted to project teams based on their adoption of diverse strategies

LEED v5 Overview

LEED v5 is an important milestone in the effort to align the built environment with the Paris Climate Accord’s 2030 and 2050 targets. The goals of LEED v5 include:

• Decarbonize the building industry swiftly to reflect the urgency of the climate crisis

• Inspire and recognize adaptive and resilient built environments

• Invest in human health and well-being

•Create environments in which diversity, equity and inclusivity thrive

• Support flourishing ecosystems through regenerative development practices

This iteration of LEED has emerged from extensive and meaningful dialogues within the LEED community, driven by a compelling need to confront the world’s most urgent challenges. It encapsulates the insights gathered from volunteers, members, stakeholders, and numerous others, reflecting the essential considerations influencing business decisions throughout the built environment.

Decarbonizing Construction

Spearheading the deep decarbonization of the built environment and propelling market transformation toward achieving Paris Climate Accord targets will take an approach that is both intentional and iterative. Accountability for performance is imperative. LEED v5 offers straightforward, concise guidelines for creating buildings with extremely low carbon footprints.

LEED v5 tackles key sources of carbon emissions in buildings, including operational emissions from energy consumption, embodied carbon emissions from construction, and carbon emissions associated with transportation to and from the building. Design teams can leverage the rating system to fulfill organizational net-zero objectives and adhere to building performance standards, aiming for minimal or reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

LEED v5 enhances industry carbon literacy by offering operational greenhouse gas emissions projections for all buildings through 2050. This enables teams to grasp the future carbon implications of their decisions. Additionally, buildings under LEED v5 must report on refrigerants and leaks. Design teams can strategically work towards organizational goals and building performance standards, aiming to achieve zero or reduced greenhouse gas emissions and meet carbon caps for materials.

LEED v5 incentivizes existing buildings embarking on the path to ultra-low carbon. Achieving near-zero carbon emissions in current structures is an intricate, long-term endeavor, and mastering success is an evolving discipline. Buildings pursuing long-term decarbonization pathways and implementing 5-year capital plans will be rewarded under LEED v5. The system consistently acknowledges and rewards the efficiency of low-carbon buildings. Additionally, LEED v5 offers rewards to new buildings that prioritize getting it right from the outset.

LEED v5 for Operations and Maintenance (O+M) Rating System

On September 28th, 2023 the USGBC released the LEED v5 for Operations and Maintenance (O+M) Rating System. It signifies a significant milestone in aligning the built environment with a low-carbon future, addressing vital priorities such as equity, health, ecosystems, and resilience. The LEED rating system stands as the foremost global certification for green building, certifying over 100,000 projects worldwide. Although the introduction of LEED v5 initially focuses on existing buildings, LEED v5 for Building Design and Construction (BD+C) is scheduled for release in 2024.

The LEED v5 O+M draft aims to provide a comprehensible, actionable, and transformative rating system. It includes a clear roadmap for incremental actions that facilitate LEED certification. The draft incorporates industry benchmarking and scoring to incentivize performance while maintaining a systematic, data-driven approach to certification. This will help LEED users anticipate and prepare for several years of building operations, considering legislative mandates, upcoming climate risks, and anticipated industry trends.

As a component of the launch, a beta edition of the LEED v5 O+M rating system will be introduced to a handpicked group of project teams spanning a diverse array of projects. These projects will offer essential feedback, playing a pivotal role in enhancing the language and functionality of the system. The beta phase is set to initiate in the fourth quarter of 2023. Projects keen on participating in the beta can access an expression of interest form on the USGBC’s website, along with additional information about LEED v5.

What Is New in LEED v5 O+M?

LEED v5 comprehensively tackles major sources of carbon emissions in buildings. It offers precise guidelines for constructing buildings with exceptionally low greenhouse gas emissions. LEED v5 recognizes and rewards existing buildings that demonstrate leadership and strategic planning to achieve future decarbonization targets, aiming for ultra-low carbon emissions. Additionally, LEED v5 is designed to boost industry carbon literacy and provide incentives for existing buildings to pursue plans for ultra-low-carbon and zero-emission strategies.

LEED v5 incorporates a credit for ongoing assessment and verification of measurable indoor air quality, featuring indicators for infection risk management. In addition, LEED v5 places emphasis on equity within cleaning operations and implements safeguards for cleaning personnel.

LEED v5 acknowledges the importance of adaptation and incentivizes operational preparedness for extreme events. It enables projects to identify building occupants and address their needs through a health-centric approach, incorporating the identification of health resilience goals.

LEED v5 encourages teams to comprehend and tackle the social impact of a project. It champions equity, access, and economic empowerment by fostering on-site renewable energy projects, facilitating ownership transfer, and ensuring energy rights for underserved and front-line communities.

How Can Product Manufacturers Get Specified For LEED v5?

Getting building products specified for LEED v5 involves strategic planning and proactive engagement with the LEED certification process. Manufacturers must understand LEED v5 requirements. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the requirements and credits of LEED v5. Understand the criteria for sustainable building materials, indoor environmental quality, and energy efficiency.

Manufacturers need to obtain relevant certifications for products, such as Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), Health Product Declarations (HPDs), and third-party certifications like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for wood products. Manufacturers need to establish connections with architects, designers, and contractors involved in LEED projects. Attend industry events, workshops, and conferences to network and showcase your products.

To get building products specified for LEED v5, create educational materials and resources that highlight how your products contribute to LEED credits. This can include case studies, whitepapers, and other documentation that demonstrate the sustainability and environmental benefits of your products. GBCI online courses, webinars, and lunch and learns offer the most value. GreenCE offers the highest ROI for manufacturers wanting to get their products specified by LEED professionals.

Manufacturers need to optimize their online presence. Ensure that your website contains detailed information about your products’ sustainability features and how they align with LEED v5 requirements. Use SEO strategies to increase visibility in online searches related to LEED-compliant products.

Engage with LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED APs) who are involved in project decision-making. Provide them with the necessary information and support to make informed decisions about specifying your products. Join your local USGBC chapter or CSI chapter to network and build relationships.

Building product manufacturers need to ensure that all necessary product information is transparent and readily available. This includes life cycle assessments, material ingredient disclosures, and any other data required for LEED documentation. Your HPDs should be available on your website and on platforms like Sustainable Minds Transparency Catalog and Mindful Materials database.

Train your team about LEED. Stay informed about updates to LEED requirements by participating in LEED training programs. This will help you understand evolving standards and position your products accordingly. Dedicate at least one employee to sustainability and ensure they have at least a LEED Green Associate credential.

Integrate sustainability messaging into your product marketing. Clearly communicate how your products contribute to LEED goals, emphasizing key features and benefits. Ensure that your LEED documentation is up to date, that your HPDs have not expired, and that your CE course has the latest information about building codes, LEED requirements, and specification protocols.

Overall, building product manufacturers need to provide excellent customer support to assist project teams with any inquiries related to the sustainability and LEED compliance of your products.

How Can Building Product Manufacturers Get Specified For LEED v5 O+M?

The beta LEED v5 O+M ratings system has been released. There are several opportunities for building product manufacturers to get their products selected. There are several areas we will examine today and see how manufacturers can contribute points, get more products specified, overcome challenges, and increase their market share. Opportunities for manufacturers focus on:

• Carbon

• Health

• Resilience

• Equity

• Ecosystems

Here are opportunities for manufacturers in the LEED v5 O+M Beta phase. These prerequisites and credits focus on carbon emissions and climate change and show a lot of promise for manufacturers.

EA Credit: Decarbonization and Efficiency Plans
This credit aims for deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by creating a decarbonization plan for a building over decades. HVAC, heating and cooling, and alternative refrigerant manufacturers could benefit from this new LEED credit.

EA Credit: GHG Emissions Reduction
The intent of this credit is to reduce environmental and economic harm associated with greenhouse gas emissions from building energy use that disproportionately impacts frontline communities. Manufacturers of renewable energy products like solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal can benefit from this new LEED credit.

EA Credit: Refrigerant Impact Reduction
This credit encourages the installation of equipment using refrigerants with low global warming potential. Manufacturers of HVAC systems, heat pump systems, industrial refrigeration systems, cold storage systems supermarket systems and retail and restaurant equipment could benefit from this credit.

MR Prerequisite: Materials Management Policy
The goal of this prerequisite is to conserve natural resources, promote a circular economy, and encourage responsible materials stewardship through reduction, reuse and recycling. The prerequisite mandates that project teams use Environmentally Preferable Purchasing in categories such as building products, furniture, and electronic equipment. In addition, companies that manufacturer bins for recycling and storage and collection can benefit from this prerequisite.

MR Credit: Embodied Carbon of Interior Materials during Renovations
The intent of this credit is” To cycle hard-to-recover and high-embodied carbon products during remodeling and renovation. To foster closed-loop product take-back and manufacturing processes.

There are several opportunities here for manufacturers involved in renovations and expansions of buildings. Carpet, acoustic ceiling tiles, furniture, and gypsum board can all contribute one point for this new credit.

EQ Prerequisite: Green Cleaning Policy
Companies that manufacture disinfectants, hand cleaners/soaps, and hand sanitizers have potential opportunities here.

EQ Credit: Green Cleaning
This is similar to the prerequisite. Cleaning products, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, trash can receptacle liners, and more can contribute to this credit.

What Do I Need To Get Specified For LEED v5?

To be considered for many of the LEED v5 O+M credits, manufacturers will need to have carbon emissions documentation such as an LCA or EPD. Currently, LEED v4.1 requires EPDs for the Environmental Product Declaration credit.

The AIA published the report “Sustainability in the Architect’s Journey to Specification 2020”. According to their research, 58% of architects use EPDs and HPDs to determine the sustainability credentials of a product. That report was released several years ago and the adoption of EPDs and HPDs has only grown. Manufacturers need to develop EPDs to be considered for current LEED v4 projects and future LEED v5 projects.

Social equity plays a large role in LEED v5 O+M and will no doubt play a significant role in LEED v5 BD+C when it is launched. In 2014, the USGBC launched three social equity pilot credits. The credits have been designed to address social equity from the perspective of everyone who is touched or impacted by a building—including the building’s construction workers, designers, engineers and other project team members; its surrounding community; and those involved in the building’s materials supply chain. Over the past several years very few AEC firms attempted these pilot credits and very few product manufacturers met the requirements.

It’s fairly certain that LEED v5 BD+C will require documentation by product manufacturers to prove their social equity efforts. For the Social Equity Pilot credits, USGBC required documentation that included the following:


• B Corp

• GRI Standards

• Supplier Assessment

• Code of Conduct

Building product manufacturers would be wise to research these resources in greater detail to prepare for LEED v5 BD+C.


In conclusion, LEED v5 stands as a transformative force poised to reshape the construction industry and play a pivotal role in safeguarding our planet. By setting stringent standards and promoting sustainable practices, LEED v5 not only emphasizes the importance of energy efficiency, carbon reduction, and environmental responsibility but also instills a mindset shift within the construction sector.

This certification system serves as a catalyst for innovation, encouraging the adoption of eco-friendly technologies, materials, and building strategies. As more projects align with the principles of LEED v5, the construction industry is poised to become a driving force in mitigating environmental impact, fostering resilience, and contributing to a sustainable future for generations to come. LEED v5’s influence extends beyond individual structures, offering a collective opportunity to build a more sustainable, resilient, and planet-friendly built environment.

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