Design and Construction, Energy Management and Lighting, Green Building, Maintenance and Operations, Sustainability/Business Continuity

USGBC Officials Reveal Details of LEED Version 5 Draft

During a November 16 webinar, more information was released regarding the highly anticipated draft of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) version 5 Operations and Maintenance (O&M) rating system.

The draft was released in September 2023 at the 2023 Greenfield Conference and Expo.

While the launch of LEED v5 starts with O&M of existing buildings, the updated rating for Building Design and Construction (BD+C), dealing with new construction and major renovations, will roll out in 2024.

The 75-minute presentation, titled LEED v5: Taking Action on Climate, Quality of Life and Ecology, was intended to provide more details for stakeholders. It was open to USGBC members, and those watching were able to earn continuing education credit toward their LEED certification.

The session included presentations given by Melissa Baker, Senior Vice President of Technical Development, and Kat Wagenschutz, Director of Technical Development, both of the USGBC.

What Is LEED?

For those unfamiliar, Baker explained that LEED “spans all the way from interior projects to whole buildings to neighborhoods to communities and cities.” She added that LEED looks holistically at the built environment’s impact on people.

LEED is the most widely used green building rating system around the globe in over 180 countries, and it has certified more than 100,000 projects.

LEED Goals

Baker said LEED’s mission statement is to “drive the built environment toward a low carbon future that is equitable, resilient, and of course, the wise safe utilization of resources,” adding that those resources can be energy-, water-, or nature-based solutions toward resilience and climate change.

She added, “We’re really trying to bring those pieces together.”

LEED’s system goals include climate action, quality of life, and ecological conservation and restoration.

Why Version 5?

LEED v5 comes after the USGBC assessed the last full version, which came out in 2013.

“It’s a big deal for us to be doing a 10-year update and making sure we’re getting it right, so we set a mission statement for the work that we’re doing,” Baker said.

The v5 rating system will calculate points for each goal:

  • Climate action goals earn 50%.
  • Quality of life goals earn 25%.
  • Ecological conservation and restoration goals earn 25%.
  • Innovation and regional priority goals earn 10 points.

There will be an engagement period, beta tests, a formal public comment period, feedback, and a ballot in 2024. A balloted rating system will be released for market use in 2025.

In the meantime, Baker recommends that facilities professionals use version 4.1 and then upgrade to version 5.

Project Priorities

“One of the things I’ve heard a lot from the market is that people want to be rewarded more for innovation. They want more space to be innovative and be recognized for that,” Baker said.

Additionally, the USGBC is beta-testing LEED Zero Carbon to encourage facilities to provide renewable energy with no on-site combustion.

Furthermore, it’s looking to roll out new LEED rating system updates every 5 years.

Improving Existing Building Performance

Wagenschutz explained that there are three ways the USGBC will help existing buildings improve their performance while meeting their audience’s needs:

  1. Provide education and leadership in a critical time. Recognize the global climate crisis, embrace solutions, and help users prepare for climate risk.
  2. Establishing actionable and transformational criteria. Create a road map for steps to move projects forward by defining minimum characteristics of a green building.
  3. Evaluating measurable building performance. Establish a data-driven pathway to certification to the greatest extent possible.

LEED v5 O&M Certification Pathway Elements

“For those of you who are familiar with versions 2 through 4 of LEED O&M, there was a heavier focus on the actions and strategies. We have a heavier focus on performance with v5, we focused on creating a parallel and interweaving pathway to certification,” Wagenschutz said.

Three foundational steps toward the performance of LEED goals are:

  1. Plan. Assessments and policies underpin the process, and these include climate resilience, social impact, and occupant needs.
  2. Act. Build on the plan, and implement strategies, which can include adding electric vehicle (EV) chargers or doing a waste audit. This counts as 60+ points.
  3. Perform. Measure and improve performance over time, like indoor air quality performance and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction/energy efficiency. This counts as 77 points.

Admitting this is more than the normal 100 points, Wagenschutz explained, “This is intentionally designed to have optionality baked in where your building is performing well.”

She added, “If there are certain categories where there are improvements that can be made, then you can earn the points through demonstrating that you are taking the steps forward and implementing the strategies towards improvement.”


Wagenschutz said one of the core objectives of LEED v5 is decarbonization, which lowers our dependence on fossil fuels while reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which raise global temperatures.

Decarbonization can be done by looking at:

  1. Facilitating and hastening market transformation. Increasing carbon education and rewarding decarbonization planning and action.
  2. All significant sources of carbon emissions. This includes embodied carbon and transportation carbon emissions.
  3. Anticipating and addressing future challenges. Promotes grid reliability due to peak loads.  

Elaborating on future challenges, Wagenschutz explained that the USGBC wants to “reward strategies to harmonize building operations with grid and various full supply, including building envelope and ventilation systems, energy storage technologies, and demand curtailment program.”

Health and Well-Being

Baker said, “We’ve always been looking to ensure that LEED is focused on improving human health especially indoors.”

Here are ways to increase facility health and well-being:

  1. Sustaining quality air. Manage and monitor indoor air quality.
  2. Understanding and accommodating occupant needs. Meet occupants’ needs, including those of vulnerable populations.
  3. Integrating health and well-being co-benefits. Reduce transportation-related air quality impacts while creating healthy and safe workplaces.


Coexisting with ecological systems is an important component, as well.

“Within LEED, we’ve always tried to reward integration, nature, and those principles within the work that we’re doing as far as setting aside open space and safeguarding the land that you have within the building as well as integrating nature into the building, things like biophilia, daylight views, etc.,” Baker explained.

Consider the following ways to improve facility ecosystems:

  1. Beneficial systems operation. Support water conservation.
  2. Ongoing maintenance and purchasing practices. Consider the environmental impact of chemicals and maintenance.
  3. Protecting local biodiversity and ecosystems. Mitigating the impact of bird-window collision, light pollution, and invasive plant species.


Resilience is about creating an environment that can withstand natural hazards.

“Most people have been touched by some sort of climate crisis in recent years,” Baker said, adding this includes wildfires, flooding, and other extreme weather.

Three ways to address facility resilience include:

  1. Understanding climate risks. Assess climate risks and potential impacts, as well as support health resilience goals.
  2. Rewarding strategic preparedness. Reward effective emergency response planning, and encourage readiness measures.
  3. Rewarding operational preparedness. Reward technologies and operational protocols that facilitate business continuity.


Wagenschutz said equity means “creating an equitable and inclusive environment where sustainable buildings and communities prioritize the needs of all individuals of different backgrounds, income levels, or abilities.”

Three equity areas of focus include:

  1. Education, awareness, and action. Assess social impact, and encourage inclusivity and diversity while addressing disparities.
  2. Supporting and protecting workers. Support O&M personnel through workforce development and corporate social responsibility.
  3. Community engagement. Reward inclusive community engagement while promoting equity to underserved and frontline communities.


The USGBC will continue to solicit feedback on v5 before it’s released for public comment in 2024. Additionally, those with questions should visit the USGBC “Contact Us” page.

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