The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) refutes an article that ran in the San Francisco Business Journal last month stating that under LEED 2009, the latest version of LEED, USGBC now has the power to “decertify” an existing LEED-certified development. The article, “Risk of LEED Decertification Looms Large for Real Estate,” stated that “… a little known provision in LEED 2009, which allows LEED certifications to be challenged and removed at any time after they have been certified, presents a threat to all existing and future LEED 2009-certified projects.”
"The idea that there is this new thing call decertification is inaccurate," says Scot Horst, USGBC's senior vice president for LEED. "The way LEED works is we have a rating system; you send us information about your project, and we certify to that. But let's say that there was someone out there who lied about the prerequisite information or unintentionally provided inaccurate information. We have always had a policy to go back and say this wasn’t what it was represented to be. That is nothing new."
Potential ramifications of not meeting LEED's prerequisites include losing a credit and potentially dropping to a lower LEED certification level. The only way you would ever lose a certification that you've already been awarded is if you didn't meet the prerequisites of the system; USGBC currently does not evaluate or monitor the ongoing operations of a building, Horst adds.
The fear of decertification likely stems from one of the Minimum Program Requirements (MPRs) of LEED 2009. The MPRs, which apply only to projects seeking certification under LEED 2009, list the basic characteristics that a project must possess to be eligible for certification under the LEED 2009 rating systems. Requirement No. 6 states that “all certified projects must commit to sharing with USGBC and/or GBCI [Green Building Certification Institute] all available actual whole-project energy and water usage data for a period of at least five years."
But the information collected under MPR6 is for research purposes only and won't be used to penalize project teams with buildings that do not perform as well as intended, according to the LEED 2009 Supplemental Guidance document published in November 2009.
“MPR6 specifically is an exercise to improve the future iterations of LEED rather than to strip the certification from prior program participants and all information remains confidential,” says USGBC communications manager Ashley Katz. "LEED certification is granted based on a building’s design and construction at the time certification is sought. LEED certification does not evaluate the ongoing operation or maintenance of a building—there are too many factors that have to do with how the building is operated.”
So what’s the deal with the LEED Gold-certified Northland Pines High School in Wisconsin referenced in the Business Journal as potentially facing decertification? "We are reviewing the project to make sure that what was represented in the [LEED] documentation was accurate," Horst says. "That is consistent with what a good certification program would do." He declined to comment on who brought the project to the USGBC's attention for review.