LEED still remains the most widely recognized sustainability rating system in the U.S. However, the 2009 LEED v3 standards will only be available for the next year, before LEED v4 becomes the sole available LEED standard, which is causing some concern among designers and clients.

Many designers are troubled by the failure of owners to embrace LEED v4 now.

"There is a clear reluctance by building practitioners and clients to embrace LEED v4, as evidenced by the almost unanimous choice by clients on projects to register under v3 as long as that option is available," says Tom Marseille, senior vice president of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff. He says part of this resistance stems from a growing opinion that going through a full LEED certification, even under LEED v3, is too costly.

Many in the industry say designers must do more to prepare for the time when LEED v4 becomes mandatory. "The design community will need to educate both themselves and their clients on the more comprehensive and stringent system," says Marquisha Powell, associate with Page. "Also, when calculating fees, teams should be aware that it may take additional time and resources to deliver a LEED v4 project as it adopts the latest version of ASHRAE [standards] and therefore it may be more difficult to meet energy benchmarks."

LEED v4 does make it more difficult to achieve the same number of points as previously. "We are typically seeing about a five point difference when we compare LEED v3 and LEED v4 projects," says Michael Pulaski, senior associate at Thornton Tomasetti.

However, some designers say that the profession should be ready for LEED v4.


"With some iteration and early drafts of what is now LEED v4 available to the public since 2012, the building and construction industry has had plenty of time to prepare for the aspects within v4 that are new," says Greg Mella, co-director of sustainability, SmithGroupJJR.