On April 27, the U.S. Green Building Council and the Green Building Certification Institute released LEED Version 3. The latest version of the green building rating system, in the works for more than three years, "sets the stage for the growth and improvement of the whole LEED program for the next several years," says Mike Optiz, USGBC's vice president for LEED implementation.

The current release includes LEED 2009, LEED Online Version 3 and a new certification process based on ISO standards, administered by the GBCI. It also updates all the LEED categories at once. These include LEED for new construction, schools, core and shell, commercial interiors and existing buildings. LEED 2009 also has created a 100-point credit scale for all the categories. In the past, each category had its own scale. In addition, all points are weighted scientifically, based on their importance in the realm of their environmental impact. Language has been harmonized across all five categories.

LEED Online V3, the implementation tool, has been retooled to be faster, more responsive and more stable, says Optiz. It also has new features. The tool had been slow to respond and occasionally froze up on users, he says. The idea is to give the user a better experience.

USGBC has also overhauled its LEED accredited professional program, turning it into a tiered program. Registration for the first exam, for a LEED green associate, under the new program will be administered May 18. The LEED AP operations and maintenance exam will be offered next. This summer, GBCI plans to offer LEED AP homes, building design and construction and interior design and construction exams. The neighborhood development exam will be launched next year.

GBCI will also introduce its credentialing maintenance program this summer. LEED APs will be required to participate in the program every two years. The cost for a current LEED AP to enroll in the $50 credentialing program will be waived for the first two years if the LEED AP enrolls in a specialty track before June 2011.

USGBC has been experiencing a deluge of new projects requiring review for certification. The volume has gone from 50 or 60 new projects a week a year ago to 160 new projects a week. This has created a review backlog. It takes about six or seven weeks for review, says USGBC, up from about one month. The group is addressing the backlog, trying to cut down the time.

Starting June 26, all new projects will have to be certified under LEED V3. Guidance is available on www.gbci.org.