- What guidance is a project required to follow?
- Is there additional guidance and how should it be applied to a project?
- Addenda and LEED Interpretations
- What are addenda?
- What is a LEED Interpretation?
- Where can I find addenda that apply to my project?
- Is there a way to export search results from the Addenda database to find which are applicable to a particular project, location, credit category, etc.?
- Which addenda apply to a project?
- Which LEED Interpretations apply to a project?
- Alternative Compliance Paths (ACPs)
- What are Alternative Compliance Paths (ACPs)?
- Credit substitutions
- What are credit substitutions?
- Can a project use the requirements of the same credit from another rating system adaptation?
- Where can lists of credit substitutions be found?
- Can a LEED v2009 project use this v4.1 credit as a credit substitution?
- Which version (i.e., addenda release) of a v4.1 credit substitution should be used?
- Formal inquiries and unpublished guidance
- What is a credit interpretation ruling?
- How do I submit a CIR for review?
- How do I submit a LEED Interpretation for review?
- If it's not clear how to implement a credit, are there resources available to a project?
- LEEDUser Forum
- Can my project use guidance we found on the Forum tab of a credit?
What guidance is a project required to follow?
Once a project has been registered based on the LEED Rating System Selection Guidance, the project is held to the requirements of that rating system in effect on the date of the project's registration. The requirements, as such, are stated in the text of the rating systems themselves, along with the intent of each prerequisite and credit, all of which can also be found in the LEED Credit Library. Any exceptions or variances are discussed within the reference guide, or in the information provided below.
Is there additional guidance and how should it be applied to a project?
Yes, the reference guide for each rating system typically provides additional information about a credit's intent, step-by-step guidance and further explanation about certain concepts of a credit. The reference guide content for LEED v4 rating systems is available through the Guide page of each credit in the Credit Library by subscription. There may also be free additional guidance documents on the Addenda and Resources pages of a credit in the LEED Credit Library. If guidance is provided that addresses a project's circumstances, then projects are expected to follow the guidance. If guidance is not followed, then the project team should provide a special circumstances narrative describing why the guidance is not applicable to the project. These circumstances would then be reviewed based on merit and meeting the intent of the credit.
Addenda and LEED Interpretations
What are addenda?
In typical usage, Addenda often refers to the published lists of edits to LEED rating systems and reference guides. According to the Foundations of LEED, Appendix 3, Addenda is also the overarching term to describe:
- interpretations (also known as LEED Interpretations), and
- alternative compliance paths (ACPs).
Addenda are published quarterly, after they have been through the USGBC committee review process.
What is a LEED Interpretation?
A LEED Interpretation (LI) is an official answer to a formal inquiry about implementing LEED on a project. They help project teams understand how their projects can meet LEED requirements and provide clarity on existing options.
LEED Interpretations are:
- Precedent-setting: LEED Interpretations can be used by any project certifying under an applicable rating system adaptation and version. Project teams are required to adhere to LEED Interpretations posted before their registration date. This also applies to other addenda and corrections. Adherence to rulings posted after a project registers is optional but encouraged.
- Published online: LEED Interpretations are published in the Addenda database.
- Subject to consensus-based review: LEED Interpretations undergo review by USGBC member-selected volunteer LEED committees.
Where can I find addenda that apply to my project?
Corrections, clarifications, and LEED Interpretations can all be found in the Addenda database.
Corrections and clarifications also are published in tables, organized by page number of the LEED Reference Guides. These tables are published in the USGBC Resource Library.
Is there a way to export search results from the Addenda database to find which are applicable to a particular project, location, credit category, etc.?
After selecting the desired filters within the Addenda database, click the blue 'Export Results (XLS)' link located in the upper right corner of the results list.
Which addenda apply to a project?
Projects are held to the published guidance in place at the time of registration. However, project teams are free to apply any addenda released after the date of their registration and are encouraged to apply the latest addenda.
Which LEED Interpretations apply to a project?
If a credit that a project is attempting is listed in the ‘Applicable credits’ section of the interpretation, the team must review the interpretation and apply it if it makes sense to do so. LEED project teams can choose to reference LEED Interpretations that do not list their credit as applicable if the project team believes it is appropriate. Applicability will be determined during the certification review.
Alternative Compliance Paths (ACPs)
What are Alternative Compliance Paths (ACPs)?
- Regional ACPs are credit requirements that may optionally be applied in specific regions of the world. See more about Regional ACPs.
- Pilot ACPs are paths that USGBC is considering for inclusion in future versions of LEED, and can optionally be used in place of one of the existing LEED credits. See more about pilot ACPs.
What are credit substitutions?
Credit substitutions are LEED credits from a different rating system, adaptation, or version of LEED that may optionally be used to demonstrate compliance for a particular credit. Credit substitutions can generally only be used when guidance has been published allowing the specific substitution.
Can a project use the requirements of the same credit from another rating system adaptation?
As noted in the LEED Rating System Selection Guidance, “The entire gross floor area of a LEED project must be certified under a single rating system and is subject to all prerequisites and attempted credits in that rating system, regardless of mixed construction or space usage type.” However, if, after reviewing the requirements of any explicitly allowed credit substitutions (e.g., v4.1 credits in a v4 project), a team feels that the requirements from another rating system adaptation are more applicable to the project, the project team may submit a special circumstances narrative for review. Within the narrative, the project team would need to detail why the credit requirements cannot reasonably be met for the project, and the reasons the requirements from a different adaptation better meet the intent of the credit for this particular project. Special circumstances are then reviewed based on merit and project-specific circumstances.
Alternatively, if projects prefer a ruling on the acceptability of such a substitution ahead of review, the same information would need to be submitted through a Credit Interpretation Ruling for review.
Where can lists of credit substitutions be found?
- LEED v2009 projects may use LEED v4 credit substitutions that are listed in this article.
- LEED v4 projects may use LEED v4.1 credit substitutions as listed in this article.
Can a LEED v2009 project use this v4.1 credit as a credit substitution?
A v2009 project can use v4.1 requirements for a credit for which v4 is an approved substitute; see 'New LEED v4 credit substitutions for 2009 projects'
Which version (i.e., addenda release) of a v4.1 credit substitution should be used?
Per the USGBC Article LEED v4.1 addenda update: November 2020, LEED v4 projects using a LEED v4.1 credit substitution may use any version of the credit. Projects should state within documentation which version of the credit is being used.
Formal inquiries and unpublished guidance
What is a credit interpretation ruling?
A credit interpretation ruling (CIR), is the decision on a formal inquiry, submitted by a project team prior to a project's review. Formal inquiries can be used to obtain formal approval of how a team intends to apply LEED requirements to particular project circumstances to request a ruling on an exceptional approach to a credit. When a formal inquiry is submitted, our review team will let you know if your proposed approach to a particular credit or prerequisite is consistent with published rating system requirements and intent.
If approved, when it comes time to submit your application for review, you will need to reference the CIR and provide documentation demonstrating fulfillment of the approved strategy within your application for certification.
Keep in mind, also, that CIRs are not precedent setting; your project team can only utilize the ruling for the project under which the CIR was submitted. CIRs for LEED commercial projects are filed through LEED Online.
How do I submit a CIR for review?
CIRs are submitted through LEED Online for rating systems using that platform. Please follow these instructions to submit a CIR.
How do I submit a LEED Interpretation for review?
LEED Interpretation requests can no longer be submitted by project teams. Teams may submit a CIR for review. If the CIR appears to be precedent-setting, as described above, review staff will direct the inquiry through the consensus-based review process and follow up with the project team. Teams may include the words “LEED Interpretation” in the beginning of their inquiry, and this option will be considered.
If it's not clear how to implement a credit, are there resources available to a project?
In general, we recommend that you first consult official published LEED resources mentioned above.
If you are still unsure how to proceed, please feel free to contact customer service, and we would be happy to help! We can also assist with questions about LEED Minimum Program Requirements, and rating system selection and eligibility, as well as any questions you may have about the certification process, in general, or specific review comments you've already received.
Some questions are too technical or detailed to be addressed outside the formal review process. For these, you have the option of submitting a formal inquiry to request a binding Credit Interpretation Ruling (CIR) in advance of your review. Alternatively, if you feel that your project's approach meets the intent of the credit, you may want to submit the approach, and see how the reviewers respond in their preliminary review comments. In this case, the project team should provide a special circumstances narrative describing why the project cannot reasonably meet the standard requirements and how the approach meets the intent of the credit.
If you are unsure how to proceed, please feel free to contact us, and we would be happy to point you in the right direction!
Can my project use guidance we found on the Forum tab of a credit?
USGBC has engaged with LEEDuser to host the public forum discussions within the USGBC LEED Credit Library. LEEDuser is an independent website, operated by BuildingGreen, Inc and designed to help project teams achieve LEED certification. These discussions, accessible via the Forum page in the Credit Library are a part of an independent website. Many questions on the LEEDuser forum are answered by qualified professionals, such as those on the volunteer team of LEEDuser experts. However, the guidance posted there is not binding.