Common LEED Documentation Mistakes

As promised, here it is- a summary of the most common mistakes I see in LEED Design Phase Documentation. A few caveats before I launch into my review: 1. These comments are based on LEED for New Construction v2.2 and LEED for Schools v2.0 projects. LEED 2009 is similar, but some of the documentation is handled differently. 2. These are simply mistakes I see on a regular basis and/or overlooked items that often get commented on by GBCI reviewers 3. LEED reviews are a little bit subjective and the GBCI reviewers are human- perfect documentation for one reviewer may raise questions from another 4. Remember, these are design phase credits only- I’ll cover construction phase credits at a later date.

OK, now that I have included all my disclaimers, here’s the list:

LEED NC and LEED for Schools Documentation:

-SS Credit 4.3: Alternative Transportation, Low-Emitting and Fuel-Efficient Vehicles: If you are using the preferred parking option, make sure your preferred parking spaces really are the absolute closest to the door (exclusive of the handicap spaces). The GBCI reviewers are very serious about this. Also, if you have multiple parking lots, say one lot for staff and another for visitors, consider dividing your preferred parking spaces between the lots. Just make sure you describe you rationale on your template. Doing a LEED for Schools project? Don’t forget to locate that drop-off area for low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles.

-SS Credit 5.2: Site Development, Maximize Open Space: When retention/detention areas are included in the vegetated open space, you must confirm via a narrative on the template that the side slopes of these areas are 1:4 or less. If the side slopes are steeper than 1:4, the area can’t be counted as vegetated open space for this credit.

-SS Credit 6.2: Stormwater Management, Quality Control: On the template, make sure to include the expected efficiency of each of your Best Management Practices (BMPs) so that the reviewer can easily ascertain that your strategies are capable of removing 80% of Total Suspended Solids (TSS) from 90% of your stormwater. There is no really apparent spot for this information- I have found that the best place for it is in the second column of the template tables.

-WE Credit 3: Water Use Reduction: If you have any unisex bathrooms in your project, it is very unlikely that 100% of your male accessible restrooms have urinals (women aren’t big fans of seeing urinals). If this is the case, make sure the % listed on the template for % of male restrooms with urinals is accurate. Also, make sure that the FTE and Visitor counts listed for this credit are consistent with all of your other credits!

-EQ Credit 6.1: Lighting System Design and Controllability: One of the ways to provide lighting control to individual workstations is through the use of task lighting. The important thing to remember is that this task lighting must be provided as part of the project scope, not provided by the project owner at a later date.

-EQ Credit 8.2: Daylight and Views, Views: Remember that your views must be at a 42” seated height, unless you have a special circumstance such as a room where all activities will be done standing instead of seated. I often see project teams try to count views through a narrow light in a door. The reason that this does not work has nothing to do with the small size of the window, but rather the height of the window which is typically much higher than 42”. Also- remember to upload example sections showing this view at 42”. These sections seem to be forgotten more often than not. For more information on documenting this credit, see my post from April 9th.

LEED for Schools Specific Documentation:

-SS Prerequisite 2: Environmental Site Assessment: If a Phase I Environmental Assessment indicates the need for a Phase II Assessment (due to a likelihood of contamination) you must also upload documentation that the Phase II Assessment has been performed as well as a summary of any test results and recommendations for remediation activities. If remediation is recommended, you must then upload documentation that the remediation has been completed as well as a “ready for reuse” letter confirming that the site is no longer contaminated. If you do not have all of this documentation ready at the time of your design review submission you must defer this prerequisite.

– SS Credit 4.2: Alternative Transportation, Bicycles: Don’t forget to show the required bike baths, extending from your building to your property lines in at least two different directions!

-SS Credit 9: Site Master Plan: This credit has several moving parts. First, you have to verify that your project is attempting at least 4 out of the 7 listed credits (SS credits 1, 5.1, 5.2, 6.1, 6.2, 7.1 and 8). Then you have to describe the master plan that has been developed in conjunction with the school district and how this master plan will also abide by the 4 or more sustainable sites credits that you indicated you are pursuing. Finally, and this is often the kicker, you have to provide a site plan showing any proposed future additions or site modifications and confirm that the requirements of your 4 or more credits are still met given the additions/modifications. This means that your school district actually has to have some planned (or at least contemplated) future work, which is not always the case. Also, if you defer any of the 4 or more credits you are attempting as part of complying with this credit, you should also defer this credit because it will not be awarded until those 4 or more credits are as well.

-MR Prerequisite 1: Storage and Collection of Recyclables: Don’t forget the added LEED for Schools requirement- locate a collection area for landscaping debris.

Have you made some of these mistakes or seen other common issues? Leave a comment!


2 thoughts on “Common LEED Documentation Mistakes

  1. Hi, I have a question on the rating system selection:

    If project is a residential project, obviously all units will be sold out and developer doesn’t have the ownership. By right this should be under LEED CS rating, but owner registered NC in the beginning, when we take over, should we ask client to change the rating system or we still can use the current NC although this is not the best rating system for residential building? Thank you for your advice in front.


    1. Joy- most multi-family projects actually do use NC because although the units will eventually belong to individual tenants, the building developer usually designs the interior of the units including finishes and initially pays for the build-out of all of the units and then sells them as a finished unit. Core and Shell is really more geared toward office developments where the developer doesn’t design the tenant spaces or pay for any of the interior build-outs. So, unless your condos are being sold as unfinished spaces, I think you will be just fine sticking with NC. Let me know if you have any more questions!


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