Now that I have used LEED Online v3 to document a few projects, I thought I would give a quick rundown of of some of the differences between LEED Online v2 and v3 as well as some of the issues that I think they still need to resolve.
LEED Online v2:
Since this is the version I have used for over 30 projects, I am very familiar with this version of the LEED Online infrastructure. V2 is, for the most part, workable. There are occasional problems with LEED letter templates (the form that needs to be filled out for every prerequisite and every credit that is being attempted) being buggy- sometimes they do not load properly or do not load at all, other times, even if you filled out the form exactly correctly, the form will not show any “points documented” at the bottom of the form. Team administration was pretty simple, you invited team members to join the project through an email, and when the did, you could assign them a “role” (architect, mechanical engineer, contractor, etc.) and then assign them to various credits by assigning each credit to a specific role. Overall, my three biggist problems with LEED Online v3 were:
- Painfully Slow. Actions in LEED Online such as attempting a credit or accessing a letter template often take minutes to complete. If you’re familiar with this version of LEED Online, I am sure you are also familiar with the lovely box that often pops up warning you that your action will take 3 or even 5 minutes. I can’t even begin to quantify the amount of time I have wasted waiting on LEED Online.
- No communication between credits. When doing a review of all uploaded documentation before submitting it for review, one of the main tasks in LEED Online v2 is making sure that documentation between credits is consistent. Did all the consultants use the same square footage and FTE numbers for the project? Did everyone use the same version of the project drawings? Addenda and revisions to drawings showing minor changes are a nightmare, because you have to make sure you update the changed drawings in all credits that are using it. Even with a thorough review it is easy to miss inconsistencies and these inconsistencies often leed to review comments that will need to be addressed later.
- Site bugs and unavailability. It is not rare in LEED Online v2 to run across the bugs I mentioned above or to simply get an error saying the site is unavailable. This is immensely frustrating when you’re trying to get all of your documentation uploaded and ready for a review!
LEED Online v3:
LEED Online v3 launched in 2009 with the roll-out of the LEED 2009 rating systems. It bears noting that USGBC/GBCI has set up a hotline for technical assistance with LEED v3 in large part due to a large volume of complaints about the site being extremely unstable during the first few months it was available. It was actually so bad that I stopped doing live demos of the site when I was teaching classes about LEED because it was so unstable and the “forms” for the prerequisites and credits would never seem to load correctly. The good news is that they have made some adjustments and the site seems to be much more stable these days. Unfortunately, Firefox still cannot be used to access LEED Online v3, although they have been assuring me for the past year that they are working on it.
- Hallelujah- the prerequisites and credits now “communicate”! I only have to enter my FTE and visitors numbers, building square footage, parking spaces, etc. once and this info automatically gets pulled into the appropriate credits and prerequisites. The same thing goes with drawings and other documentation- once I upload something once, it is available for use in other credits.
- The “uploads” section for each credit has been improved- instead of just having a generic upload box for each prerequisite/credit there is an upload box for each piece of required documentation specific to each prerequisite/credit. It will actually tell you to upload a site plan or product cutsheets if that is what is required. This can be very helpful for team members who may be working their way through their first or second LEED project and don’t necessarily have the required uploads memorized.
- Team management has improved in some aspects- you can now assign people by name, instead of by role, to various credits and you can also now assign multiple people to the same credit when the responsibility for documentation is shared.
- LEED Online v3 has an option for “Licensed Professional Exemption” which allows some licensed professionals such as architects and engineers to use a “streamlined” documentation approach. I’ve put this in the “good” category because I think that it’s at least an interesting concept, but in practice the “streamlined” documentation does not seem to much less detailed than the “full” documentation, so I am sort of still on the fence about how helpful this is.
- The site is still unstable at times and has periods of unavailability and problems loading forms from time to time.
- The site still has slower response times than I would like, but these have improved somewhat from v2- I don’t feel quite so much like I am growing old waiting for the site to respond with v3.
- The site navigation is anything but intuitive. Especially annoying to me is the inability to use your web browser’s “back” button to return to the project scorecard when you are in a credit overview page or the team administration section.
- Several credits now require multiple team members to initial boxes as a “required signatory” on the same credit form. In some cases, this means up to four people have to access and fill out part of the same form for it to be complete. I understand that they are doing this to ensure accountability of various team members for complicated credits, but it can make coordination a bit of a nightmare. Couldn’t a sort of “attestation” page be generated for each team member depending on what credits have been attempted? That way each person could simply sign in one place.
I think they’ve made some worthwhile improvements in the new version of LEED Online, but there are aspects of it that are still very frustrating. It makes me wonder if they designed the site from a GBCI reviewer’s standpoint rather than a LEED project team’s standpoint. I would love to see them take a proactive stance and talk to users through focus groups or other means rather than just dealing with potentially irate users through the site’s phone hotline. I’m sure a lot of us who use the system on a daily basis could give some great feedback and suggestions on how we think the system could be improved. For instance, as someone who reviews all of the documentation before it gets submitted, it would be extremely helpful for the site to have any option where I could download a PDF of all of the uploaded documentation all at once instead of having to access each prerequisite or credit one by one.
Do you have any experiences with LEED Online v3? Do you like it? Dislike it? Have any suggestions for improving it? I’d love to hear from you!