USGBC Launches New Strategy For Constructing & Operating Building Post Pandemic

The whole world is reacting to the pandemic, and the green building industry is no exception. Here's how the USGBC is adapting to COVID-19.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced in May a new strategy to use the LEED standard as a tool to improve living conditions in a post-pandemic world. LEED is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the most widely used green building rating system in the world.

The document, titled Healthy People in Healthy Places Equals a Healthy Economy, asserts that caring for the environment and caring for people’s health go hand-in-hand, and these two factors are the fastest, most effective way to boost global and local economies shaken by COVID-19-related lockdowns.

Reacting to Rapid Change

The biggest immediate changes are adjustments to the current version of the LEED standard v4.1. The USGBC states that these updates are intended to “support indoor environmental quality, cleaning, occupant comfort, operations, better materials and risk management.”

The USGBC also announced the release of new Safety First LEED pilot credits to address “social distancing, nontoxic surface cleaning, air quality and infection monitoring.” These credits include two designed to address cleaning and occupying a space: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space, and Re-enter Your Workspace.

Two more pilot credits address the safety of the water supply and air quality in buildings that have been shut down for weeks on end: Building Water System Recommissioning and Managing Indoor Air Quality During COVID-19. Each of these credits apply to the LEED 2009, LEED v4 and LEED v4.1 guidelines. The USBGC site has details on each of these individual credits as well as two credits for the Cities and Communities rating system, although those last two likely won’t impact most individual projects.

An Ongoing Process

It’s important to note that these credits may change as new studies shed light on best practices. To this end, the USGBC announced a Call for Ideas and asked regional CEO Advisory Councils to explore additional ways to assist the industry and the population they serve.

As the world passes through this period of reopening, pulling back and opening again to respond to the pandemic, USGBC has pledged to promote best practice guidance reports to help smooth the transition as occupants re-enter their spaces.

By making these changes and accelerating existing programs such as the USGBC Equity Program (launched in 2019), the minds behind LEED hope to show how green building practices can improve the environment and global health conditions, as well as boost economies. And that, as USGBC President and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam says, will “help rebuild public trust, stimulate the economy and ultimately bring about a healthier standard of living for all.”

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Dan Stout
Ohio-based freelance writer and author Dan Stout is a former residential remodeler, commercial site supervisor and maintenance manager. He’s worked on nearly all aspects of building and DIY including project planning and permitting, plumbing, basic electric, drywall, carpentry, tiling, painting and more. He also publishes noir fantasy thrillers, including The Carter Series, from Penguin imprint DAW Books.