The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has unveiled a series of major process improvements to its LEED(R) (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) green building rating system, including a significantly streamlined documentation and certification process that's now 100 percent online. A direct result of market surveys and extensive dialogue with the organizations and individuals who use LEED, USGBC anticipates the changes to the LEED process will reduce the time and cost of LEED certification.

"The LEED process innovations are the culmination of a year's work carried out by a lot of dedicated people," said Tom Hicks, vice president of LEED, USGBC. "Gone are the days when project teams were required to submit binders of documentation, requiring hours of manual preparation. The biggest advancement is that now the LEED process is entirely online, making it easier for project teams to manage."

The refinements are thanks, in large part, to a technical partnership between USGBC and Adobe. "Without Adobe's partnership, USGBC never would have been able to implement this upgrade as quickly and seamlessly," said Hicks.

Hicks noted that, "The technology actually enhances our ability not only to capture LEED project data, but to store it, analyze it, and use it to continue to strengthen LEED. Our users told us they wanted something easier to use and accessible online, and we have met and, we hope, exceeded their expectations with these refinements."

LEED process innovations will make the documentation and certification process more user friendly without diminishing the technical rigor and quality of LEED that the community has come to expect. The LEED credit requirements themselves have not changed, and project teams are still required to verify their achievements through third party validation and ensure that the building is built as it was designed.

Additional LEED process refinements include:

Design and Construction Phase Submittals - Project teams will have the option to submit documentation in two separate phases for new construction projects: first for the design phase, and then the construction phase. This two-part submission mirrors the way project teams work, and gives the team an interim opportunity to ensure that the project is on track for its certification goals.

Instruments of Service - Documentation requirements have been aligned with existing instruments of service.

Building in a Feedback Loop - In addition to improved customer service throughout the LEED process, USGBC is taking steps to make customer feedback and interaction an integral part of that process.