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LEEDv5 Material Ingredients Credit – Background and Recommendation Report – November 2023

Introduction

HPD Collaborative (HPDC) appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with USGBC, and the LEED Material Ingredients participating programs[1], to provide a recommendation for the LEED v5 Material Ingredients (MI) credit. This recommendation is the result of a collaborative effort among material health ecosystem programs participating in the LEED v4/4.1 MI credit, together with project team representatives, manufacturers, partners, and additional experts who have committed their time and expertise over the past 6 months to develop a recommendation on how best to accelerate the adoption and scale of material ingredient transparency reporting and optimization in LEED v5.

This background document provides a brief situation analysis about experience with the Material Ingredients Credit in LEED v4/4.1and recent progress in material health practice, both of which have informed the recommendation presented here. This work builds on a similar collaborative effort, in 2018-2019, to develop a recommendation for the revision of the MI Credit in LEED v4.1. At that time, USGBC reviewed the group’s recommendations and incorporated a moderate overhaul of the MI Credit Option 2 in LEED v4.1 for BD+C and ID+C rating systems.

An important result of these earlier efforts was the development of a “harmonization matrix” that indicated equivalent levels of transparency reporting (aka “reporting”) and optimization performance across the various programs that participate in the LEED v4/4.1 Material Ingredients Credit.  We have continued to develop this concept during the subsequent years, with the goal of creating an industry standard approach to material health performance indicators for both transparency reporting and optimization.  This work has been conducted in HPDC technical committees, and more recently through the focused work of the material health ecosystem collaborative group formed this year specifically to develop recommendations for LEED v5. We have used these efforts as the basis for this recommendation.

Experience with and Learning from the LEED v4/4.1 Material Ingredients Credit

The Material Ingredients credit in LEED v4/4.1 is structured in two options:

Option 1, Material Ingredient reporting, has experienced significant increased utilization since the introduction of LEED v4.1.Over 60% of project teams now indicate that they are working with this credit, vs. under 10% just 4 years ago (before the release of v4.1). This increase reflects a growing familiarity with Material Health practice among project teams, the maturation of information tools available, and the rapid growth of building products (now numbering in the 1000s) with qualifying disclosure documents that meet the Option 1 requirements.

However, even with this strong progress, there is room for improvement. The requirements for the various compliance paths/tools currently included in Option 1 vary widely in terms of the degree of reporting and disclosure, what is to be reported and disclosed publicly, and methods governing the reporting and disclosure. These non-equivalent requirements can be conflicting and have led to confusion for project teams and for manufacturers.

By contrast, Option 2, Material Ingredient optimization remains significantly underutilized, with use still in the single digit percentages. Our analysis suggests that several issues are limiting its use:

  • Similar to Option 1, the requirements for alternative compliance paths/tools included in Option 2 vary significantly in methods, rigor, thresholds, and other aspects. These variations among programs represent meaningful differences in approaches to ingredient optimization. Diverse approaches are completely to be expected, and helpful to progress, at this relatively early stage of maturity in material health practices. However, feedback we have received indicates that the manydifferent and varying requirements are hard to navigate for both project teams and manufacturers. A simple, harmonized set of requirements would address this issue.
  • The GreenScreen Benchmark compliance path, which can use HPDs for documentation, requires the use of a 100 ppm reporting threshold for the entire content inventory. We have received feedback from many manufacturers who, despitetheir best efforts to obtain information from their suppliers, are unable to meet the 100 ppm threshold for 100% of the The current structure of Option 2 rewards no credit if the 100 ppm threshold is not met universally. An option that would reward significant optimization of ingredients, but not require 100 ppm universally, would encourage manufacturers to start on optimization where possible. An example of such a provision was made in LEED 2009 HC, which exempted inputs with ≤ 5% content from reporting requirements for MRc Furniture + Medical Furnishings.

Because of the difficulty of the requirements for Option 2, and relative ease of Option 1, often project teams and manufacturersfocus on Option 1, Reporting, and end their LEED material health journey there.

Recommendation – Material Ingredients Credit in LEED v5

Based on the experience with the MI Credit in LEED v4/4.1, we are suggesting a restructuring in LEED v5 that will update requirements to reflect the progress made in product disclosure and better incentivize product optimization, thereby pushing the market towards greater product optimization and supporting the LEED mission to continuously improve.  The foundation of this recommendation is the use of harmonized, automated tools – Transparency and Optimization Indicators and Harmonized Scoring Matrix – that will pre-calculate a product’s material ingredient performance across key transparency reporting andoptimization criteria and deliver:

  • Ease of use for any manufacturer or project team,
  • Simplification and streamlining of LEED documentation for project teams, and
  • A clear and achievable path for product and project material ingredient optimization in the Human Health impact category of the LEED v5 rating system.

Transparency and Optimization Indicators: Scoring for a product is measured from 0 to 10 “tokens” for both the Transparency Indicator and for the Optimization Indicator. Based on discussions with USGBC on the current LEED v5 concepts, it is proposed that a product would first need to achieve a “passing score” on the Transparency Indicator (by achieving a minimum token score, to be determined based on LEED goals), in order to proceed to the Optimization Indicator. It is proposed that the LEED Materials Credit Human Health pillar will have at least one level of Material Ingredient Optimization performance, again based on achieving a LEED-determined Optimization Indicator token score.We are recommending that creating a second, higher level of LEED credit, based on a higher token score on the OptimizationIndicator, would help incentivize both manufacturers and project teams to go further up the material ingredient optimization path.

Harmonized Scoring Matrix: An important feature of the Transparency and Optimization Indicators is that they harmonize equivalent levels of performance across the various programs that participate in the LEED Material Ingredients Credit. Underlying this capability is the Harmonized Scoring Matrix.  As noted in the Introduction section above, different programs take different approaches to both transparency reporting and optimization.  This is both a strength and a weakness of the MI Credit in LEED v4.1.  The proposed approach retains the strength – the richness of alternative program options – while addressing the weakness of confusing and sometimes conflicting program criteria.

The LEED v4/4.1 program representatives who collaborated to develop this recommendation thoroughly evaluated how to map the equivalent performance levels across the diverse criteria of their programs.  The result is reflected in the Harmonized Scoring Matrix and Transparency and Optimization Indicators.  They critically reviewed the comprehensiveness of different hazard screening lists, differences in assessment methodologies, whether a program certification required public disclosure, and more. This has resulted in harmonized definitions for transparency reporting and optimization performance — an accomplishment that has the potential to significantly accelerate material health adoption and forms the cornerstone of the Transparency and Optimization Indicators. The Harmonized Scoring Matrix contains all the detailed criteria for each participating program and maps the equivalent levels of performance that result in the awarded token scores.

The simplicity and harmonization built into the Transparency and Optimization Indicators and Harmonized Scoring Matrix providethe basis for any scoring strategy that is ultimately adopted for measuring material ingredient performance in the Materials Credit inLEED v5. By selecting different levels of token scores, LEED can easily specify the level of performance required for the Human Health credit.  Using these Indicators as the foundation, it would also be possible to add specific optimizations that are relevant to specific product categories, to adjust required performance levels, and to add project-level optimization measures.

Lastly, in order to maintain a challenging, but still achievable scoring system over time, we suggest integrating into the formulation of this credit an annual benchmarking process, which would review and revise the scoring system based on the progress industry is making toward greater transparency and greater optimization. Topics could include product segmentation, special conditions, or a small business exemption for third party verification. The goal would be to continue to reward the products that are improving and provide an incentive for others to not stay static or fall behind.

Recommendation: Use the proposed Transparency and Optimization Indicators and Harmonized Scoring Matrix to form the foundation of LEED version 5’s Materials Credit Human Health impact category scoring system. Customize transparency reporting and optimization requirements for each product category using the Transparency and Optimization Indicators. Create harmonized criteria for material health program performance levels using the framework of the Harmonized Scoring Matrix.

Implementation of this Recommendation

We would like to emphasize that project teams and manufacturers will not need to calculate Transparency and Optimization Indicator token scores using the Harmonized Scoring Matrix. Rather, the Matrix will work behind the scenes to calculate token scores so that project teams and manufacturers don’t have to. It is proposed that each reporting/rating/certification program that participates in the Human Health pillar of the Materials Credit would include both Transparency and Optimization Indicator token scores at the time the product report is published, or the product rating/certification is awarded. HPDC will commit to the ongoing maintenance of the Transparency and Optimization Indicators and the Harmonized Scoring Matrix through its HPD Open Standard governance process, and will provide, at no cost to USGBC, an online pre-check function that will provide complete documentation of the underlying program criteria and will enable anyone to access and understand the background calculations for the token scores. These tools will provide an easy, automated scoring system for products, and create a transparent, accessible framework that theentire material health community can use to continue the advancement of material health practice.

LEED project teams will interact with the MI credit scoring by simply gathering compliant documentation. Participating documentation from sources like HPDs, C2C certificates, Declare labels, etc., will have pre- calculated token scores that LEED project teams can enter directly into LEED Online, or that LEED Online could automatically tally through API integrations with these partners and their certification databases, or with other project management platforms, such as Green Badger.

Next Steps

Proposed credit language and the Harmonized Scoring Matrix will be shared in a separate document. HPDC staff, the ecosystem participants and the HPDC Technical Committee members welcome an opportunity to work with USGBC in any way that would behelpful to further develop this recommendation and continue to contribute to LEED v5 development. This moment is an important one for all of us working in the Material Health field within the Building Industry, with an opportunity for LEED, yet again, to play acritical role in leading the next step forward: turning concept into actionable practice. We are eager to work with USGBC to achieve these important objectives.

[1] LEED v5 Recommendation Programs and Participants: Annie Bevan and Steve Kooy (mindful Materials), Ren DeCherney (Cradle to Cradle PII), Doug Gatlin and Nina Huang (Green Seal), Daniel Huard (Global Green Tags), Mike Johnson and Hannah Ray (ILFI), Steve Kooy and Denise Van Valkenburg (BIFMA), Mark Rossi and Shari Franjevik (Clean Production Action), Wade Stout (UL), Rodolfo Perez and Nathan Stodola (IWBI), Janan Rabiah and Lynne Willis (Contract Textiles), Emily Busam, Cory White, Tristan Roberts, and Wendy Vittori (HPD Collaborative), Wes Sullens (USGBC)