In what has been unofficially called LEED 2012, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) opened the first public comment period from November 8, 2010 to January 14, 2011 for the next version of the LEED rating system.  Yes, that means the first public comment period closes this Friday.

According to the USGBC’s LEED Rating Development page, the "next version of LEED will be an update and expansion of the technical content from LEED 2009. Your comments help to ensure that LEED continues to be at the vanguard of innovative design construction and operation of buildings and communities. It is expected to be released in late 2012."  A second public comment period is scheduled for July 1 through August 15, 2011.

I have not digested all of the new draft, but there are some noteworthy changes.  First, the LEED 2009 has 9 prerequisites and 49 credits, while the new draft has 15 prerequisites and 49 credits.  Second, there are now 10 different categories in the new draft, as opposed to 7 categories in the prior versions.  The three new categories, as well as some changes and additions to the existing categories, are explained in more detail below:

Integrated Process (IP) This new category is intended to support and encourage project team integration required by a LEED project and to streamline the application and certification process. In addition to the LEED AP being involved in the project, there must be two individuals representing primary disciplines on the project who are LEED APs or Green Associates.
Location and Transportation (LT) This new category consists of credits from the old Sustainable Sites category that relate to the location of the project.  It also includes provisions such as a bicycle storage prerequisite, a reduced automobile use credit, a new parking reduction credit (that replaces the old parking capacity credit), and a walkable streets credit (taken from LEED Neighborhood Development).
Sustainable Sites (SS) Language has been added to clarify Brownfield Redevelopment to require actual remediation of the site to meet local, state or federal cleanup standards.  Other revisions are recommended to the Protect or Restore Habitat and the Open Space credits.  The two stormwater credits from LEED 2009 have been rolled into one credit called Rainwater Management. The requirements for Light Pollution Reduction include a new calculation method.
Water Efficiency (WE)

Although a couple credits are renamed, much of the requirements are unchanged.  The new Landscape Water Use Reduction prerequisite applies to projects with a minimum of 1,000 square feet of exterior vegetated surface area and applies to all irrigation water, regardless of source. Another new Appliance and Process Water Use Reduction prerequisite seeks to reduce the burden on water supply and wastewater systems by increasing the water efficiency of appliances and water-consuming processes.  Finally, there is a new credit for Cooling Tower Makeup Water, which seeks to conserve water used for cooling tower makeup while controlling microbes and corrosion in the water system.

Energy and Atmosphere (EA) There are some wording changes and revisions to threshold requirements throughout this category. Notably, refrigerant management prerequisites for all rating systems have been eliminated. The Minimum Energy Performance prerequisite changes how energy costs and savings are calculated, while the Optimize Energy Performance credit changes some of its metrics and requires that modeling be used in design as opposed to performance compliance. Finally, a new credit for Demand Response is intended to reduce regional carbon emissions and improve optimization of electric generation, transmission and distribution resources.
Materials and Resources (MR) Some of the wording of the provisions in this category have changed, but most of the requirements remain the same as in the LEED 2009 provisions.  Recycled Content is now a prerequisite and also has changes to its credit requirements. Construction and Demolition Waste Management Planning is another new prerequisite. Finally, one new credit is available for Whole Building Reuse, which focuses on historic preservation or reuse of abandoned or blighted buildings.
Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) The most notable change in this category transforms the Construction IAQ Management Plan into a prerequisite.  Low Emitting Interiors is a new credit that addresses the material concentrations of contaminates.  The interior is now split into five systems (floors, ceilings, walls, insulation and furniture) for credit calculations.  Also, the Daylight and Quality Views credits have major revisions. Finally, a credit for Acoustic Performance under LEED-Schools is now available for LEED-New Construction.
 Performance (PF)  This category has a new prerequisite for Water Metering and Reporting, which intends to promote water efficiency by providing accurate consumption data to building managers. Notably, there is a another new prerequisite for Building-Level Energy Metering, which is set up to meter, track and share building-level energy resource use. On such way is to participate in the USGBC’s Building Performance Partnership for a five year period. The Fundamental Commissioning and Verification prerequisite adds some major commissioning agent tasks from EA category.  Finally, there are some additional provisions to address the verification provisions of LEED 2009 under the new Reconcile Projected and Actual Energy Performance credit, the intent of which is to provide for the ongoing accountability of the building energy consumption over time.
 Innovation (IN) Most changes to the Innovation credit involve changes in wording, such as dropping the "design" from its title and other provisions.  For LEED-Schools, the project can now achieve up to 4 points for innovation.
Regional Priority (RP) The Regional Priority credits, which are identified by regional councils and chapters, now include priorities social equity and public health.  A database of these credits is available on the USGBC website.

Image: suttonhoo