This blog post is an update to my June 6th post, Two New LEED Pilot Credits Respond to COVID-19, describing that the U.S. Green Building Council has now added two additional Pilot Credits responding to the novel coronavirus. You may reasonably infer that I have posted an update (.. something I rarely do) because I believe the two new LEED pilot credits can contribute to a meaningful consideration of how to adapt to keep people safe in buildings and how to mitigate risk to owners of those buildings.  

America is reopening including physically opening its buildings and the U.S. Green Building Council has announced that LEED will play a role in confronting risk in the coronavirus pandemic era.

Last week Mahesh Ramanujam, the President & CEO of USGBC announced in a published letter that the “second generation at USGBC will focus on our relevant and reimagined vision: Healthy people in healthy places equals a healthy economy.” He acknowledged that in a post pandemic world,

unlike any other moment in the history of this organization, this crisis will require us to fully reimagine the spaces where we live, learn, work and play.”

In outlining a series of actions that the organization would undertake, “on an emergency basis, we will promptly release LEED pilot credits to support social distancing, nontoxic surface cleaning, air quality and infection monitoring.”

In announcing the first two LEED pilot credits, USGBC said, “Green buildings feature opportunities for creating more equitable, healthier, and supportive environments for construction workers, and in many locations, construction workers are considered essential. Here are resources related to planning and preventing worker exposure to COVID-19.”

LEED BD+C: New Construction v4.1 INpc136 Safety First: Re-Enter Your Workspace is a special pilot credit with a possible 1 point. Its stated intent is “to promote best practice requirements in operations and human behavior to take precautions against the spread of COVID 19” and that is accomplished using the AIA Re-occupancy Assessment Tool V1.0 creating a re-occupancy assessment and requirements for an operations plan and the drafting of a management and operations plan. It is a social science study that requires keeping a daily journal of plan implementation including answering questions like, “Are you in control of your life?”

LEED BD+C: New Construction v4.1 INpc137 Safety First: Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Space is a special pilot credit with a possible 1 point. Its stated intent is “to provide effective cleaning and disinfecting relative to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), during re-occupancy and during operations while minimizing adverse health impacts on cleaning personnel, building occupants and visitors; and the environment.” The credit requires creating a policy and practices that focuses on green cleaning that now must meet the guidelines of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency relative to COVID-19. This includes the procurement of cleaning and disinfecting products, procedures and training for cleaning personnel, occupant education, and services that are within the project and site management’s control.

LEED BD+C: New Construction v4.1 INpc139 The Safety First: Building Water System Recommissioning is a special pilot credit with a possible 1 point. Its stated intent is to reduce occupant exposure risks associated with degraded water quality in community and building water systems due to stagnant or low water use. Building and business closures reduce water usage that can potentially lead to stagnant water and water that is unsafe to drink or use. The credit integrates recommendations from industry organizations and others, including the EPA and CDC. It requires buildings to develop and implement a water management plan, coordinate with local water and public health authorities, communicate water system activities and associated risks to building occupants and take steps to address water quality from the community supply, as well as the building. This credit is important beyond only matters of the coronavirus, responding to a long term issue in LEED buildings, including having particular application in school buildings that are little used over weekends, and should cause a discussion of the unintended consequences of water use reduction.

LEED BD+C: New Construction v4.1 INpc138 The Safety First: Managing Indoor Air Quality During COVID-19 is a special pilot credit with a possible 1 point. Its stated intent is to promote precautionary best practices for managing air quality in buildings during the pandemic to minimize spread of COVID-19 through the air. Building owners should ensure indoor air quality systems are operating as designed and determine temporary adjustments to ventilation that may minimize the spread of COVID-19 through the air. Additional considerations include increasing ventilation and air filtration, physical distancing of occupants and following measures outlined in public health and industry resources, as well as guidance found in the Re-Enter Your Workspace Pilot Credit. The guidance also encourages monitoring and evaluating indoor air quality on an ongoing basis.

Each of these pilot credits require submittals that are a plan with follow up survey results so they are low first dollar cost credits.

USGBC has said, “these special pilot credits are awarded based on project teams attempting to meet the requirements to the best of their ability and providing feedback on the requirements. The credits may change as feedback is received.”

Additionally, on June 10th Arc, an affiliate of the USGBC announced it has launched Arc Re-Entry in response to COVID-19. Arc Re-Entry is a set of tools that can be used to document and benchmark infection-control policies and procedures, collect and analyze related occupant experiences and measure and track indoor air quality around factors such as carbon dioxide, relative humidity and particulate matter.

In most places in America building did not stop as construction was an essential business and now nearly everywhere construction sites are operating. Green building is a subset of that essential real estate sector.

While much is still being discovered about this novel coronavirus we believe the best approach to keeping people safe and mitigating risk to owners of buildings is to employ a variety of interventions. In our personal law offices we trust in technology and innovation and never closed our offices, but rather adapted our operations, by way of example having stopped recirculating indoor air, increased airflow, and introduced UV light as key strategies in our coronavirus warfare. Last month I posted COVID 19 Commercial Building Liability responding to the many questions we have received from commercial real estate owners are questioning if they can be liable for damages when someone, whether an employee of the business tenant or someone else, claims to have contracted COVID-19 at their building?

If we can assist you in mitigating the risk in the coronavirus pandemic operation of your real estate business including adapting your operations in a reopening plan, that may include the two newest Pilot Credits, or otherwise with an environmental matter, we are ready to help you.