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SpecLink-E and LEED v4 Material Content Credits

Although sustainable materials content issues are not necessarily limited to the LEED rating system, this article is specifically about LEED v4 Materials Content credits and how to address them using SpecLink-E.

SpecLink-E sections containing provisions relating to sustainable materials content are:

Reading List

LEED v4 Material Content Credits

LEED v4 approaches materials content credits in a completely different way than previous editions of LEED. What were 8 MR credits for materials reuse, recycled content, regional materials, rapidly renewable materials, and certified wood, are now 6 credits (8 for Healthcare). There are new information submittals and higher thresholds. We highly recommend that you read and print for reference the portions of the rating system document that applies to these credits, which are:

In a nutshell, the concern about all of these credits is that at least one option involves knowing the total cost of permanently installed products, collecting detailed information on all of those products, and calculating what percentage meets the criteria for the credit. The minimum percentage is quite high -- 25-50%. In addition, the criteria involve some documentation that is not widely available, such as Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

DISCLOSURE: Each of the MR Credits offers two paths, one relatively easy, the other potentially impossible. The first is referred to as "Disclosure". The essence of disclosure is to use some products that have available the specified documentation, regardless of what the documentation says about the product. For instance, disclosure for the EPD credit involves using at least 20 different products for which environmental product declarations are available, from at least 5 different manufacturers. In theory, the design team could accomplish this through research and specifying proprietary products. The only criterion is whether the product has an EPD, not whether the product is "green" in any way. It could actually be toxic or something else bad and still meet the disclosure criteria. The other MR credits have similar low-threshold options.

OPTIMIZATION: The second option is "Optimization". The essence of optimization is to use a certain percentage of products that comply with specific characteristics demonstrated by the disclosure option documentation. For EPDs, the optimization option requires that 50% of all installed products demonstrate environmental impact below industry averages for 3 out of 5 impacts that would be documented in an EPD, such as global warming potential. Achievement of that option would first require that 50% had EPDs or equivalent documentation, then that they meet the criteria. The other MR credits have similar high-threshold options.

"Sourcing of raw materials" covers certified wood, recycled content, bio-based content, and reused materials, and gives extra "credit" for local sourcing within 100 miles of the project. "Material Ingredients" covers content that could adversely affect human health, with various types of documentation never before considered by LEED.

Considering that the optimization thresholds are so high and the documentation is not widely available, it probably is not possible at present to specify that the Contractor is to provide only products that meet the criteria. For instance, giving the Contractor a "goal" (requirement) to provide a minimum of 25% recycled content, even in combination with other types of content, could conceivably create an impossible situation -- an impossible specification requirement. Even if you do the research, find products, and estimate quantities and costs, you'll still need data on the actual products used -- information only the Contractor can collect.

Therefore, SL-E has been set up to address these credits assuming that the project team wishes to "pursue" these credits. What we mean by "pursue" is that you will specify submission of the necessary documentation and see what you get. This means that for each product the Contractor will be required to obtain the necessary documentation from the manufacturer. Very little of this documentation is contained in conventional product data submittals. Section 01 3329.04 Material Content Form lists all the items of documentation necessary to pursue all of the MR credits.


Exercise

Hypothesize a project. If you did so for the previous exercise, feel free to use the same one.

Assume your project is going to pursue as many of these credits as are applicable to the project type.

Read:

Open Section 013329 Sustainable Design Reporting:

Open Section 013329.04 Material Content Form:

Open Section 016000 Product Requirements:

Print all three sections and read them. Your objective is to thoroughly understand what each party to the contract is supposed to do. It might be helpful to make a flowchart.


Quiz

  1. The BSD SpecLink-E master database indicates which products:
    1. Have recycled content.
    2. Have rapidly renewable content.
    3. Are made of certified wood.
    4. Have low VOC content.
    5. All of the above.
    6. None of the above.
  2. A LEED project specification made using SpecLink-E defines minimum recycled content as a requirement that the Contractor must achieve.
    1. Yes.
    2. No.
  3. Submission of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for specific products is a requirement of LEED v4:
    1. For all products in the project.
    2. For all architectural products in the project.
    3. For 50% of all architectural products in the project.
    4. To achieve either option of the MR Credit Building Product Disclosure and Optimization - Environmental Product Declarations.
    5. None of the above.
  4. Which of the LEED v4 credits involves documenting the content of building products?
    1. Environmental Product Declarations.
    2. Sourcing of Raw Materials.
    3. Material Ingredients.
    4. Furniture and Medical Furnishings.
    5. Low-Emitting Materials.
    6. All of the above.
    7. Some combination of the above.
    8. None of the above.
  5. How many points does LEED v4 give for materials with recycled content?
    1. 1 point for a minimum of 5% by cost of the total cost of architectural products on the project.
    2. 2 points for a minimum of 10% by cost of the total cost of architectural products on the project.
    3. 1 point for a minimum of 25% by cost of the total cost of architectural products on the project, as one creditable aspect of content.
  6. LEED v4 includes 4 MR credits that involve "Building Product Disclosure and Optimization" options: In general, what is the difference between "Disclosure" and "Optimization"?
    1. Disclosure requires a lower threshold of proof than Optimization.
    2. Optimization is the next level up of after achievement of Disclosure.
    3. Disclosure proves that some products used on the project have certain documentation available; Optimization proves that a certain percentage of products used on the project meet the criteria that the documentation considers.
  7. How many points are possible for "Disclosure" type credits?
    1. 6.
    2. 3 (5 for healthcare).
    3. 8.
    4. None of the above.
  8. How many points are possible for "Optimization" type credits?
    1. 6.
    2. 3 (5 for healthcare).
    3. 8.
    4. None of the above.
  9. Which of the following categories of content can be combined for an "Optimization" credit?
    1. Bio-based content.
    2. Recycled content.
    3. Certified wood.
    4. Reused materials.
    5. All of the above.
  10. What is the LEED v4 definition of bio-based content?
    1. Rapidly renewable, such as fast growing plants, animal wool, etc.
    2. Raw materials, or made of raw materials, meeting the Sustainable Agriculture Networks' Sustainable Agriculture Standard.
    3. Certified by Forest Sustainability Council.
    4. None of the above.
  11. Under LEED v4, which of the following agencies are allowed to certify wood products?
    1. Forest Stewardship Council.
    2. American Tree Farm System.
    3. Canadian Sustainable Forest Management System.
    4. Sustainable Forestry Board Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
    5. All of the above.
    6. None of the above.
  12. How does SpecLink-E refer to what LEED v4 refers to as "certified wood"?
    1. As certified wood.
    2. As sustainably harvested wood.
    3. As chain-of-evidence wood.
    4. None of the above.
  13. Under LEED v4, regionally- or locally-sourced products are credited:
    1. Separately from other content issues.
    2. As one of the Optimization options, like recycled content and certified wood.
    3. As a multiplier for Optimization options.
    4. None of the above.
  14. What is the maximum distance from the project a product can be sourced to be considered locally-sourced?
    1. 500 miles.
    2. 100 miles.
    3. Some other distance.
  15. A Health Product Declaration (HPD) is one form of disclosure for:
    1. Sourcing of Raw Materials.
    2. Environmental Product Declarations.
    3. Global Warming Potential.
    4. Material Ingredients.
    5. Toxic chemical exposure.
    6. None of the above.
  16. The MR credit "Building Product Disclosure and Optimization - Material Ingredients" is mostly about:
    1. Preventing depletion of the ozone layer.
    2. Low emitting materials.
    3. Chemicals that could be toxic to people.
    4. None of the above.
  17. If the project is to pursue any of the MR Disclosure credits, which of the following would be the most effective approach:
    1. The design team does the research, chooses products that meet the criteria, and specifies them, as brand name products with no substitutions.
    2. The Contractor is given the responsibility to find products that meet the criteria that are specified.
  18. If the project is to pursue any of the MR Optimization credits, which of the following would be the most effective approach:
    1. The design team does the research, chooses products that meet the criteria, and specifies them, as brand name products with no substitutions; costs are obtained from the Contractor's Schedule of Values.
    2. The Contractor is given the responsibility to meet the threshold by finding and using products that meet the criteria that are specified, and to provide documentation.
    3. The Contractor is required to gather product data and costs from manufacturers, suppliers, and subcontractors, to show which of the relevant properties or disclosures each product has; the design team calculates whether the project has achieve the threshold.
  19. For any "Optimization" credits, why is it unlikely to be possible to simply pass the requirements on to the Contractor?
    1. Because the credit may be actually unattainable.
    2. Because the Contractor won't pay more for products that meet the criteria if he has any choice.
    3. Other.
  20. "Product Reporting Scope" refers to a list of product categories for which the Contractor is required to submit:
    1. Product Data submittals.
    2. Environmental Product Declarations.
    3. The Material Content Form.
    4. Test reports.
    5. None of the above.
  21. Under LEED v4, when a credit requires calculation of costs, which of the following categories of products are included in calculation of the total cost?
    1. All new products installed in the project.
    2. All products except mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire suppression, conveying systems, specialty equipment, and process equipment.
    3. All architectural products plus "passive" portions of MEP, etc., such as pipes, ducts, etc.
    4. Some other definition.
  22. Why does preparation of a spec for LEED v4 using SpecLink-E require knowing what the answer to the previous question is?
    1. Because that defines the "Product Reporting Scope" for the Contractor.
    2. So the Contractor knows how to calculate total cost and percentages.
    3. Other.
  23. Where are the definitions of recycled content, bio-based materials, certified wood, EPDs, HPDs, and related terms located?
    1. In Section 014216 Definitions.
    2. In Section 01 3329 Sustainable Design Reporting.
    3. In Section 01 6000 Product Requirements.
    4. In each relevant section in Divisions 2-33.
  24. Which of the following is not information requested on the Material Content Form?
    1. Product name and manufacturer.
    2. Source location.
    3. Total weight.
    4. EPD available.
    5. Wood content.
    6. Steel content.
    7. Steel mill source.
    8. Lead content.
    9. Formaldehyde content.
    10. VOC content.
    11. Product cost.
    12. Contractor's signature.
    13. Supplier name and signature.