Specifying for LEED v4 using SpecLink-E

Sustainable design criteria, whether voluntary or required by law, include provisions that have different types of solutions. If a particular design criterion is to be addressed by the construction or construction process, the solution must be incorporated into the Contract Documents for the project. Since the Contract Documents include two components, the construction drawings and the project manual, the question becomes where to show the solution. Some criteria are always and only shown on the drawings. Others are appropriately and completely described in the specifications without any reference to them on the drawings. Parts of some solutions appear both on the drawings and in the specifications. And some criteria are simply embodied in the design, without any specific indication that they are sustainable design.

SL-E users who have used the earlier versions of LEED checklists and forms will see that 1 new section and 2 new forms replace 5 sections and 8 forms. We wanted to build more flexible sustainable design tools that could accommodate other rating systems as well as further changes to LEED, so the Credit Summary approach has been discontinued. The forms have been revised because LEED v4 uses a completely different approach to material content credits like recycled content, regional materials, rapidly renewable, etc.

The SpecLink-E sections that a LEED v4 project is most likely to need are:

  • Section 01 3329 - Sustainable Design Reporting
  • Section 01 3329.04 - Material Content Form
  • Section 01 3329.07 - Prohibited Content Installer Certification
  • Section 01 5713 - Temporary Erosion and Sediment Control
  • Section 01 5721 - Indoor Air Quality Controls
  • Section 01 6000 - Product Requirements
  • Section 01 6116 - Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Content Restrictions
  • Section 01 9113 - General Commissioning Requirements
  • Section 01 9114 - Commissioning Authority Responsibilities

Many other sections address specific issues for specific products, such as very low-GWP refrigerants in every section that involves refrigeration, or sustainably harvested wood in Division 6 sections. By the end of the exercise below, you will have assembled a complete list of sections that your project needs to address LEED credits.

Reading List

Section 01 3329 - Sustainable Design Reporting

This section is the starting point for specifying for LEED. From the title it may sound like the section includes only administrative provisions, such as submittal procedures, but it is much more than that. It explains the importance of the sustainable design rating to the Contractor and subcontractors and why the Contractor and subcontractors need to pay attention. The section also functions as a preliminary checklist of sections that may be needed to specify provisions to achieve specific credits. Intelligent editing of this section requires familiarity with the applicable Rating System document and your project requirements.

Your first step is to open Section 01 3329 and read it. We suggest that you read it completely, including the notes to specifier, before beginning any edits.

Now to start editing, begin at the top at PROJECT GOALS. Select the first paragraph -- for LEED v4. Within this paragraph are several fundamental choices, some of which will determine how the intelligent linking operates. Click on each blue text item to display the options.

  1. Choose Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum.
  2. Choose the facility type: New Construction, Schools, etc.
  3. Choose "with furniture" or "without furniture". Choose "with furniture" if furniture is included in the construction contract and you need information from the Contractor for credit calculations. If the information needed for furniture calculations will be collected by another entity, choose "without furniture", no matter whether the furniture is in the construction contract or not.
  4. Choose whether the project will be pursuing the listed MR and EQ credits or not. Don't worry if you don't know the answer to this immediately. For now, select the last option -- "not pursuing...." After you've gained an understanding of what these credits involve, including the extensive reporting required, you may want to come back and change your choice.

At this point, a lot of text has been automatically activated. The next step is to finish editing the section. How you go about this is up to you, but we suggest that you start by reviewing the automatically activated paragraphs, including their note to specifier, to be sure that each provision is appropriate for your project. If not, simply click twice in the status box to turn it off (put an X in the box). You may find that if you X-out something that was automatically activated, some other paragraphs also turn off -- this may or may not be what you want to happen, so verify that.

After reviewing the activated text, go back to the top of the section and review the inactive paragraphs. Some will not be relevant, based on selections you have already made, such as credits that are applicable only to LEED Healthcare -- the notes may help you determine that. Others may not be relevant simply because they are optional, such as the Electronic Document Submittal Service.

For the time being, ignore "DEFINITIONS", "Product Reporting Scope", and "SUBMITTALS". These relate specifically to LEED v4 Material Content Credits and Low-Emitting Materials Credit, which you may or may not be pursuing.

When you get to PART 3 - EXECUTION, the second article begins the checklist that activates provisions in other sections. This is totally optional but if you don't use it, you'll have to go to each section and activate the provisions manually. Here also ignore Section 01 6000 and 01 6116 for the time being.

Choose all the provisions that are relevant to the credits your project is pursuing. Refer to your project Scorecard or, if the Scorecard is not yet complete, note on it which credits will be handled by the specs.

When you are finished selecting provisions in this checklist, we suggest that you print out the section. Each of the other sections you included in the list will need further edits to make them complete. The printed list will be reminder to you or others as to which sections need editing. Also, if you have questions about how the specification handles a credit, you can go to the section and read about it.

Sustainable Design Provisions In Other Sections

Open each section that's on the list in Section 013329. Many provisions will already be activated by green links -- now you need to finish editing the section. LEED will not be mentioned in any of these sections.

We suggest that you start in PART 2 PRODUCTS, because in most cases the section would not be needed at all if products didn't need to be specified. Do the same thing as you did for Section 013329 -- start by reviewing the automatically activated text, then start again and review the inactive text. Read the notes to specifier.

When you're done with PART 2, a lot of PART 3 EXECUTION will already be activated, as a result of selecting products.

Finally, go back to the top of the section and review PART 1 GENERAL. The article SUBMITTALS is where you may find a reference to "Sustainable Design Documentation". If so, that documentation is something necessary as evidence for a prerequisite or credit. In general, provisions for sustainable design documentation are included only if the documentation is something particular or unique to the section. For instance, documentation is called for when you select one of the options to substitute fly ash for Portland cement in concrete. Documentation of recycled content or the like is not called for in each section, because if you wish to pursue those credits Section 013329 covers those documentation requirements.


Choose a real project or hypothesize one. Obtain or fill out the LEED Scorecard. In the rating system document, read about the credits to be pursued. For each, determine whether it can be addressed in the specifications.

Read Section 013329 to see whether SpecLink-E contains any provisions that can address these credits.

Follow the steps described above to complete Section 013329 and other necessary sections.