Some LEED credits are simple to achieve, but others pose a greater challenge.
LEED v4 EPD Optimization and Material Ingredient Optimization credits that fall under the Building Product and Disclosure Optimization (BPDO) group are associated with the latter. Strict requirements have steered project design teams away from pursuing those credits. While the credits may seem daunting, USGBC has listened to feedback and eased the requirements for v4.1.
Under LEED v4.1, the EPD Optimization credit is earned through recognition of products that have a Life Cycle Impact Reduction Plan. This plan identifies the largest life cycle impacts and methods for reduction. The Material Ingredient Optimization credit is earned by selecting products with a compliant material ingredient optimization report or action plan.
Although these credits may be easier to achieve, there are only a handful of products in the current market that meet the criteria. Products that have been credited with sustainable certifications through third-party verifications can earn points under the Material Ingredient Optimization credit. Good examples are products with a Health Product Declaration, Cradle-to-Cradle designation, Material Health Ingredient Report, or a Declare label and meets the LEED threshold requirements for such certifications.
Now how can these points be pursued?
First and foremost, it is critical to discuss the point criteria during preliminary stages with the design team. Due to the limited number of products meeting the criteria, all stakeholders need to be informed as early as possible to ensure an informed decision from the LEED consultants, contractors, architects, etc. can be made. This promotes the use of such materials by informing decision makers of the value and market potential. By utilizing sustainable products, project sites will achieve larger carbon emission reductions and minimize their life cycle impacts by reducing their global warming potential.
After communicating with the architects, project teams should confirm products are specified and documented. This ensures that, regardless of changes in the project’s design, products specifically integrated within the site meet LEED BPDO thresholds. Lastly, documentation can occur through databases like UL Spot, Mindful Materials, and Transparency Catalog.
Why is it so important to go for this credit?
Since not many products currently meet the environmental thresholds, there is an opportunity for the sustainability community to push for an increase in product transparency in the supply chain. If more products disclose their environmental impact, builders and consumers can make informed decisions about the products they use. This transparency can lead to greater supply chain accountability and help identify areas where improvements can be made. Plus, consumers can make informed decisions about the products they use, which can lead to increased demand for sustainable products.
Furthermore, BPDO credits encourage innovation and development in sustainable products. Promoting the use of such materials, LEED incentivizes manufacturers to develop products that have a lower environmental impact. The more we discuss these BPDO credits, the more awareness the supply chain will have, which can prompt an increase in material transparency. This would result in the development of new and innovative products that do not have high global warming impacts or an increase in materials that meet the Cradle-to-Cradle thresholds. The demand for sustainable products can also lead to greater investments in research and development, resulting in new products with low life cycle impacts.
These credits are a critical aspect of the LEED program, and their implementation is essential for the continued growth of sustainable building practices. Promoting the use of sustainable products and encouraging transparency and innovation in the construction industry pushes us one step closer to a more sustainable world. If there is confusion about which products meet these requirements, consulting companies such as VCA Green can assist you in ensuring your project design satisfies LEED BPDO credit requirements.
Moe Fakih, Principal
Robyn Vettraino, Principal
Contributing Writer: Safa Bari, Assistant Project Manager