Paul Hoppe

Propelled by government initiatives and client demand, the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is front and center in the burgeoning green building construction market. More than 16,000 buildings have obtained LEED certification through November 2008. Here, we examine the role lighting plays in the LEED process, along with how that role might change in 2009 and beyond.

GATHERING/OBTAINING/ACQUIRING POINTS To become LEED certified, buildings must earn a certain number of points in various credit categories laid out in the program checklist. Buildings that earn more points receive higher levels of certification: silver, gold, or platinum. Several programs make up the active LEED system, including LEED for New Construction (based on a total possibility of 69 points), Existing Buildings: Operation and Maintenance, Core and Shell, Commercial Interiors, Schools, Healthcare, and Retail. Many credits across the different LEED programs directly or indirectly affect a building's lighting design: energy performance, controllability of lighting systems, daylight and views, light pollution reduction, and innovation in design. This article solely focuses on LEED for New Construction Version 2.2.

Energy performance is a bucket of 10 credits that require building designers to meet energy-use standards. Designers must use a whole-building performance method to achieve the maximum number of points. This requirement fosters an integrated design approach. “It's been developed to encourage more discussion and trade-off between all the systems of the building,” says Jeffrey Boynton, an associate with Santa Barbara, Calif.–based lighting design firm Ann Kale & Associates and chairman of the Illuminating Engineering Society's sustainable lighting committee.

The controllability credit requires giving a percentage of a building's occupants control over light levels, which most easily is achieved by task lighting, says Nancy Clanton, who serves on a LEED Technical Advisory Group team and is president of Clanton and Associates in Boulder, Colo. The credit in part stems from Light Right Consortium (LRC) project manager Carol Jones' research on the benefits of personal lighting control. (The LRC is a research effort overseen by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and operated by Battelle, which manages labs for the DOE.)

Daylight and views are two separate credits requiring access to natural light and views to the outdoors for either 75 percent or 90 percent of a building's occupants. “It's getting people more illumination and is an opportunity to dim the electric lighting,” Clanton says.

The light pollution reduction credit requires designers to minimize light pollution and light trespass. “It came from a well-founded idea that shining light into the sky diminishes your ability to appreciate the night sky,” says Mark Loeffler, director of Atelier Ten's lighting design practice and founding co-chairman of the International Association of Lighting Designer's (IALD) energy and sustainability committee. The problem, he says, is that the credit was not written in concert with lighting professionals and the manufacturing design community, making it difficult to achieve.

The innovation in design credit offers points for going beyond the call of the stated requirements, similar to an extra credit project. Clanton says one way to earn this credit is to use lighting that is made of recycled materials or is regionally sourced, because lighting is exempt from the credits for using recycled or regional materials.

EQUAL REPRESENTATION There are important aspects of a lighting specification, such as lighting quality, that do not impact a building's LEED credits. “Lighting as a critical system in the built environment is underrepresented,” Loeffler says. “There's little acknowledgement of lighting as opposed to mechanical systems and their controls.” While some designers agree lighting is, for the most part, accurately represented by LEED, others say more input is needed from the lighting industry. The IALD and the USGBC are working to refine certain credits and perhaps add credits for lighting quality in future versions of LEED. But the future also will mean changes in the certification process, which could give lighting a larger role. LEED 2009, the program's third major iteration, was approved by USGBC members in November 2008 and will be introduced in March 2009. Projects no longer will need to be registered under the separate LEED systems. LEED 2009 will align credits for each type of construction and reweight them, creating a 100-point system more focused on climate change and energy efficiency.

While a LEED 4.0 is still a ways in the future, lighting designers predict it could overhaul certain lighting-related credits and even result in new credits, influenced by members of the lighting community.

Jeffrey Lee covers the apartment industry for units, the magazine of the National Apartment Association.