LEED Certification

LEED v4.1 Definition & When to Expect Its Implementation

An introduction to the newest version of LEED

LEED v4.1 Definition & When to Expect Its Implementation

In a world that is constantly evolving, one of the hallmarks of the LEED green building rating system is “continuous improvement.” The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), who created the LEED standards, debuts a new version of the standards every few years to reflect where the building industry has grown and to explain best practices for continuing to move the needle. We are currently operating on LEED Version 4, but there has been much talk of an updated version called LEED v4.1. 


Is LEED v4.1 available now for accreditation?  No, but LEED v4 is!  Get training now

Why should you care?  Because it’s the future of green building. Keep reading! 

If you’re new to LEED and want to get caught up on this topic, please take a moment to visit our Getting Started With LEED overview series, where we’ll define LEED, explain how it’s used, identify who uses it, and the benefits of earning a LEED professional credential. But for now, we’re going to discuss the future of LEED and what we can look forward to in LEED Version 4.1.

With each new version, LEED raises the bar to increase the impact on our built environment. USGBC has also been working to ensure that LEED not only meets different geographic market needs but also that the rating system accelerates the speed with which that market moves.

This incremental step from LEED v4 to LEED v4.1 is key in achieving the goal of green buildings and communities for all within a generation and is built on the concept of “all buildings in.” With that guiding mantra, USGBC has decided to focus its LEED v4.1 efforts on one particular building sector to begin with. They have decided to start with the existing buildings market—those buildings that are occupied and in use right now, already impacting the lives of many people.

For existing buildings, LEED v4.1 will be new, improved and agile to make it easier for every type of existing building to achieve LEED certification or be on a path to do so.

How is LEED v4.1 Different from LEED v4?

Unlike LEED Version 4, which completely updated the LEED rating system in 2014 compared to 2009 levels, LEED v4.1 is not a full version change. Instead, it is the next evolution for the rating system, using the existing credit requirements as a foundation.

LEED v4.1 is an update focused on the implementation, applicability, and agility of LEED. As a consensus-based system, the new LEED version largely is a result of feedback provided by construction stakeholders and green building project teams.

The goals of this update are to:

  • Address market barriers and lessons learned from LEED v4 project teams.
  • Update performance thresholds and reference standards to ensure LEED remains the global leadership standard for green buildings.
  • Expand the marketplace for LEED.
  • Improve performance throughout the life of buildings.
  • Reward leaders based on their performance and incorporate performance reporting to enable building owners to track progress toward environmental, social, and governance goals.

What’s New in LEED v4.1?

In LEED v4.1, the rating system is simplified. The scorecard and requirements are streamlined, and new methodologies for tracking and rating performance are integrated directly into the rating system, providing a clear framework for achieving LEED certification, not just for entire buildings, but for spaces within buildings as well.

Here’s a quick summary of updates:

  • Performance will be integrated and will use the performance score on the Arc platform.
  • Prerequisites will be streamlined for energy, water, indoor air quality, and basic policies (site, purchasing and smoking).
  • International standards will be added or updated wherever appropriate.
  • Strategies will be linked to the performance indicators they improve.
  • Language will be added to LEED O+M to address interiors spaces.

With LEED v4.1 O+M, an initial certification will be awarded to projects based on the implementation of sustainable operational strategies and performance score achievement in LEED Online.

The resulting points for performance will translate into a LEED certification level.

When is LEED v4.1 Coming?

Despite USGBC’s messaging that “LEED v4.1 is here,” good things take time. Here’s a quick overview of the action:

Nov. 2017 – Attendees of the Greenbuild Conference & Expo got an introduction to LEED v4.1.

Jan. 2018 – USGBC announced its LEED v4.1 goals and expectations for each rating system.

Mar. 2018 – USGBC made the beta guide, credit library, scorecards, and summary of changes available.

In a recent email dated 9/24/18, USGBC shared that an official roll out date for LEED v4.1 has not yet been determined. The standard is currently in beta, which means that project teams can review the changes and try them out on their projects. During this time, LEED v4 is open for use by all projects. By slowly introducing LEED v4.1 concepts, USGBC can encourage engagement with the rating system and get feedback from stakeholders.

The standard will likely go through the official process of public commenting in the first quarter of 2019. This timeframe is subject to change. The v4.1 standard will also go through a ballot process before the final version can come out.

It remains to be seen whether LEED O+M v4.1 will roll out on its own or in conjunction with 4.1 versions of all the LEED rating systems.

Which LEED Exam Should I Take?

It’s important to note that, as of this post’s publication, the LEED v4.1 standard only affects LEED Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance and would therefore potentially only impact the LEED AP O+M exam. However…

Please note that all LEED exam candidates are required to first take and pass the LEED Green Associate exam before they can pursue the advanced LEED AP O+M exam. The LEED Green Associate exam is still operating under LEED v4 and is currently available, so there is nothing stopping you from satisfying this prerequisite now. To educate yourself on the exam concepts, you should enroll in a LEED Green Associate Exam Prep course and spend 2-3 weeks studying the course materials and practice questions.

After you’ve passed the LEED Green Associate exam, you can start thinking about the LEED AP O+M exam.

The LEED AP O+M exam won’t change until the v4.1 rating system is officially released, which has a to-be-determined date.

Should you wait to take the LEED AP O+M exam? Not at all! There are thousands of old buildings in need of modern sustainability retrofits, and there is nothing stopping you from putting yourself on the path to improving those buildings.

Here’s what we recommend that you do now:

  • Study & sit for the LEED Green Associate v4 exam
  • Study & sit for the LEED AP O+M v4 exam
  • Gain LEED project experience and familiarize yourself with some of the new LEED v4.1 requirements
  • Consider researching LEED v4.1 or enrolling in a course about LEED v4.1 and count those hours toward your mandatory LEED Credential Maintenance training!

For more information about how you or your building projects will be impacted by LEED v4.1, please give us a call at (800) 460-2575.

About Lesley Baulding

Lesley has been passionately advocating for and working with green building and renewable energy since 2009. She has experience with LEED certification, home energy auditing, blower door testing, solar energy, and more. She holds many certifications, including LEED Green Associate and NABCEP Certification. Her work has won numerous awards over the past decade.