LEED Reviews: Give Yourself 4-6 Months!

Some of you may be aware that the USGBC recently announced that they will be outsourcing the certification of buildings. RealLifeLEED is here to tell you that this is probably a good thing, given the delays in reviews I've experienced in the past few months. The press releases will imply that this is because the USGBC is striving to meet ANSI/ISO/ETC. standards, but my guess is that the real reason is that it's having a hard time scaling up as all those registered projects are finally coming through the certification process. This is great news from a "shifting the industry towards sustainability" standpoint, but not so great if you have an owner who wants that plaque yesterday! Please understand I post the following not to gripe about LEED, but to make you professionals understand the length of time you need to allot in your schedules for this process, especially if you're splitting design and construction reviews...

On my most recent project submitted for a design review, THERE WAS A DELAY OF 6 WEEKS AND 4 DAYS BEFORE THE REVIEW EVEN BEGAN!

The Long March to Certification

It started early this year, when I submitted a design review mid-January 2008. I soon got an email back indicating that "due to a backlog from the holidays compounded by capacity issues, your project's review has not yet started... this may take up to two weeks." To be clear, this means there's two weeks before the 25-day review periods begins, to which the USGBC asked in a further email for an additional two weeks (35 day review period). Then you get the comments back and have 25 business days to make any requested changes (if any... but there's bound to be a few). Then they go through the final review phase incorporating those comments, and issue your final review points. You can then accept or appeal those points on an individual basis. I just accepted the review, so I can't tell you how long the appeal process takes.

To sum up, here's how that all timed out for me in the first project:

  • RealLifeLEED Submits for Design Review
    • Jan 15 - Zero Hour!
  • Design Review Commences
    • Feb 4 - 2 weeks, 6 days after zero hour
  • Design Review First Comments Received
    • Mar 24 - 9 weeks, 6 days after zero hour (35 business days after review commenced)
  • RealLifeLEED Resubmits Project Incorporating Comments
    • Apr 9 - 12 weeks, 1 day after zero hour
  • Final Design Review Comments Issued
    • May 30 - 19 weeks, 3 days after zero hour!
  • Rinse and Repeat for Construction Review!

So you can now see how it takes time to get through the review process. Given the six week delay on the currently under review, we're looking at a schedule around 23-24 weeks long assuming the rest of the process proceeds as quickly as the January project did.

If you're perfect, you could cut off a significant amount of time by not needing any clarifications and accepting the initial review, but I sure as hell wouldn't guarantee the client that I could make that happen. I've been a supporter in the past of separating the design and construction review, but I'm starting to doubt that that's a wise choice. Please share your thoughts (and delay experiences) in the comments section!


Anonymous said...

Question: Who are these reviewers? Are they regionally choosen based upon proxicimity to the projects? Are they experts in that field?
In other words, if I have a project in Los Angeles will the reviewer for EA C1 be a CEM from southern California?

Katy said...

HELP! I need LEED project management software--and I don't mean mere templates! Is there anything out there?

Billy said...

I am curious to see what the answer is from the question posed by "Anonymous". I am just starting my first LEED EB project and am fielding questions like this that I cannot answer.

joelmckellar said...

My understanding is that there is a geographic separation between the project and the reviewer to avoid reviewers knowing the people involved in the projects, but I'm not 100% on that. I've always been told that you should operate on the assumption that the reviewer is knowledgeable in the field the credit applies to (mechanical engineering, landscaping, etc.) but has no knowledge about local codes, climate, etc. This is why you're required to submit a fair amount of summary drawings, narratives, etc.

I can say this for sure, you will never have any direct access to your reviewers. You can't call them up, send them an email, ask them anything, etc. You will only receive whatever comments they leave on LEED-Online. You do have access to a certification coordinator from the USGBC, but they won't relay a message for you or anything.

Katy - I'm not aware of any LEED specific software available on the market...

Anonymous said...

I am studying for the LEED exam and was wondering what
the legal implications of 'leeding' a project to certification:(I asked the same question the AREforum)

performance of systems
construction delays due to leed related paperwork
cost issues not related to certification

scenario: during design phase the LEED AP recommends items A+B+C
which cost 'X' . items are specified
then during construction item A did not take into account item D therefore will cost X+y..

Now who's responsible?

Does the NC 2.2 reference manual cover the LEED scope of work and responsibilities? Are these issues addressed anywhere? Are there contract forms available to LEED AP??

joelmckellar said...

Anonymous (the second one)...

Start here: 4specs discussion post on "Liability Issues for AE with LEED"

Anonymous said...

Our firm, who reviews LEED projects through a contract with USGBC, is a large A/E firm. We have LEED APs on staff to review any credit needed. Prior to receiving a review, we are given enough information about the applicant and project to be able to tell USGBC that there is no conflict of interest. Geographical location of project and reviewer are typically not addressed. Some in our group have reviewed coast-to-coast and beyond...

John G said...

I am looking for a LEED Project Manager that can accomplish EB Certification in the Washington, DC area. Any suggestions?

chrisg said...

Katy (et al),
There is brand new LEED project management software application available at: www.gbworkbench.com.

joelmckellar said...


Went to your website and am very interested in seeing your product! Any time frame available for it's release?


chrisg said...

Hi Joel,
I will have a demo available on the site with a week or two.

The software is technically in beta (i.e. almost ready for prime-time), and is currently being used by a client to manage over 25 projects - so we are starting to run it through it's paces.

I am interested in talking to other individuals/firms who might be interested in using the software - even in its current beta form. If anyone is interested, please visit my website and click on the 'Contact Us' link.


Anonymous said...

I am working as the LEED Manager for a construction company that is using specs written with v2.1 to certify a building under v2.2. Yeah, its not too fun.

Does anyone know how long a typical building flush-out takes for a 20,000 sf building under v2.2? Our specs are calling for a 2-week flush-out, and I’m afraid that the 14,000 cf of O/A per sf of floor area in v2.2 will take longer than 2 weeks, although we haven’t ran the calcs yet.

Any advice? Please?

Anonymous said...

The HVAC designer for that project would have the best idea. He knows how many cfm each unit can move.

Anonymous said...

While the contractor will carry out and document the flush out, the engineer needs to perform the calc. to determine how long it will take.

Anonymous said...

When submitting for Design Review, is it true that you cannot have any construction phase credits attempted? This seems crazy. Do I have to unattempt all the credits, I've assigned and downloaded the blank forms for in order to submit just the credits marked Design phase? Thanks.

joelmckellar said...

You don't need to unattempt the construction phase credits, they just won't be submitted on their own. You DO have to unattempt or defer any design phase credits that you don't want submitted as part of the design review.

Mary said...

I have a client that wants to certify an industrial building. The problem is the extremely high plug loads, and meeting 14% above ASHRAE 90.1.
Has anyone had a similar experience? ASHRAE 90.1 2004 states the provisions of this standard do not apply to industrial buildings. What does this mean?
Any help would be great!

joelmckellar said...


The way process loads are modeled, you should be able to get around that problem, and the way the modeling is handled should be adapted to industrial buildings as well. I'm not an engineer, so you definitely need to talk to one before you go much further. Check out this post for some other places to find out more.

Anonymous said...

HELP!!! I was so focused on making sure that the documentation for all the credits were complete and uploaded that I totally forgot to upload a project plans, sections, narrative etc in the project Summary section. I have already submitted for design review. Will the reviewers give me a chance to add this information or will they reject everything due to this. How do I get in touch w/ a GBCI co-ordinator to rectify this??

Anonymous said...

Question: If I submit my design credits and then there are changes made to the information of these credits during construction, am I able to change this information before the construction review?

chrisg said...

leedHQ - Project Management Software for LEED
We've changed the name from gbWorkbench, to leedHQ. The newwebsite has demo videos and access to a live demo: leedHQ

If anyone is at GreenBuild and would like a demo, or more information, contact me through the website.

Golfen dikson said...

The person responsible for handling projects knows how difficult it is.

IT Support Pasadena

Headsets said...

I also need LEED project software resources.

Angela West said...

Good products you have been offering. Nice Information about Construction Management Software..

construction management software