RIP Public CIRs (Credit Interpretation Rulings)

Buried towards the bottom of an 05.04.09 email (I'm a little late here) from Peter Templeton of the GBCI, there was a rather unfortunate announcement:

"Effective June 26, 2009, credit interpretation requests (CIRs) submitted by any registered project will no longer be vetted by USGBC or its LEED Technical Advisory Groups. As a result, CIR rulings will now be applicable only to the project that submitted them. For LEED version 2 projects, rulings on CIRs submitted prior to June 26, 2009, will be honored until they are retired by USGBC or incorporated into general USGBC-issued project guidance, such as through errata or addenda."

This blog relies heavily on the public rulings (see forthcoming post on regularly occupied space for residential buildings), which have cleared up issues for me more often than I care to admit. Equally curious is who exactly will be reviewing the CIRs from this point? One would assume it's the review team for your project, but it's not expressly stated.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wonder why they decided to do this, public CIRs help project teams immensly. They give good information on how the USGBC look at and interpret credits so that we could submit proper documentation or know what is and isn't acceptable strategies to meet the credits. I don't think LEED is in the stage where it is clear enough to not be interpreted several different ways.

Doesn't this also go against some of the transparency that is so important in the LEED brand?

Anonymous said...

I found the public CIRs much more useful then the Guidebook. It was annoying to have to read thru so much to get the info I wanted but at least the info was there. I haven't seen the new guidebook but I just hope they managed to include all of the useful information from the older CIRs like they promised.

Maybe they don't like getting so many public questions of their main product. Maybe they don't like publicly contradicting their previous answers. Maybe they can charge more getting the same question multiple times. Maybe it's just too much of a hassel to keep the data base current. The world may never know.

Anonymous said...

Not suprising. Just anouther money making move from USGBC and LEED. Now instead of being able to take advantage of other people's questions, you will have to pay to ask the question yourself.

Also, it will give reviewers the option of not even having to refer to CIRs. In the past when I have refered to a CIR in a submission I have almost always had them come back and say they could not find the refrenced CIR. At which point I take 2 seconds, find it again,make a pdf of it (probably an infrigement of their copyright I know!) and include it in my resubmission.

It also removes all concept of precident making the process even more nebuluos. It is so frusterating to have to tell clients that we just don't know what USGBC will do, if they will accept the point or not.

As someone who has 5 Certified projects (certified through platinum) and a couple dozen in the pipeline it is just one more annoyance making me recommend LEED to clients less often evey day.

LEED AP said...

I agree that this seems like a bad move for the USGBC and GBCI. However, I wonder if they are doing this because they are outsourcing the actual review of LEED Projects and with that probably goes the CIR interpretation as well. The USGBC wouldn't want third party reviewers making official rulings on the technical standard.
To me though the simple solution would be to have CIRs still routed to the standard body and steering committee. It's a shame that the USGBC seems to be reacting poorly or evenly antagonistically to the growth of their own standard. Another example, a few weeks ago on a webinar the USGBC actually said that they were upset by and even did not want all of the LEED APs that had passed the exam. Simply amazing that they wouldn't be embracing their own growth.

nathanm said...

I bet it has something to do with the scalability of the system. Back when there were only a 1/2 dozen review teams and maybe a few hundred actual reviews a year, it was a lot easier to keep each reviewer up-to-date on the latest CIR rulings.

Now that they are potentially dealing with thousands of reviews a year, with likely even more than that number of CIRs, it would be quite laborious for the reviewers to try to stay on top of each CIR ruling that the TAGs make. Instead they opted to make it a discretionary call on the part of the individual reviewer.

I agree, it sucks to have to tell a client that we can't be sure they will rule the same way twice. The comment about the split between USGBC and GBCI is probably a good guess as well.

Anonymous said...

It a perverse way, this decision actually levels the playing field between experienced LEED professionals and the rookies.

The single biggest asset one gains by working a multiple LEED projects is the familiarity with the existing extensive set of previous CIR rulings, which they can then incorporate into subsequent projects.

The new system effectively nullifies this huge advantage so every LEED AP, veterans and rookies alike, are back to square one when dealing with any new project.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure I want the "playing field leveled between "experienced LEED professionals and the rookies." I have spent 9 years working on LEED projects and struggling with small projects seeking certification.

When I heard about the LEED AP+ I was happy because there are to many people out there saying "I am a LEED AP!" Who know next to nothing about the process or green building outside of what is on the test. I wanted to take a HARD exam to show that yes there is a diffrence. Instead thousands of people are studing for a month and getting the same credential I have.

And in any case rookie LEED APs had as much oppurtunities to read and learn from CIRs as the rest of us... Now it just makes all LEED look worse to clients when a supposedly experienced person with a handful of certified projects has to say, "Well, I just don't know, we can ask USGBC but it will cost..." And you know the cost will go back up...

Anonymous said...

Real Life LEED should start a petition to save the CIRs! As most of the comments point out this is not a popular move, nor is it understood where the reasoning is.

Anonymous said...

I don't really want the CIR's saved, I just want the information and rulings in them to be condensed into the Guidebook. I think I read they were not going to add project specific rulings into the Guidebook. If that's the case then I think they should go back to allowing each project 2 free CIR's.

Anonymous said...

A refrence guide that acutually could be used as a refrence would be SO nice...

So often I find myself wanting to know something that should be a simple thing or defination and the book is no help. If you call the help line they will read you the refrence guide... Thanks...

Even having a help desk that could help with questions like "Is a concrete curing compound a floor coating, architectural pourous sealnt primer, architectral selant, or not included in the VOC lists?" Questions like that should not require a CIR & an answer should be easily avilable...

Anonymous said...

We tried asking this question of Scot Horst on the LEED 3.0 Forum on McGraw Hill over a week ago; still no response.

I'm fine with the CIR's not being precedent-setting. However, the insight CIR's provide is invaluable and they should at least publish the database to give project teams important guidance we can't get anywhere else.

nathanm said...

"Is a concrete curing compound a floor coating, architectural pourous sealnt primer, architectral selant, or not included in the VOC lists?"

That seems like a highly specific question to me, so I can only imagine how thick the reference guide book would have to be to deal with that level of detail.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is one of the most mis-guided decisions ever. I use the CIRs all the time - from the start of a project to the end. They are such a great resource. The notion that it is because of the outsourcing of the reviews is nuts. If anything a database of precedent is MORE helpful to the new reviewers and those of us who do the submissions. Duh, USGBC!

Peter Templeton said...

Thanks for the opportunity to respond directly to the questions regarding the changes to the CIR process.

Up to this point, CIRs were reviewed by the committees responsible for maintaining the LEED Rating System in accordance with USGBC's standards development process. Thus, each ruling was a formal decision on the LEED requirements and set a precedent for subsequent projects.

Under the new LEED certification model, standards development and project certification responsibilities are divided between USGBC and GBCI respectively to improve capacity and timeliness. CIRs will be issued by certification bodies under the guidance of GBCI and will continue to fulfill their primary purpose of providing project-specific clarifications regarding the LEED requirements. An unavoidable consequence is that rulings will no longer be made by the LEED Technical Advisory Groups and, therefore, cannot be applied universally.

So, after June 26, 2009, any CIR you submit will be applicable only to your project and will not be precedent-setting. USGBC will issue regular guidance and clarifications on the technical requirements of the LEED Rating System in the form of addenda based on its review of CIRs issued by GBCI and inquiries received throughout the ongoing standards development process. Updates issued by USGBC will be applicable to all projects seeking certification.

We appreciate your understanding that this change is an outcome of our efforts to achieve greater responsiveness in delivering LEED certification while respecting USGBC's consensus-based standards development process.

joelmckellar said...

Mr. Templeton,

Thanks for taking the time to respond! Two thoughts arise from your comments...

1. Though the the CIR process may have intended to server the "primary purpose of providing project-specific clarifications", I believe most would agree that their use was far more widespread. It is encouraging to hear that the USGBC will be issuing a sort of official regular CIR review addenda. I would be happy to consider posting details about how this will be implemented (i.e. monthly, yearly, or only when new reference guides are released).

2. One of the commenters prior to your post raised an interesting point... Won't the reviewers need this database as much as the submitters? If the argument is that the GBCI reviewers don't have the know-how to rule definitively on a particular topic, aren't we opening up the possibility for decreased consistency in rulings (i.e. one project will be scored one way while another project is scored differently for using the same strategies)? If someone is in charge of ensuring consistency among ratings at the GBCI, won't they need some sort of 'official' ruling anyway as these issues arise?

Thanks again for your time!

Joel

Anonymous said...

The President of GBCI reads your blog. Kudos to Joel. I have two questions also.

1. How separate are USGBC and GBCI, from a functional point of view? Your statement, "CIRs will be issued by certification bodies under the guidance of GBCI..." sounds a bit like the same USGBC staff answering CIRs under the flag of GBCI.

2. I thought GBCI was made for separating the testing of people from USGBC? Now you're doing the scoring of buildings too?!?! So why is LEED online still on USGBC's website if GBCI is handleing all of the certification process? I'm still confused about the two organizations.

Kim said...

Great post on the CIRs. I was wondering if anyone else picked up on this pretty significant change, and how other people felt about it. I agree that the CIRs were incredibly useful, and liked that they were precedent setting. It seems that eliminating CIRs will only make the certification process less efficient - the same issues will likely be raised over and over again by different projects simply because the rulings are not made public. It also allows the USGBC (if they will continue to make rulings on a project by project basis) to be more subjective and not be held accountable for their decisions, as one project will never know how the USGBC ruled on its issue in the past for other projects. Thus, there is potential for a project to get away with something in one instance and then another project to be denied the same thing in the future - and no one would have a clue.

Eli S. said...

I'm not a litigation lawyer, but it seems to me that USGBC's move reduces USGBC's exposure to lawsuits. I would think it will now be harder for a project that is denied a credit to claim it relied on past CIRs to reasonably assume it would have been awarded LEED certification.

SarahC said...

Hey Joel,

Have you ever seen the CIR addenda reports? I'm working solidly in v3 territory these days and am wondering how to access them if they exist.

Joel McKellar said...

SarahC,

To my knowledge there aren't specific CIR addendum, just the reference guide addendum discussed (and linked to) here.