VP of LEED Implementation Explains v3 LEED-Online Upgrades

Mike Opitz (left), Vice President of LEED Implementation for the USGBC has now earned the distinction of being the first ever guest poster on Real Life LEED, an achievement that I would wager (though haven't confirmed) he feels is akin to putting on his pants this morning or walking to the park. I'm quite excited though, and hope to include more guest writers in the near to 'whenever I get around to it' future!

Side Note: Though I generally refrain from simply reposting USGBC press releases and such, there is a good deal of detail in the article below that made me believe you would find this useful to read.

As reading his article raised as many questions as it provided answers, I'm in the process of working out a follow-up interview (no guarantees). For that reason you'll have to wait until then to hear any of my comments on the article below. I'm really curious to hear both your reaction and experience with the new online system to date, as I don't yet have a project registered under v3. If you have a question you'd like to ask Mike, please make sure to leave it in the comments section below in the next few days!

Everything after this line is vintage Mike, with no edits from me. On a personal note, he seems to like bulleted lists about as much as I like parenthetical side comments (See? I'm using them right now). Let's get to it:

Faster, Smarter and More Robust - The New LEED Online

By Mike Opitz, P.E., LEED AP, Vice President of LEED Implementation, U.S. Green Building Council

This April, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched LEED v3, the newest version of the LEED green building certification program. A culmination of several years of visioning, planning and development effort by the USGBC community, LEED v3 takes LEED’s ongoing evolution and growth to the next level. LEED v3 is a platform for implementing the improvements and growth in all aspects of the LEED program over the next several years. The three core components of LEED v3 are: LEED 2009 – technical advancements to the LEED credits and points in the rating systems; the re-launch of LEED Online – the tool LEED project teams use to manage the LEED registration and certification processes has been upgraded to be smarter and faster, with many new features; and the new certification model – an expanded certification infrastructure based on ISO standards, administered by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) through 10 independent, third-party certifying bodies for improved capacity, speed and performance.

LEED Online – Lessons Learned

For the past three years, USGBC’s LEED Online system has been an integral component of the LEED program. Launched in early 2006, LEED Online offers a paperless, Web-based tool for registering LEED projects, collecting and organizing LEED project documentation, managing project team members, and stewarding projects through the certification review process to final completion. LEED Online’s initial goals were met, but growing pains occurred as LEED’s market uptake accelerated. More specifically, the online system has not performed ideally in two key areas: data transfer speed and reliability. Upload and download times, although manageable in 2006, have increased as the system has absorbed tens of thousands of projects and user accounts. In response to user feedback last year, USGBC committed to a comprehensive, ground-up redesign and reimplementation of LEED Online for the LEED v3 rollout, with the primary goal being improved quality and a better overall user experience. The re-launch of LEED Online is not a mere extension of the previous LEED Online; it’s a completely new system.

The New LEED Online – better, stronger, faster

The new LEED Online is designed and built for speed, expandability and convenience. Core technology improvements make a faster system in real-world use, and USGBC’s robust beta-testing means the system is also more stable. LEED Online’s enhanced user interface makes it easier to use with enough scalability to support LEED for years to come. The system will benefit from regular updates and upgrades over time, just like desktop computer software, and USGBC will publish change histories and release notes with each significant system update.

The reinvention of LEED Online enables a host of new functionality to make users’ lives easier and more productive, setting the stage for success as projects make their way through the certification process. Veteran users of LEED Online will notice several core improvements right away:

  • A cleaner, more attractive user interface.
  • Full integration of user account management – users can update their USGBC profiles directly from within LEED Online.
  • A built-in feedback mechanism for any user to give USGBC comments on LEED Online, available from all screens.

The new LEED Online offers a host of LEED project management improvements, including:

  • Project organization: Any user who is a team member on more than one registered LEED project will be able to sort, view and group projects according to a number of project traits, including location, design or management firm, etc. Projects with similar characteristics can be grouped by those traits and viewed from their own screen.
  • Team member administration: The functionality for adding team roles, assigning them to team members, and making credit assignments is more flexible. Most notably, credits are assigned by team member name rather than by project role.
  • Credit assignments: It is now simpler and easier to assign one credit to several project team members, or to assign several credits to a single team member.
  • Status indicators and timeline: The system explains and displays all the steps in the review and certification process more clearly, especially which steps a specific project has completed. The system displays specific dates associated with each phase and step, including the target dates that each review will be returned to the customer.

The new LEED Online also offers many new features supporting the LEED certification review process itself, as well as enhancements to the functionality of submittal documentation and certification templates:

  • End-to-end process support: The new system shepherds each project team through the entire certification process, from initial project registration through all review phases and through post-certification plaque fulfillment. The registration phase includes extra help for beginners to decide which LEED rating system is best suited for their project type, while allowing experienced users to get through the process quickly.
  • Improved mid-stream communication: During a LEED review, the mid-review clarification page will allow the LEED reviewer to contact the project team through the system if any minor clarifications are needed to complete the review.
  • Data linkages: Some data, such as a building’s gross floor area or full-time equivalent (FTE) occupancy, are required in the documentation for several LEED credits. The new version of LEED Online shares such data within a project, auto-filling it in all appropriate places after the user enters it the first time. This saves the customer re-entry time and helps ensure project-wide consistency.
  • Automatic data checks: A surprisingly large number of LEED applications arrive at USGBC with some required data not complete, causing process delays. The new system will alert users when required data are missing, giving them a final chance to correct the error before submitting the application.
  • Progressive, context-based disclosure of content: Many LEED submittal templates have several options for completing the form, with the customer required to choose and complete only one. The new system will show only the data fields relevant to the customer’s situation once an option has been selected, hiding all the extraneous content. This will reduce customer confusion and submission errors. The full content is still available for viewing at the user’s option.

The new LEED Online leverages technology used by the world’s leading companies – SAP and Adobe – to deliver significant performance, functionality and usability enhancements. It allows continuous system improvement over time and provides a solid platform for project teams.

Looking Forward

LEED v3 enables and stewards the ever-accelerating green transformation of the building design, construction and operations markets. LEED Online, as a key element of that platform, provides essential program resources to LEED customers, LEED reviewers, and USGBC and GBCI staff. Major LEED Online system releases over the next several months include:

  • April 2009: initial system launch with core LEED 2009 rollout (New Construction, Commercial Interiors, Core & Shell, Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance and Schools).
  • Summer 2009: launch of the volume certification process for Portfolio Program customers.
  • Summer/fall 2009: launch of upcoming LEED rating systems (Retail, Healthcare, and Neighborhood Development post-pilot).

USGBC has maintained a strong commitment to quality for the reinvention of LEED Online. The new system takes several leaps forward and sets the stage for the success of LEED projects and of the market’s transformation to a sustainable built environment.


Unknown said...

If he would be willing to do an online chat, then I think there would be plenty of people with questions. So many questions about LEEDv3.0, so little space.

aarchitect said...

What about Mac compatibility or using any browser other than Explorer? This is 2009.

Anonymous said...

I am just starting to find my way around, and it actually seems more complicated than the previous version. I don't like how you can't save the forms online, and go back and finish filling out as you gather information. It only tells you to print it out or save it to your computer, which is very inefficient, in my opinion.