2020 year in review: LEED certification

As we collectively faced the challenges of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, we all benefited from greater awareness, empathy and connection within the team, our clients and our stakeholders. We connected with our customers more, face to face, from our homes to theirs.

Customers were reminded of LEED’s connection to health and wellness within our buildings and spaces, and combined with a change in political landscape, we see an expanding interest in sustainability at both the local project and corporate levels.

People first. Safety first. This was our mantra in 2020; it applied not only to staff, but also to our global network of reviewers, providers, LEED Green Raters and customers. Without exception, GBCI's LEED certification team stepped up to support colleagues and customers, covering for those who needed to take extended leave to care for their families and to ensure that all customers were promptly supported. I am always proud of the accomplishments of the team, but this year we were all put to the test like never before, and the team came through with flying colors.

With nearly 800 years of cumulated professional experience in our staff, 19 professional licenses, and 66 GBCI credentials (including two LEED Fellows), the certification team was well positioned to immediately pivot and leverage their knowledge and expertise to assist customers as they navigated the impacts of the pandemic on the design, construction and operations of buildings.

In response to COVID-19, the following immediate actions were taken:

  • Signaled that flexibility would be provided on the timing of required actions
  • Provided access to expertise: deep bench of reviewer experts available to answer questions and address unique project scenarios
  • Pivoted our technical experts to rapidly develop and publish common FAQs and solutions to certification impacts from COVID-19 for LEED
  • Supported the development and review of the LEED Safety First pilot credits
  • Developed and deployed remote site visit options for Green Raters and Homes Providers
  • Maintained standard review timelines (including expedited reviews as requested)

Despite the challenges of 2020, GBCI’s global certification team was highly productive and achieved the following:

  • Completed almost 13,000 phases of review
  • Certified 4,740 commercial projects
  • Certified 24,000 residential units (2,326 projects), helping thousands of families find safe and healthy homes
  • Upgraded 3,850+ LEED v4 projects that raised the bar on themselves through LEED v4.1 credits
  • Registered over 230 projects 340+ Safety First Pilot credits
  • Issued 400+ quality reports to our network of reviewers and providers

LEED Volume

The LEED Volume program was launched in 2010 to scale LEED by encouraging organizations to adopt and embed LEED strategies into their portfolios. Incentives for participation included leadership recognition, a streamlined certification process and lower costs. The program was conceived around the concept of certifying a standardized prototype, from which identical buildings would be subsequently certified, with a percentage selected for audit.

In 2020, in an effort to scale, GBCI began beta-testing new LEED Volume, which allows greater flexibility in how participants approach scaling LEED certification; importantly, new LEED Volume helps project teams by holding them accountable through recertification for the ongoing performance of their projects. Initial feedback has been favorable, with participating organizations recognizing that the LEED certification and recertification requirement aligns with their broader corporate ESG (environmental, social and governance) and sustainability goals.

Certification operations

GBCI's LEED certification core goals each year focus on enhancing the value of certification, delighting our customers and improving overall team effectiveness. In 2020, we made progress under each of these categories, in addition to being immediately responsive to COVID-19.

  1. Enhance the value of LEED certification

    • Delivered certification services for three versions of LEED (LEED 2009/LEED v4/LEED v4.1) and LEED Zero.
    • Beta-tested new LEED Volume program.
    • Worked with stakeholders to develop a streamlined submittal methodology for recognizing corporatewide renewable energy procurement and investments.
    • Launched new LEED Green Rater program designed to increase global adoption of LEED Residential.
    • Delivered critical technical training and guidance to the market, including developing and hosting a four-part webinar series on building commissioning and creating a video on the value proposition of energy modeling.
    • Presented, trained and spoke at 34 discrete global events, lending our technical expertise and certification experience for market development and expansion. The “Ask the Experts” and “Think Like a Reviewer” education series were popular among the project teams.
  2. Delight customers

    • Delivered high-quality, timely reviews (on average, five days early).
    • Increased access to reviewers: 6,200+ technical enquiries and 1,000+ conference calls were supported.
    • Expanded in-person engagement at Greenbuild to extend technical support to attendees.
    • Maintained a high LEED certification experience score and received numerous positive customer comments, validating the value our customers received from direct engagement and dialogue with our reviewers.
    • Delivering high-quality certification services, a core tenet for GBCI. Our team of 200+ global reviewers, providers and LEED Green Raters worked hard to ensure that we met our goals of high quality, consistency and timeliness of certification reviews. Our comprehensive quality processes include a rigorous quality assurance (QA) step, periodic self-audits, root cause analysis and monthly training to expand the technical competencies of the reviewers. The team issued more than 400 quality reports.
    • Customer feedback on process improvement were shared with appropriate team members for improvement and resolution.
  3. Continuous improvement and team effectiveness

Throughout the year, the strength and resilience of the global certification body we have built over the past 10 years came to the fore. Everyone was impacted by the pandemic, and everyone on the team had an impact. My heartfelt thanks to our global network for their support and resilience during this challenging year. I cannot wait to execute on our big goals in 2021.

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