USGBC's New LEED Interpretations Similar to Old Precedent-Setting CIRs
Update: The LEED Interpretations database was moved and relaunched in April 2013. Its new location is USGBC.org/leed-interpretations. See discussion of this on the forum below.
Precedent-setting CIRs are back! Well, sort of...
Today USGBC launched its long-awaited LEED Interpretations process and database. LEED Interpretations are like project-specific CIRs, but unlike those Credit Interpretation Rulings, they can be applied to multiple projects. They are published in a searchable, online database, and unlike CIRs which are made by GBCI review teams, LEED Interpretations receive scrutiny from USGBC staff and technical committees. Project-specific CIRs are still available for $220, while LEED Interpretations can be requested for an additional fee of $180 (or an additional $380 for non-USGBC members).
Since the launch of 2009, LEED project teams with a unique situation or a question not answered by existing LEED resources have had access to CIR. Those CIRs have been limited: they aren't public, so other projects can't learn from them, and they can't even be referenced as a precedent on another project by the same team.
USGBC has heard complaints about this, but it has been in a difficult situation. With the growth of LEED and its splitting off of GBCI as the LEED certification body, USGBC needed to ensure that only CIRs truly deserving of influencing the LEED standards would do so. Since conceiving of the LEED Interpretations process in 2010, it has been working hard to make it a reality.
Here are some useful links:
Noteworthy features of the launch include the following.
• Site is labeled as "Beta." Cara Mae Cirignano, a LEED specialist at USGBC, told me that this is being considered a "soft launch" of the feature. She said there are a lot of iimprovements to be made with the database and inquiry mechanism, and USGBC wants to solicit comments on the process itself through a survey. (If you have feedback or thoughts you want to share, also feel free to leave a comment below.)
• Addenda and Interpretations rolled together. The LEED Interpretations database also includes LEED addenda. Addenda will still be used for grammatical and other clarifications to rating systems and Reference Guides, but it should be an improvement to be able to find both addenda and interpretations in one place. (I still find the old addenda table PDFs, which are still available, a faster reference—or better yet, LEEDuser's summary reviews—but this feature is great and we'll see how it evolves.)
• Applicability noted. For each Interpretation, its applicability to specific LEED rating systems (and those that it is NOT appliable to) is noted.
• Quarterly schedule. LEED Interpretations, along with addenda, will be published quarterly (unlike old CIRs which came out unpredictably). LEED projects are required to follow interpretations issued prior to their registration date, but only encouraged to follow items posted after their registration date.
• Timeline. CIRs have a 3–4 week response time, while LEED Interpretations will have a 3–6 month response time. A team could get a CIR fairly quickly for immediate project impact, and also request an Interpretation for longer-term use.
• Interpretations and CIRs may contradict. Because of the rigorous review of LEED Interpretations, USGBC acknowledges that a LEED Interpretation may in rare conditions contradict a CIR. Teams receiving contradictory rulings may use either on the specific project involved. I think of this as the difference between a referee of a sports match issuing a penalty while the game is in session, while the sports league may reverse the penalty later, after the game is completed. The penalty/CIR metaphor doesn't quite hold up, but football fans should get the idea.
• Appeals. A LEED Interpretation may be appealed at no charge.
• What's in there now? There is one new LEED Interpretation in the database so far (it's about IDc2, and LEEDuser reported on it two weeks ago). All other Interpretations in the database are existing historic CIRs that have been allowed for LEED 2009 projects. Project CIRs that were requested prior to the start of the LEED Interpretations program have already been or will be reviewed for their applicability as a LEED Interpretation. Project CIR requests submitted from approximately July 2009 to June 2010 that were determined to be precedent-setting will be summarized and included in the database in the second quarterly posting, due May 2011. Those Project CIRs that were received after June 2010 will continue to be reviewed by UGSBC and posted in the database in the third quarterly posting, due approximately July 2011.
What are your thoughts? Please comment below.