LEED v5: Key Updates Explained

Michael Bitting, Sustainability Consultant

5 mins
LEED v5 Operations and Maintenance
5 min read

At the 2023 Greenbuild Conference, LEED v5, the long-awaited successor to LEED v4 and v4.1 was announced as being released in beta form. From what the USGBC has announced regarding LEED v5, there is a major shift in the rating system and how it will be approached moving forward. The shift represents the largest structural reorganization of the LEED System since v2009 or v3 was introduced. The principal aim of LEED v5 is to align the LEED rating system with current industry practices as well as position itself once again as a market transformation tool to address the severity of the climate crisis today. The guiding principles behind LEED v5 are as follows:

  • Decarbonization: Decarbonize the building industry swiftly to reflect the urgency of the climate crisis
  • Resilience: Inspire and recognize adaptive and resilient built environments
  • Health: Invest in human health and well-being
  • Equitable Outcomes: Create environments in which diversity, equity, and inclusivity thrive
  • Ecosystems: Support flourishing ecosystems through regenerative development practices

Major Updates in v5 for Operations and Maintenance

At the moment, only the Operations and Maintenance Beta form has been released. No information has been shared by the USGBC on the release of the beta form of other rating systems. On first look, the beta version of LEED v5 that was released at Greenbuild for the Operations and Maintenance rating system appears very similar structurally to previous versions released since LEED v2009. The beta version is separated into the same familiar categories we have seen with previous iterations, starting with Prerequisites, Location and Transportation, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, as well as Project Priorities and Innovation.


With LEED v5 the rating system framework has been restructured around three system goals, which will impact the scoring breakdown.

  1. Climate action (50% of possible points)
  2. Quality of life (25% of possible points)
  3. Ecological conservation and restoration (25% of possible points)

The specific contribution of each credit according to the USGBC is shown in the image below.

LEED v5 Scorecard Operations and Maintenance Beta
Source: USGBC

The scorecard published by the USGBC can be found below. It is noted that at the release event for v5, speakers received strong feedback that the scorecard should bring back numbering, the lack of which has been a headache for project teams. It remains unclear whether that feedback will be incorporated.

LEED v5 Operations and Maintenance prerequisites and credits
Source: USGBC

New Project Requirements

Upon closer examination, there are three new project requirements, several prerequisites, and two credits not previously seen in the rating system that have been introduced.

New Prerequisites

The three new prerequisites are “Assessment for Climate Resilience”, “Social Impact Assessment”, and “Operational Carbon Projection”.

“Assessment for Climate Resilience,” the first new prerequisite, seeks to promote a comprehensive assessment of climate resilience, aiming to increase awareness of reduced vulnerability, while striving to ensure long-term safety and sustainability. This is similar to Pilot Credit 98- Assessment and Planning for Resilience. The requirements are vague at this time, however, the requirements state that the project team must identify observed and projected natural hazards and assess relevant effects on the project site and building function. Identified hazards may be currently affecting the project or may affect it in the future.

“Social impact Assessment,” the second new prerequisite seeks to promote social equity by conducting an analysis using a social impact checklist and encouraging projects to prioritize community well-being, inclusivity, and diversity for positive social outcomes. This credit appears to incorporate the requirements in Pilot credits 89 and 90, Social Equity within the community, and Social Equity within the Project Team/Staff. The requirements of this prerequisite state that an assessment must be completed to help identify and address issues of inequity related to the project, its community, team, and supply chain. The closest checklist currently available is the v4.1 Integrative Process checklist. It is anticipated that the checklist will be updated based on the new requirements of this prerequisite.

Finally, “Operational Carbon Projection” aims to provide a baseline operational carbon emissions projection from energy use for each LEED project and to increase carbon literacy at the project level and throughout the real estate industry.  This is once again a mashup of previously released Pilot Credits incorporating decarbonization principles more robustly into the rating system. The USGBC will provide a visualization of the business-as-usual (BAU) trajectory of carbon emissions from building energy use through 2050, including a comparison with a science-based target trajectory and a straight-line reduction. Projects can provide their own BAU based on information provided by their utility. This prerequisite requires that the owner or owner’s representative attest to reviewing the BAU carbon projection.

The inclusion of these three prerequisites at the outset of the beta version of the rating system sets the tone for the rest of the revised credits and solidifies their commitment to decarbonization, social equity, and resilience as the main pillars by which the rating system has been redesigned.

New/Updated Prerequisites and Credits

Moving forward, the next few sections appear largely unchanged from previous iterations. Location and Transportation, Sustainable Sites, and Water Efficiency appear intact when compared to v4/v4.1. It’s not until we reach the Energy and Atmosphere section that we see a significant expansion to account for the expanded focus on decarbonization. This includes prerequisites requiring the project team to incorporate an energy efficiency policy that is communicated to all project occupants including credits for zero onsite combustion as well as credits for decarbonization and efficiency plans and GHG emission reduction.

The Materials and Resources section has been amended to include a credit for “Embodied Carbon on Interior Materials during Renovations” which echoes Interior Reuse from earlier credit iterations.

Indoor Environmental Quality includes a prerequisite focusing on the needs of occupants. The first prerequisite, “Occupant Needs Assessment” states the goal as being “to promote a better understanding of who is in the building on a regular basis, if there is a current population-specific or regionally-specific health hazard, or evidence that there will be a future health hazard. To define occupant needs related to the indoor environment and ensure and sustain access to indoor, health-promoting features.”  This further highlights the refocus on equity ensuring that the needs of every single building occupant are included in the assessment.

LEED v5 O+M, like other versions within the LEED rating system, aims to push for higher sustainability standards, performance tracking, and a holistic approach to building operation and maintenance, considering environmental impact, human experience, and long-term sustainability.

Conclusion and Outlook

While the USGBC stresses the specific breakdown shown above, the structure of the beta version of the reference guide appears to more closely resemble previous iterations of the LEED rating system. As of today’s post, the LEED Online platform has not been released, leaving only speculation as to the eventual structure of the rating system itself. At this point, LEED v5 is scheduled to complete the ballot and be fully available for use in 2025. The USGBC is targeting 2030 for the release of the next version. Until then, the general public won’t know how drastically the look and feel of v5 will deviate from previous versions and v4/v4.1 will be available for the projects to utilize for the foreseeable future. What is clear, is that the stated principles of the USGBC’s evolution into v5 robustly include decarbonization, resilience, health, equity, and ecological preservation.

LEED v5: Key Updates Explained