Aircare, Business, Wellbeing

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is critical to human health, comfort, performance, and productivity. Poor IAQ can lead to a range of health problems, including respiratory problems and allergies, as well as greatly affecting cognitive performance.

Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) is one of the seven main categories that make up the LEED program and is aimed at rewarding positive design choices and operational strategies that emphasize the health and comfort of building occupants.

This article presents a detailed comparison between the IAQ requirements in LEED v4.1 and the updates in LEED v5 Beta.

What is LEED?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is the world’s most recognized green building certification, boasting more than 100,000 certified buildings worldwide. Established in 1998, over the years the standard has placed increasing emphasis on indoor air quality (IAQ).

LEED has evolved through several versions since its launch in 1998. LEED v4 was introduced in 2013 and its successor, v4.1, entered Beta in 2019 but never went beyond this stage. LEED v5 is set to replace it, with the Beta version launched at Greenbuild 2023.

How is indoor air quality in LEED v5 different from v4.1?

LEED v5 now incentivizes continuous, real-time monitoring of indoor air quality (IAQ) and awards up to 10 points for this functionality. This is a significant upgrade from the maximum of 4 points available for periodic air testing taken at random.

This new release of the LEED standard also provides additional points for a number of IAQ improvement strategies, including outdoor air quality monitoring and compliance with ASHRAE 241 standards, among others. A total of 13 points are available for IAQ performance credit.



How credits are assigned in v4.1

To achieve credits in v4.1, an occupant satisfaction survey and/or indoor air quality assessment is required to be conducted.

This credit awards points for annual CO2 and TVOC measurements. These two readings are combined with the score from an annual occupant survey to obtain a final score. The weighting is 50% to IAQ measurements and 50% to survey results.

What are the limitations of the LEED v4.1 approach?

  • A very limited range of IAQ parameters are measured. For example, PM2.5, a very hazardous pollutant, is not included in the assessments.
  • Annual readings provide an incomplete picture of IAQ.
  • Overemphasis on occupant surveys: human perception is not reliable for detecting harmful pollutants, but accounts for 50% of the score.

IAQ in LEED version v5 (Beta)

As with previous versions, LEED v5 has a main IEQ category, within which are several credits relating to air quality.
EQ credit: Performance related to indoor air quality.
This is the most important update and something that should excite every real estate practitioner.
The purpose of this credit is to support indoor air quality awareness, identify IAQ improvement opportunities, and promote occupant comfort, well-being, and productivity through IAQ.

The credit can award a project a total of 13 points, available through 3 different options:

  1. Measure and meet IAQ (up to 10 points).
  2. Meet ventilation and filtration standards (up to 6 points).
  3. Strategies to improve IAQ (up to 4 points).

These options can be combined to obtain a maximum of 13 points.

How to get the maximum score for IAQ in LEED v5 version?

There are several routes to achieve between 10-12 points, as detailed below. The recommendation to achieve this goal is:

Install IoT IAQ devices that measure CO2, TVOC and PM2.5 to achieve 6 points.
Meet IAQ thresholds using continuous monitoring data to achieve 4 points.
Using MERV 13 filters you could get an additional 1-2 points.

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March 2024