SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

LEED Clean Construction Pilot Credit


A “Clean Construction” pilot credit has been added into the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Pilot Credit Library. The pilot credit aims to limit emissions from dirty diesel engines that are harmful to public health and the global climate.

The Problem
Fine particle pollution produced by diesel engines causes 21,000 deaths a year in the United States, according to the Clean Air Task Force’s report, Diesel and Health in America: The Lingering Threat. As a climate warming pollutant (or short-lived climate forcer), black carbon in diesel pollution is about 2000 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2). And, diesel engines account for over half of the U.S. black carbon emissions.

There are as many as two million pieces of construction equipment in operation today in the U.S. This equipment often remains in operation for decades before replacement and much of the equipment lacks any sort of pollution controls, thus contributing to significant diesel emissions in our communities.

What will the LEED credit do?
The credit aims to reduce the impact of diesel emissions to the community from construction equipment during the construction phase of a project. LEED historically has focused primarily on the building alone. Adding this credit (while still only in the pilot phase) essentially helps close the loop on the broader environmental impacts of construction projects.

In order to use the Clean Construction pilot credit towards voluntary LEED certification for a building, during the construction phase the project must:

  1. Limit particulate matter (PM) pollution from on-road vehicles and nonroad equipment;
  2. Limit unnecessary idling;
  3. Prevent indoor air pollution by keeping construction emissions away from air intakes and openings of adjacent buildings, and;
  4. Provide data.

The Clean Construction Pilot Credit is available in the LEED Pilot Credit Library.

Adding clean construction as a tool to achieve credit toward LEED certification will help protect the health of workers and local residents by reducing exposure to higher concentrations of particulate matter from older diesel equipment. As stated by Brendan Owens, Vice President, LEED Technical Development, USGBC, “Optimizing human and environmental health are built into the fabric of LEED, and this pilot addresses air pollution head on by addressing the role construction equipment plays in toxic emissions. The Pilot Credit Library has been widely embraced by LEED users and has successfully created a proving ground for testing new and innovative credits and guiding the improvement of LEED.”

The LEED Pilot Credit Library is an interactive mechanism for testing proposed credits in the marketplace before a credit is considered for inclusion into a future LEED rating system. The pilot credit was the result of almost a year of public-private collaboration between United Rentals, SACE partners in the Diesel Clean Up Campagin, Clean Air Task Force (CATF), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to develop the appropriate language for USGBC to review.

There will be a three-year transition for the program. This period allows for newer, cleaner equipment to penetrate the marketplace, providing an easy range of opportunities to rent or buy new equipment, or to retrofit old equipment to reduce PM pollution and achieve the credit.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED green building program is the most widely recognized and used green building program across the globe. It is transforming the way our buildings, homes and communities are built and function in all 50 states and 135 countries. LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED is now in step with growing interest to protect construction workers, staff and nearby residents from toxic diesel emissions during construction.