As announced last week, the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED v4 rating system has been approved—at long last. It wasn’t a close vote, with 86 percent in favor, which must be a relief to the USGBC after three years and six public comment periods’ worth of work.

I spoke with Healthcare Design Advisory Board member Kim Shinn, a LEED Fellow and principal and senior sustainability consultant for TLC Engineering (Brentwood, Tenn.), to get his take on the vote and what it means for our corner of the industry. “I’m confident in saying that the approval of v4 provides opportunities for healthcare to continue as leaders in green building,” he says. Especially relating to buildings required to use LEED for Healthcare (LEED HC) to seek certification, he adds, “Since LEED HC’s technical development came so late in the last generation of LEED, you could say that LEED HC is sort of LEED v3.5. Several of the new credits and prerequisites that are now in LEED Building Design + Construction (BD+C) v4 originated in LEED HC, such as the integrated design process prerequisite, the ‘basket’ approach to the materials credits, and the process water credits. As such, we don’t see LEED HC v4 being significantly different than LEED HC v2009.”

In addition, Shinn explains, “the market has plenty of time to absorb” the changes in LEED HC v4. And most of those changes, he says, simply adopt new reference standards that are already being widely used, such as those in ASHRAE 90.1-2010 and the International Energy Conservation Code 2012.

Not everyone is content with LEED v4, however: Some materials manufacturers, including the Vinyl Institute, have expressed concern over the language in the guidelines. “While the goal of the LEED v4 Materials and Resources credits to encourage the use of products and materials that have environmental, economical, and socially preferable life cycle impacts is admirable, the nuances, and in some places oversimplification, of the MR credits could cause the opposite effect,” says the group’s president and CEO, Dick Doyle. The institute also challenges language regarding materials such as PVC, which it says “fails to account for comparative life cycle and risk/exposure assessments.”

The full-scale launch of LEED v4 will occur at the 2013 Greenbuild Conference & Expo in Philadelphia this November, and there are currently more than 100 projects seeking certification through the beta program. Projects will be allowed to register with either v2009 or v4 until June 2015, after which only LEED v4 will be open. For more information, you can download the LEED v4 User Guide from the USGBC.