As the new LEED v4 rating system pushes for material transparency and life-cycle details, savvy composites pros can gain business in the building and construction market.

To school officials responsible for the $30 million renovation and expansion of the John F. Savage Arena at the University of Toledo, one thing was more powerful than the new video scoreboard, more valuable than the plush corporate suites and weightier than the state-of-the-art training room: A simple conference room table.

Around that table, before new ground was broken, a group of people gathered to discuss how they could work together to make the building as impressive – and as green – as possible. The University of Toledo arena project began with collaboration among an architect, a mechanical engineer, a civil engineer, an electrical engineer, a lighting designer, an acoustician, an interior design team and others. If those people could work cohesively from the get-go, university administrators decided, the building had a better chance for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. The program, which recently announced a new ratings system (LEED v4), promotes a holistic, whole-building approach to sustainability. It recognizes performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

Nationwide, more than 900 buildings are now LEED-certified. One of them is the Owens Corning headquarters in downtown Toledo, where Gayle Tedhams works as the firm’s director of sustainability. She and her team aim to get Owens Corning materials specified during the beginning phases of building design and construction projects, and the company’s products contributed to LEED points earned by the John F. Savage Arena.

“Even before the design phase of a project, it’s effective to have everyone playing from the same pages of the book,” Tedhams says. “In the composites industry, if you can help a designer, builder or general contractor meet LEED requirements and explain how you can do that from the outset, you’ll have a much better chance of being specified for a project. It’s a big competitive advantage when any company can help building officials meet their sustainability goals.”

A stated goal at the University of Toledo for the past several years has been to achieve at least a LEED Silver rating for all construction projects, which equates to 50 LEED points. (Material & Resources, the category most relevant to composites firms, account for up to 13 of those points.

The arena renovation and expansion went beyond that mark, achieving a LEED Gold rating, the second-highest certification in the four-tier system.