U.S. Green Building Council Adopts the RELi Rating System

Posted by on Nov 21, 2017

RELi is the new resilience platform of the U.S. Green Building Council. Shown here is the RELi Catalog cover.

The week before last was a very busy one at the Greenbuild Conference in Boston. In addition to all the usual Greenbuild activities, I drove in a couple days early for meetings about RELi, the resilience rating system that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has adopted as its resilience platform.

I have been advocating for a widely applicable national resilience rating system for several years now—even as we worked to develop and then revise the Resilient Design pilot credits for the LEED Rating System. I am persuaded that RELi offers the best pathway to move forward toward that goal. Yes, RELi will take some work to enable it to gain widespread market penetration, but I’m committed to helping it get there.

USGBC President & CEO Mahesh Ramanujam announced the adoption of RELi at the Communities & Affordable Homes Summit on Tuesday, November 7th, noting the urgency of addressing climate change: “With the advance of climate change, natural disasters will only continue to intensify,” he said, “so resiliency is becoming increasingly vital to building design and construction—and designing with resiliency in mind is crucial to developing sustainable buildings, communities and cities.”

Ramanujam reflected on what has happened in the last 6 months in the United States and South Asia and said that “it has become clear to us that USGBC needs to accelerate our efforts to raise awareness, and increase capacity and adoption of resiliency in our built environment if we truly want to realize a sustainable future for all.”

Background on RELi

RELi was developed in 2012 primarily by Doug Pierce, AIA, LEED Fellow and several of his colleagues at the architecture firm Perkins + Will, along with resilience experts at Eaton Corporation, Deloitte Consulting, and Impact Infrastructure. Pierce teamed up with Mike Italiano of the Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability (MTS) to take RELi through the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) consensus process—which will enable it to serve certain markets where ANSI-approved standards help to achieve more widespread use. (Italiano is also one of the founders of the USGBC.)

RELi was created as a stand-alone rating system. As such, it is very broad—and certain of the credits in it overlap substantially with LEED. Bringing RELi into the USGBC family of rating systems will likely mean modifying it over time so that it integrates better with LEED.

RELi logo

A new RELi Steering Committee

A new RELi Steering Committee (RSC) was formed that includes about a half-dozen members of the older USGBC Resilience Working Group, along with others who have been involved with RELi and who offer important knowledge of resilience and key markets that can be served by RELi.

Doug Pierce will chair the new RSC, and I will serve as vice-chair. Other members include Mary Ann Lazarus, FAIA of MALeco (who was co-chair with me of the USGBC Resilience Working Group); Marc Coudert of the City of Austin; Jane Frantz, AICP of Dewberry; Jim Newman of Linnean Solutions; Rachel Minnery, FAIA of the American Institute of Architects; Nick Rajkovich, Ph.D., AIA of the University of Buffalo; Katherine Hammock of Ernst & Young; John Williams of Autocase; Samantha Medlock of Willis Towers Watson; Stephen Bushnell, CPCU of Stephen Bushnell & Associates; and Janice Barnes, Ph.D., AIA of Perkins + Will.

In addition, we plan to establish Technical Focus Groups that will address specific issues of resilience and work on ensuring that RELi optimally addresses those issues. Those Technical Focus Groups have not yet been established, but they are likely to cover such issues as Flooding; Earthquakes; High Wind; Potable Water & Wastewater; Wildfire; Passive Survivability (Thermal Habitability); Backup Power; Social Cohesion; Social Equity; and Climate Change Impacts.

Moving forward

RELi, in its current form, is available now and certification is being handled by the USGBC’s sister organization, Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI). RELi Version 2 will incorporate the LEED pilot credits on Resilient Design and should be rolled out in the spring of 2018. Our hope is that the modifications reflected in Version 2 will be minor enough that they won’t require re-balloting through the ANSI process. Work will begin on a more comprehensive revision of RELi—Version 3—even as we launch Version 2. This Version 3 will require balloting through the ANSI process, and we are hopeful that that can be achieved in 2019.

Included in the work of RELi will be figuring out how it will integrate with LEED. We anticipate that LEED will recognize various aspects of RELi for earning LEED points, just as RELi references LEED credits today.

Building RELi into a robust national (and global) standard for resilience will take a lot of work, but it is clear that we need such a standard. Our goal is to make it easier for municipalities, universities, corporations, developers, and others to easily specify resilient design into their projects—just as LEED made it easy for these entities to specify green design.

I am excited about this journey and look forward to working with Doug and the RELi Steering Committee toward the important goal of creating more resilient buildings and communities.

I’ll look forward to your input and we evolve RELi into the standard to drive resilience.

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Along with founding the Resilient Design Institute in 2012, Alex is founder of BuildingGreen, Inc. To keep up with his latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feed. To receive e-mail notices of new blogs, sign up at the top of the page.

2 Comments

  1. I have been to both the RELi and the Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI) websites and I did not find any information on gaining credentials in order to conduct a RELI certification process. Does RELi offer a credentialing process in order to design and then document a relient home or facility like the LEED certification?

    • I assume that this functionality will be along shortly. I’ll try to find out the timing on when RELi will actually become available.

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