Priority Credits and LEED Certification

Background: Regional Priority Credits (RPCs) are extra points that can be achieved on a project seeking LEED certification. They consist of existing credits that USGBC chapters and regional councils have designated as being of particular importance for their areas. Each specific area – referenced by ZIP code – has six RPCs per rating system.

We focus on research and discussion of the following for Zip Code 60477 (Tinley Park, Illinois):

- Find the regional priority credits that have been chosen for zip code 60477. To do this use the tool on the USGBC website

- List the RPCs for each rating system -(New construction, Existing buildings, Commercial interiors, Core and shell, Schools, Retail - new construction, Retail - commercial interiors, Healthcare, and Neighborhood development).

- Use different sources to find out about zip code 60477. Briefly analyze the RPCs to determine why those credits were selected. Also discuss why there are differences in RPCs between the rating systems above (New construction...etc).

When a builder's goal is to gain LEED certification, if he chooses, he can go a step further and get not only the general USGBC credits available across the country, but he can also apply for Regional Priority Credits (RPCs). RPCs are extra points that can be earned on LEED projects and are determined by regional councils.


For example, buildings in the Chicagoland area can earn RPCs for several types of projects: new construction, existing buildings, commercial interiors, core and shell, schools, retail - new construction, retail - commercial interiors, healthcare and neighborhood development. Builders can go to the USGBC website, and look up available RPCs based on zip code. For this discussion, we'll use zip code 60477 (Tinley Park, IL).

New construction in 60477 can earn RPCs for increased ventilation, alternative transportation/public transportation access, maximizing open space, stormwater quality control, and reduced heat island effect.

Projects using existing buildings in the 60477 can earn extra credits in the following areas: indoor air quality best management practices, alternative commuting transportation, protect or restore an open habitat, reduced heat island effect, and improved indoor plumbing fixture and fitting efficiency.

RPCs are available for commercial interior projects for increased ventilation, selection of a site that uses “best practices systems and green strategies," public transportation access, bicycle storage and changing rooms, and water use reduction.

Core and shell projects and school building projects in the 60477 zip code can earn RPCs in six areas: increased ventilation, public transportation access, maximizing open space, two types of stormwater design quality control, and reduced heat island effect. RPC credits are available in the same categories for new retail construction as well.

Commercial interior projects can earn credits for increased ventilation, site selection, alternative transportation and water use reduction.

Healthcare building projects have several areas in which they can earn additional credits. Access to public transportation, the use of low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles, maximizing open space, quality control of stormwater, and reduced heat island effect all earn RPCs.

Neighborhood development projects can earn RPCs for solar orientation, on-site renewable energy sources, rainwater management, walkable streets, creation of a bicycle network - including storage, and developing a mixed-income community.

Note how the available RPCs vary among categories. A quick study of Chicagoland's demographics and environment helps explain the differences, and even some of the similarities.

For example, with the exception of interior-only projects, every area offers RPCs for creating and/or promoting access to public transportation. This makes sense in a place like Tinley Park and Chicago, which has an estimated population of 2.7 million , hundreds of thousands of cars, and near-perpetual traffic congestion. In addition, several of the categories offer credits for increased ventilation, which the USGBC defines as providing “additional outdoor air ventilation to improve indoor air quality for improved occupant comfort, well-being and productivity." On most days, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency rates Chicago's air quality as “good", with 50 or fewer pollutant particles-per-million. And given that most Chicagoans work in high rise buildings, offering RPCs for increased ventilation makes sense.

It's interesting to note that only the Heathcare project category offers RPCs for use of vehicles with decreased exhaust emission. The intent of this category is to “reduce pollution and land development impacts from automobile use." This category allows RPCs for healthcare projects that create preferred or discounted parking for low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles, or offer low-emitting or fuel-efficient vehicle-sharing programs. It's a logical category for a place like a hospital that has a lot of automobile traffic, and ambulances and other large vehicles that emit larger quantities of carbon monoxide and other pollutants.

Similarly, only the Neighborhood Development category offers RPCs for walkable streets. This credit is earned based on how close building facades are to the street, how many continuous sidewalks are available. Again, this credit help not only promote a healthier lifestyle for the residents, but helps reduce car emissions.

RPCs, offered in addition to USGBC's general credits, provide compelling incentives for builders to create projects that are energy efficient, and environmentally friendly.