The introduction of another “Green” building rating system into the U.S. market may increase accessibility to green building technologies

.Sustainable Building

As renewable, sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies become more common throughout the United States, businesses, firms and individuals are realizing the benefits of constructing “green” buildings. Previously, few nationally recognized rating systems existed to oversee building “green buildings.” For almost a decade, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has been the U.S. standard bearer. However, as the demand for efficient, sustainable buildings increases, the creation and development of new companies assisting residential and commercial builders has also increased.

The recent acquisition by real estate brokerage firm, Jones Lang LaSalle, Inc., of Canadian based ECD Energy and Environment Canada has introduced a new rating system into the U.S. market. The new rating system is managed by Green Building Initiative, a not for profit subsidiary of ECD Energy and Environment Canada, and is called the Green Globes rating system.

Going Green

Green building is a way to increase a building’s efficiency by improving the way in which they use resources, such as energy, water, and materials, while reducing the impact on the environment. Efficient buildings also save money and provide efficient alternatives to traditional buildings or construction.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, office buildings consume the most energy of all building types, accounting for 19 percent of all commercial energy consumption. However, with the adoption of green technologies, businesses and corporations can reduce both their expenditures on electricity cost and the size of their footprint on the environment.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

Since its inception in 1998, LEED has overseen approximately 14,000 projects in over 30 countries. Known as a “Green Building Rating System,” LEED has been the frontrunner in acting as a third-party certification program in green building and construction. Over the past decade, LEED has gone from a small advisory committee to the nationally accepted benchmark on green construction.

LEED was created by the U.S. Green Building Counsel with the purpose of advising architects, businesses, individuals, engineers, government officials, and construction managers on LEED standards to help develop environmental and sustainable buildings. These advisors form the Green Building Counsel and are broken into committees who represent a diverse group of practitioners and experts in the building and construction industry.

The LEED rating system is based on a “point system” that rates buildings on four different tiers of sustainability and efficiency. LEED Committees rank buildings by their initial design, construction, and final presentation leading to 69 possible points and four levels of certification which include:

  • Certified: 26-32 points
  • Silver: 33-38 points
  • Gold: 39-51 points
  • Platinum: 52-69 points

The final certification is granted solely by the Green Building Counsel who has been chosen to oversee the project. To be chosen for certification, the builder must file both an application documenting compliance as well as the requisite registration and certification fees. Overall, while the system has been developed to operate efficiently and smoothly, the process requires thorough cooperation with the Green Building Counsel throughout the building or renovating process.

Green Globes

The purchase of Green Globes by Jones Lang LaSalle, Inc. real estate brokerage firm introduces another national green building rating system into the United States. Green Globes was developed by ECD Energy and Environment Canada and is managed by a third-party, Portland, Oregon based company, Green Building Initiative (GBI). GBI is charged with marketing and developing the Green Globes rating system within the U.S. marketplace.

Green Globes serves as an environmental assessment and rating system that takes a different approach than LEED. Used by the Canadian government since 2004, Green Globes has been backed by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Canada’s “Go Green Plus” program. Since its adoption by the Canadian government, Green Globes has developed a portfolio of over 400 buildings.

Green Globes advertises itself as a less expensive and more streamlined approach to LEED. The rating system requires a six section survey in the areas of project management, energy, water, resources, emissions, and indoor environment. Each section is composed of questions that are directed at determining the sustainability of the project which then appropriate to the proper Green Globe rating. Overall, the survey consists of 150 lay questions that are designed to be easily accessible and understandable by the reader. After completion of the project, the Green Globes rating system will award the building between one and four “Globes” of sustainability which emulates the four levels of certification provided by LEED.

The Two Rating Systems

The University of Minnesota conducted a study of the two rating systems and found that more similarities than differences existed between LEED and Green Globes. Overall, both companies seek the same goals in providing a guiding principle and assessment system for more sustainably designed buildings. The report focused on two areas: (i) the ability to seek and acquire a sustainability rating; and (ii) the ease of use of each system.

The report found that Green Globes provided a more lay-person interactive guide. Thus, individuals with a sufficient knowledge of a project could apply for a Green Globe rating on their own through a webbased, interactive rating system. Specifically, one noticeable difference is Green Globes’ thorough examination of the life-cycle assessment (LCA) of sustainable projects. This assessment identifies the overall environmental, energy, and health impacts of buildings by focusing on the durability and adaptability of the structure itself.

The LEED system, while more comprehensive, demanded more expert knowledge of the building process and sustainable technologies. Nevertheless, the study found LEED was able to emphasize its historical leadership and “consensus-based” process for the development of LEED standards. Furthermore, LEED’s expansion in environmental design and expertise developed over the last decade establishes its dominance and dependability in the field of sustainable rating systems.

Conclusively, the study found that the two systems are quite comparable in that both include a common set of potentially impactful design elements that contribute to the improvement of a building’s green performance. In the end, the most important factor established by the study is that commercial and residential builders now have a choice between two major rating systems and more are likely on the horizon.