Recently, the leading green-building rating systems have been in the news: The Green Building Initiative (GBI) launched a new version of Green Globes for New Construction, U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) members overwhelmingly approved LEED v4, and the ENERGY STAR program released an upgraded Portfolio Manager tool, important to both Green Globes and LEED.
GBI has been offering free training on the new Green Globes for New Construction as part of its Green Globes Professionals (GGP) certification program, and the USGBC has said it will have updated reference guides, courses, and exams ready when it introduces LEED v4 at Greenbuild in November. Green Globes for New Construction has an increased focus on energy, with four paths available for energy performance; materials and resources; and life-cycle assessment. Also, it permits certain third-party assessments/certifications and is fully compliant with the federal government’s Guiding Principles for New Construction and Major Renovations.
LEED v4 sets significantly higher standards than previous versions of LEED and introduces several new requirements, including disclosure of the constitution of building products. According to the USGBC, the transition to LEED v4 will be gradual, with registering under LEED 2009 remaining an option until June 1, 2015.
As a practicing LEED Accredited Professional for six years and a GGP since December, I have noted similarities and differences between the two systems. For example, while both use online tools, Green Globes is interactive, while LEED requires data uploading and waiting for results. And while both require a minimum number of points, LEED has prerequisites, while Green Globes does not. Additionally, Green Globes allows non-applicable categories to be excluded from the total point count, eliminating the expensive “point chasing” that has been associated with LEED projects.
Perhaps the most significant difference concerns time and cost to achieve certification, both of which can be substantially less for Green Globes. In Turner Construction Co.’s 2012 Green Building Market Barometer, a survey of industry executives on green-building issues, cost and time were cited as the primary reasons for not seeking LEED certification.
I find the most important advantage of Green Globes to be its on-site assessment process, through which an independent assessor visits a site and meets with the owner and consultant to review a project. With LEED, anonymous teams engaged by the Green Building Certification Institute review submissions and provide comments, which can vary in consistency and quality by team. Meanwhile, having to provide allowances in LEED consultants’ fees for appeals and interpretations inflates the total cost to the owner without adding value to the process.
This is not to say LEED does not have its advantages. LEED is the most recognized and most implemented green-building program in the world. And it arguably has been the most influential advocate for sustainability in the built environment.
So, then, let’s agree that, like everything else in our industry, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each project should be evaluated based on its own goals and objectives, and the most beneficial outcome to the owner should be the deciding factor in selecting which green label to pursue.