Green Certifications: What Options Are Available And Why Do They Matter?
Published by Sumayyah Theron
Green Building Rating and Certificates
Buildings have a large impact on our environment and health. Because they use energy, water, and raw material, they generate waste and potentially emit toxins into the environment. Through different standards and certifications that outline integrated design processes and sustainability this harmful impact can be reduced and mitigated, allowing us to create buildings that are environmentally responsible and are resource efficient through their life cycle.
This integrated process starts with the design and continues through the construction, operation and maintenance, renovation, and ends with demolition. Through each stage the rating system has guidelines that has performance targets for the buildings to meet.
Different rating programs will have different requirements, or they will focus on meeting different attributes in order for the certification to be awarded. What they have in common though, is that they are all designed to reduce the impact the built environment has on the natural environment and the human health.
What Programs are Available?
There are many programs available. Listed below are the most commonly used and respected ones. The programs in bold will be covered in this blog post.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
LEED was created in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for rating design and construction practices that would define a green building in the United States. LEED is used throughout North America as well as across 162 countries. As of 2016, there are over 80,000 projects registered, including 32,500 certified commercial projects. The certification addresses different building types: New Construction, Existing Buildings, Commercial Interiors, Core & Shell, Schools, Retail, Healthcare, Homes, and Neighborhood Development.
LEED consists of mandatory prerequisites and credits which earn points in several categories: Location and Transportation, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Regional Priority, and Innovation in Design. Within each category are credits that pertain to specific strategies for sustainability, such as access to public transportation, reduced water consumption, energy efficiency, use of low-emitting products, recycled content, and renewable energy.
The certification process takes place online (https://www.usgbc.org/leedonline/). Project teams are required to compile and upload documentation to show compliance with the requirements. The documentation is then reviewed by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI); a LEED certification is earned if all prerequisites and enough credits are earned. There are four levels of certification: Certified: 40 to 49 points, Silver: 50 to 59 points, Gold: 60 to 79 points, and Platinum: 80 to 110. There are no on-site visits required and certification can occur upon completion of construction.
Based on the 1996 CSA publication of BREEAM Canada, Green Globes for Existing Buildings was developed in 2000 by ECD Energy and Environment Canada. Green Globes for New Buildings Canada followed shortly after. In 2004, the system was adapted for the USA. GBI acquired the global rights to Green Globes in 2017. The Green Globes brand and associated rating systems are administered in the United States by GBI and in Canada by its wholly-owned, non-profit subsidiary, GB Initiative Canada.
Like LEED, the points are spread across multiple categories: Project/Environmental Management, Site, Energy, Water, Materials and Resources, Emissions, and Indoor Environment. The advantage of Green Globes over other rating systems is that users can indicate that certain credits may not be applicable to a project, a feature unique to Green Globes. It also does not have prerequisites. The certificate requires a Green Globes Assessor to perform an onsite assessment of the building. This verifies the self-reported survey and documentation. New construction and existing buildings can be evaluated using Green Globes; commercial or multifamily.
Buildings are rated on a 1,000-point scale. The first step towards a Green Globes certification is completing a self-reported online assessment survey, which is required at various stages throughout design and construction. The project receives the applicable points number after the initial survey is reviewed. The Green Globes assessor performs the site visit at the construction documents phase and after substantial completion.
A Green Globes certification of one through four globes can then be earned once verification is confirmed. Based on the percentages of points earned to total applicable points, the rating is awarded as follows: One Green Globes 35-54%, Two Green Globes 55-69%, Three Green Globes 70-84%, and Four Green Globes 85-100%.
ENERGY STAR Rating System
Created by the U.S. EPA and DOE in 1992, this system uses a benchmarking method to assess building’s energy and water use. (ENERGY STAR also has a product certification program).
As stated on the ENERGY STAR website, “statistically representative models are used to compare your building against similar buildings from a national survey conducted by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. This national survey, known as the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), is conducted every four years, and gathers data on building characteristics and energy use from thousands of buildings across the United States. Your building’s peer group of comparison are those buildings in the CBECS survey that have similar building and operating characteristics. A rating of 50 indicates that the building, from an energy consumption standpoint, performs in the 50% of all similar buildings nationwide, while a rating of 75 indicates that the building performs better than 75% of all similar buildings nationwide.”
To receive an ENERGY STAR rating, a project’s energy usage must be tracked with the online Portfolio Manager (https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/facility-ownersand-managers/existing-buildings/use-portfolio-manager) and receive a score of 75% or more.
Why Certify? Benefits of Green Building Certification
Certification matters. It is a way to validate a building’s performance. Sustainable buildings have shown reduction in energy consumption; lowering carbon emissions, water usage and waste reduction. Sustainable buildings have lower operating cost and increased occupant health through better indoor air quality. Often, sustainable improvements qualify for tax incentives and meet state and federal requirements.
There are multiple certification options to validate a project performance. Depending on the project’s sustainable goals, different certification options might be better than others. If you are unsure which certificate aligns best with your goals, please contact us at Cyclone Energy Group.
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