What comes to mind when you think of sustainable building certification? Chances are what popped into your head was the LEED® logo, which adorns many green buildings and has become iconic over the past decade.
Established in 1998, overhauled in 2000 to become the LEED® Green Building Rating System Version 2.0, and administered by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), the certification program has been adopted by federal, state and local government incentives and initiatives in addition to gaining mainstream recognition and acceptance among the private sector. Since its inception, the LEED® system has come to be recognized worldwide as one of the most definitive design and construction guides to sustainable buildings. Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture has stewarded various levels of LEED® certification, from “Certified” to “Platinum,” on over 20 projects to date and continues to believe firmly in the effectiveness of the program. However, it is not the only choice in sustainable building certification, as some clients believe.
One comparable alternative to LEED® certification is the Green Globes® certification program, managed by the Green Building Initiative (GBI). The certification is based on criteria similar to those of LEED®, but differs in some aspects—most notably in the application process. Additionally, according to its website, “in 2005, GBI became the first green building organization to be accredited as a standards developer by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and began the process of establishing Green Globes as an official ANSI standard.” As the Green Globes® certification mark garners more widespread acceptance (it is officially recognized in 30 states across the U.S. and the list continues to grow), we often present it as an option to clients when the discussion of green building certification arises.
Green Globes® certification addresses the complexities of sustainable building in new and existing healthcare, multifamily residential and single-family residential construction. The program manages the architect and owner’s expectations in developing an environmentally responsible design by recognizing notable achievements in sustainability without minimum program requirements or prerequisites. The rating scale is based on the “demonstration” of incorporated sustainable elements, based on actual building construction and performance. Assessment is done via a physical verification process in which an assessor visits the building under consideration and interviews members of the design team. To maintain transparency and fairness of the process, the assigned assessor is an independent third party—not a GBI representative or member of the design team. He/she performs a thorough analysis of the building’s design and operation in conjunction with the design team, construction team and owner in order to gain a true understanding of the project’s intricacies. Some clients find this individualized approach to assessment more appealing than a one-size-fits-all set of criteria.
Although not based on prerequisite metrics, the Green Globes® point system does expect the energy components of the building to exceed common ASHRAE design standards. A point system evaluates the building’s performance based on energy modeling, which may either be performed directly by the GBI or by an energy modeling firm, at the discretion of the applicant. Although commissioning is not a requirement, it does add to the total points achievable and is generally recommended. The Green Globes® rating system encourages an integrated design process by soliciting applicants to demonstrate the involvement of the various team members during all stages of the design and construction process, through specifications, meeting agendas and meeting minutes, and at the on-site assessor interview.
A notable distinction between the Green Globes® and LEED® rating systems is the ability of the project team and assessor to distinguish which scoring criteria are applicable to the project under evaluation. Scoring elements that do not apply to the project for one reason or another may be deemed “Not Applicable,” effectively removing them from the total possible point count. This option adjusts the baseline standard of scoring to ensure projects are not arbitrarily penalized for irrelevant criteria. A second important distinction between Green Globes® and LEED®, which has already been discussed, is the presence of a third-party assessor.
During the LEED® application process, a LEED® Accredited Professional on the project’s design team must compile and upload all requirements via the online application, which entails the completion of various forms and calculations. This can require a considerable amount of the designer’s time and human resources. The Green Globes® online application, conversely, is a simple “Yes,” “No” or “Not Applicable” survey with a small handful of fill-in-the-blank questions. Calculations are derived directly from the energy model, while other product values are taken from product data sheets. Information is required to be supplied to the assessor during the on-site evaluation, but the analysis is performed and validated by the assessor and through the energy model. As a result, it does not fall on the design team to enter all the analysis information into the online survey, potentially saving time and money for the owner.
The onsite verification process adds a level of independent review which is not available under the LEED® rating system, but it does not come without a cost. The assessor’s site visits are included in the cost of certification, which varies based on building type, square footage and recognition terms—much like the LEED® certification cost structure. Also similar to LEED® pricing is the fact that a plaque containing the Green Globes® certification seal, often desired by clients, adds to the already high price tag of certification. For more information, visit the following links to LEED® certification pricing and Green Globes® certification pricing.
Does all this mean we’ve abandoned LEED® certification on our projects and that Green Globes® certification is the perfect replacement? By no means. LEED® certification continues to be the leader in sustainable building recognition programs, both in the U.S. and abroad. It remains the most widely recognized of all such programs. However, the Green Globes® program has made notable strides in recent years and presents a viable alternative to LEED® when discussing green building certification with your clients. It can be pursued in lieu of or in addition to LEED® certification, and it serves as a good reminder that we as designers do have a choice when it comes to presenting clients with certification options.
For information on our experience with green building certification, visit our list of “BRS High-Performance Projects.”
Posted by Lauren Turner, AIA, LEED® AP BD+C on July 24, 2013 at 04:06pmcomments powered by Disqus