Certifications, Verification Programs and Rating Systems
Buildings have extensive direct and indirect impacts on the environment. During their construction, occupancy, renovation, repurposing, and demolition, buildings use energy, water, and raw materials, generate waste, and emit potentially harmful atmospheric emissions. These facts have prompted the creation of green building standards, certifications, and rating systems aimed at mitigating the impact of buildings on the natural environment through sustainable design.
A standard is a set of guidelines and criteria against which a product can be judged. Common standards related to building practices are created through consensus processes by organizations such as ANSI, ASTM, or ASHRAE. Supporting the governance of standards and certifications is the International Standards Organization (ISO), which defines and develops worldwide standards that frequently become law or form the basis of industry norms. ISO defines a standard as: “a document, established by consensus, approved by a recognized body that provides for common and repeated use as rules, guidelines, or characteristics for activities or their results.”
Why Pursue Performance Certifications?
Certification through any of the rating systems below verify of differing levels to performance of a project, and can be a valuable educational and marketing tool for owners and design & construction teams through the process of creating a more sustainable building. Performance or sometimes noted as “green” building certifications can also be a way to provide an incentive for clients, owners, designers, and users to develop and promote highly sustainable construction practices. It is important to note that a building does not have to be certified to be sustainable and well-built.
The guidelines within rating systems also help to clarify a market filled with sustainable options. Rating systems also clearly outline what “green” standards need to be followed and what types of products should be included in construction specifications. Building rating and certification systems are in a state of change and evolution and continue to be refined to reflect new standards and goals for achieving ever higher levels of sustainability – it is essential to research the most recent versions of any given certification.
Finding the Right Program
The following table and the expanded information directly below it outlines several of the most commonly used and respected green building rating and certification systems in the marketplace.
|Building Rating or Certification System||Single- or Multi- Attribute||Type of Standard or Certification||Managing Organization||Issues / Areas of Focus|
|Energy Star||Single-Attribute||Government certification using a benchmarking method||U.S. EPA and U.S. DOE||Building energy and water use|
|Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)||Multi-Attribute||Green building rating and certification system through independent third-party verification for:
||U.S. Green Building Council||Performance in:
|Green Globes||Multi-Attribute||Green building guidance and assessment program for:
||Green Building Initiative in the U.S.
|Environmental assessment areas to earn credits in:
|Living Building Challenge||Multi-Attribute||Performance-based standard, and certification program for:
||International Living Future Institute||Performance areas include:
All areas are requirements.
|NZEB||Multi-Attribute||Certification program using the structure of the Living Building Challenge which can be applied to any building type.||International Living Future Institute||One hundred percent of the project’s energy needs must be supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis, without the use of on-site combustion. NZEB certified buildings must also meet the following requirements of the Living Building Challenge:
|Passive House Institute US||Multi-Attribute||Performance based passive building standard
||Passive House Institute US||Any type of building.
New focus areas include:
|SITES||Multi-Attribute||Third party verified rating system for development projects located on sites with or without buildings.||Administered by GBCI||Performance criteria in the areas of:
|WELL Building Standard||Multi-Attribute||Performance based standard and certification program for
||Administered by the International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI)||Measures attributes of buildings that impact occupant health by looking at seven factors: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light|
Table summarized from WBDG