It's the Environment, Stupid.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

LEED vs. Green Globes

I had known OF Green Globes, but didn't really know anything ABOUT it. So I decided to look into it and find out how it compared to LEED (which I am very familiar with - I looked at comparing the existing building versions as that's what I work with).

Here's what I found out:
Green Globes is a software based, online tool for green building certification. In the United States it is run by Green Building Initiative (GBI), a non-profit organization. The relationship here is similar to LEED (the green building certification tool) being developed and managed by USGBC.

The origin of Green Globes stems from the Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) in 1996, which was developed for use in the UK and Canada. In 2000, the system went online and is now known as GEM (Global Environmental Method) in the UK and is sponsored by the RICS Foundation there. In Canada, it is run by BOMA Canada and is known as ‘Go Green Plus’. In the US is it Green Globes, run by GBI.

Recently, Jones Lang LaSalle acquired ECD Energy and Environment Canada, the software developer of the online tool, Green Globes. It is likely that JLL will pursue Green Globes certification for buildings they own and operate. (GBI and BOMA Canada retain licensing rights to develop and distribute their respective versions, within their respective countries.)

It costs $1000 to register one (1) building under Green Globes Continual Improvement for Existing Buildings. At the end of the evaluation process it costs $4000-6000 for an independent, third party assessment.

The process:
Using a free 30-day trial access I was able to access the online Environmental Assessment for Existing Commercial Buildings. It is a essentially a 22 page questionnaire/survey covering energy, transportation, water, waste reduction and recycling, site management, air and water emissions, indoor air quality (IAQ), purchasing and communication. It is completed online only and is very user friendly.

Each question is weighted with points (in all totaling up to 1000). The overall rating is tracked as questions are answered. The overall rating however is based on a percentage, not on total points. This way there are no penalties for questions that are not applicable (ie. Answering ‘no’ on water efficient Irrigation questions will not be counted against you if you do not have any landscaping). I have attached the survey (the downloadable version does not include points.)

The Green Globes System automatically generates a report based on your answers. The report lists where the building stands in each major category and lists suggestions for improvement in order to gain a better score. There are four rating levels that buildings can achieve – 35-54%, 55-69%, 70-84%, 85-100%.

Compared to LEED:
The categories and areas addressed within each standard for building operations and maintenance are similar. However, the LEED process is far more stringent than Green Globes in a few areas, whereas Green Globes is a lot more user friendly than LEED and easier overall.
  • LEED has minimum standards that must be met in order to begin the certification process, and requires detailed documentation for every point pursued. Green Globes does not require any ongoing documentation, but it may be required as proof of compliance during the third party assessment.
  • Each standard utilizes the Energy Star Portfolio Manager application. LEED asks that you generate your own number (and requires a minimum number); Green Globes incorporates it as part of the survey.
  • Green Globes is not necessarily easier to achieve than LEED, but the certification process is simpler and it has a greater range for all types of buildings, even those that may not be ‘high-performance’ buildings.
  • Green Globes has a greater allowance for different locations and different building types, in that your project is not penalized for non-applicable points.
  • Each managing organization (GBI, USGBC) continually assesses and upgrades their green building certification tools based on user feedback and expert input.
  • While neither requires professional certification or accreditation, LEED has an exam for accredited professionals for each version (ie, NC, EB). Green Globes only requires their third party assessors to have specialized training.
  • The total cost for Green Globes, not including facility improvements, is around $5,000-$7,000 (registering the building, and third party assessor verification) for any sized space; LEED costs $12,950 for the process (registration, plus $12,500 for certification for members) for more than 500,000 square feet.
Is one better than the other? Depends on who you are and why you want to go for it. Both are reputable green building standards. Right now, LEED is getting all the press and is being written into legislation. LEED isn't perfect (I don't think anyone at USGBC proposes otherwise), and neither is Green Globes. Neither should be treated as a green building bible, but should be treated as guidelines to help in the process to green your building.