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.


  • This is very interesting. How important do you think green building will be in this year's election? My client, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) believes it is very important. Check out The Angle (, the blog of the AIA, where Kin DuBois, former president of the AIA in Denver, is blogging live from the Democratic National Convention. He will be relaying via the blog any developments or discussions on sustainable architecture.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 15:33  

  • What are we thinking and doing? What is to become of our children?

    Our children’s future is being mortgaged and put at risk by leaders in my not-so-great generation of elders. Is there no end to arrogance and adamant avarice of the greedy kings of wealth concentration, their bought-and-paid-for politicians, their many minions in the mass media?

    Somehow we and our children have got to find more effective ways of communicating about threats to human wellbeing that are being perpetrated before our eyes by self-proclaimed “Masters of the Universe” among us.

    Good and able people are not saying loudly, clearly and often enough what they know to be true.........not speaking truth to power.

    Many too many politicians are posing for the public and pandering to those with great wealth; too many investment brokers are devising economic bubbles and pyramid schemes, skimming millions for themselves.......”breaking” the financial system and threatening the real economy; and the mass media has been turning a blind eye to the entire mess.

    Such woefully inadequate leadership needs to be named, shamed and replaced.

    Perhaps more people will stand up, remain standing, and speak out loudly, clearly and often about what they see and know to be happening.

    Our children could soon be confronted with an economic and/or ecological wreckage of an unimaginable kind; but, because so many people are not reasonably, sensibly and responsibly communicating with one another now, the chances for taking the measure of certain ominously looming economic and ecological challenges and finding adequate solutions to them appear to be diminishing day by day.

    Perhaps there are at least three questions worthy of consideration by young people and their elders today.

    Is it possible that the wondrous planetary home we inhabit was given unto the stewardship of humankind simply for the purpose of allowing the greediest people on the planet to fulfill their unending wishes and insatiable desires, come what may for a good enough future for their own children, coming generations, billions of less fortunate people in the family of humanity, global biodiversity, Earth’s body and environment? Are the greedy kings of wealth concentration and power politics, who consume, possess and hoard a lion’s share of the world’s wealth, the only people who matter? Are the selfish among us, the ones who are about to be “bailed out” this week despite their unbridled avarice and obscene behavior, supposed to be source of our primary concern?

    At least to me, it is crystal clear how so few have stolen so much from so many.

    Not ever in the course of human history have so few people been so greedy by having taken surreptitiously and then hoarded so much wealth that rightfully belonged to so many less fortunate people.

    Clearly and evidently, the colossal global economy is an ever-expanding, artificially designed, manmade construction. For whom does the world’s human economy exist? To fulfill the wishes and insatiable desires of those with ill-gotten gains? Only to provide security for the greediest among us?

    And, of all things, for many too many leaders of my not-so-great generation of elders to extoll the virtues of their unbridled avariciousness and applaud each other by passing out ‘awards’ to each other for the triumph of their greed, all of this is plainly outrageous.

    In light of what has occurred in the both the financial system and the real economy in recent years, can someone please explain what the terms “fairness” and “equity” mean? Can anyone find examples of these phenomena in the distribution of wealth by the organizers and managers of the world’s human economy today?

    Who knows, perhaps change toward common sense, fair play and sustainable behavior is in the offing.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:17  

  • I appreciate comments on my blog postings that are actually about the blog posting. It's just bad blog etiquette to use other people's blogs as your own platform. I don't care what your cause is. Get your own blog.

    By Blogger Amy Marpman, at 11:35  

  • You wrote, "Recently, Jones Lang LaSalle acquired ECD Energy and Environment Canada, the software developer of the online tool, Green Globes."

    You might want to rewrite that sentence as it sounds like JLL acquired a government agency. :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:23  

  • Thanks for the tip Anthon. How about:
    Recently, Jones Lang LaSalle acquired ECD Energy and Environment Canada. ECD is the software developer of the online tool, Green Globes.

    How would you suggest to rewrite it?

    By Blogger Amy Marpman, at 18:48  

  • Does anyone have the feeling that our communication, here now and elsewhere in other moments, appears to be convoluted and confused because many too many of us do not yet recognize that the family of humanity literally lives within a modern version of an ancient edifice, the Tower of Babel? The new leviathan-like, distinctly human construction is not made of stone, but instead built out as a "house of cards". This colossal, artificially designed structure is noticeably pyramidal in shape, organized as a patently unsustainable pyramid scheme, and named the global political economy.

    For the people who are the primary beneficiaries of such a scheme, the global economy is effectively an object of idolatry. Nothing else really matters to them. These people are the self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe among us. They could not care less about the natural world, life as we know it for the children and future generations, the integrity of Earth. You can readily recognize the idolaters as the leading, self-righteous elders of my "Not So GREAT GREED GRAB Generation". Endlessly consuming and hoarding resources as well as power-mongering are regarded as religious rituals.

    Any thoughts?

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 16:28  

  • Greetings. I am a City Planner for Steamboat Springs, CO and am researching various green building programs to implement as regulations for our ski base area. In comparing LEED to Green Globes, how does the rating system compare? Does LEED Certification equal Green Globes One Globe, or what level do they equal one another? Thanks for this blog topic, it's useful information and is actually making a difference in greening up the world not just tough rhetoric.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 17:09  

  • Thanks for this summary, I found it very useful, not having heard of Green Globes until now. I thought it might be interesting to see also how Green Globes compares with LEED 2009 although perhaps from your article it seems that direct comparison may be somewhat moot.

    I have read recent criticisms of LEED as being ineffectual as a standard since it doesn't require verification of actual building performance, just demonstrated efficiency increases in design from a standard base case. I have some sympathy with this argument but at the same time feel that the criticisms are also in some sense disingenuous, since LEED is an open project in which everyone can have a say in development of the various programs, and also because the 'D' in LEED stands for 'Design' not 'Performance'. Do you have a particular take on that?

    I also found it interesting that Malaysia's new green building rating only lasts for 3 years, you have to re-apply after that to prove your building's performance or the rating has to be dropped...anyway, starting to ramble…sorry. Just wanted to say thanks and hope to see new blog entries from you soon.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 03:35  

  • I also appreciate this comparison. I have heard of Green Globes, but was not particularly familiar with the process or how it differs from LEED, so your summary was great!

    As you note, each system has its flaws and detractors, but the overall goals of improved building efficiency, indoor air quality, better work/living environments, etc. are becoming more mainstream largely as a result of LEED and similar programs.

    Are you aware of any rating system with negative point assignments? For example, if I am demolishing a perfectly good building to build my glass and chrome LEED Platinum castle, I can currently get EXTRA points for waste diversion, etc. This seems environmentally wrong, and I have heard many architects and preservationists promoting renovation and reuse as superior to any new construction.

    Thanks again for your time in researching Green Globes!

    By Blogger Chris Sonne, PE, LEED AP, at 10:29  

  • I was the administrator for a Green Globes project here in Oregon.

    Since then, I've also added LEED AP to my credentials.

    I agree with your assessment of the two processes. found GReen Globes far easier to use than LEED and the support from the GBI is fantastic.

    What many people don't understand is that the difficulty of the submittals, the confusion in some the LEED language and processes, actually drives up the cost. It just takes longer to figure out the hoops for LEED. And none of that expense actually has to do with achieving "green". It has to do with the client paying a professional to spend time writing more documents, and trying research more about what the GBCI will accept or not.

    All projects have a limited budget, this is especially true for publicly funded projects. It's become my recomendation that unless a project needs the market value that LEED rating might create for resale of the facility, if they don't need that, then save the money from the administrative hassles and use it toward actual green measures on the building.

    Use the easier certification process, and have the client dump their funds into something great like a solar for the building, rather than paying for someone spending more time doing more construction admin paperwork.

    That's just my 2 cents on it.

    Once again you did a great write up!


    Heather McNeill
    Greener By Design
    Bend, OR

    By Anonymous Heather @ Greener By Design, at 13:08  

  • Thank you for your smart comparisons between LEED & GREEN GLOBES. Do you think that the more
    bureaucratic LEED will merge into the more practical GG eventually?
    I hope so. Your thoughts?-

    By Blogger Maria, at 06:24  

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  • It was pleasure reading your article and to know so much about Green Globes and LEED. You did a very logical comparison here and i agree with your summary on both. It should be treated as guidelines to go for green.

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  • The green globes are really nice. and it's provides environment keeping possibility . great site really informative i learned a lot great stuff keep it up.


    By Anonymous Lucy2010, at 00:48  

  • There definitely a demand for green homes and rightly so.There are green architects who help in the process.

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  • As a LEED AP and just learned about Green Globes, must say that green globes sounds like the better system based on what I have just read.

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  • Highly qualified third-party assessors (with expertise in green building design, engineering, construction and facility operations) conveniently interface with project teams and building owners during the third-party assessment process by reviewing building documentation and conducting on-site walk throughs. Green Globes rating/certification is suitable and practically attainable for a wide range of commercial buildings, and enables building owners to credibly market their environmental responsibility to shareholders, tenants, and the broader community.

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  • Good analysis. Enough people ask about green globes from us and I always share your link. I think sheer size of organization.

    As far as research in what is better for the environment, I have seen both ways. The new LEED rating system comes out soon and deals with long term building occupancy.

    Personally the more versions the better because it will keep them pushing for more of a sustainable design.

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