By Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP
One can hardly read any green building article written over the past 10 years without the mention of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). LEED clearly has been the dominant environmental rating system since its development by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1998. However, with the continued growth of sustainable construction, LEED is attracting competitors, one of which is the Green Globes system.
Green Globes originated in Canada in 1996 when the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) published the Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) for existing buildings. The system was renamed Green Globes in 2000 as it became an online assessment and rating tool.
In Canada, the Green Globes version for existing buildings is operated by BOMA Canada (Business Owners and Managers Association) under the brand name BOMA BESt. In the United States, the program is managed by the Green Building Initiative (GBI). The GBI has continually refined the system to ensure that it reflects current and ongoing advances in research and technology.
Today, Green Globes is used by large developers and property management companies including the Canadian federal government, which has adopted the program for its entire real estate portfolio.
The Green Globes program is web-based and provides guidance for green building and certification that includes an on-site assessment by a third party.
The program has modules supporting new construction, existing buildings and health care buildings. Like LEED, it can be utilized for a wide range of buildings from offices and multifamily structures to hospitals and institutional buildings such as courthouses, schools and universities.
How LEED and Green Globes compare
In concept, the goals of both rating systems are similar: Build more sustainable buildings, basing the design on energy and water conservation, occupant safety and comfort, and other factors. Green Globes markets itself as a more user friendly system, but some say it is more industry friendly while LEED is more rigorous.
Unlike LEED, Green Globes does not contain prerequisites. Both are based on a point system – LEED having 110 points while Green Globes is rated on 1,000 points. The points are distributed as shown in Table 1.
In terms of certification levels, LEED has Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels, while Green Globes certification levels are measured by one, two, three or four green globes. The Green Globes rating scale is shown in Table 2. Table 3 shows a comparison of the two programs.
Green Globes uses an online questionnaire-based approach. Once the questionnaire has been completed, a report is generated that provides a list of sustainable achievements, ratings and recommendations for improvement. A third-party assessor then communicates with project teams and building owners to review documentation and conduct on-site building tours. LEED, on the other hand, is more documentation-intensive.
In terms of popularity, LEED has been the front runner; however, Green Globes has been catching up lately. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) recently recommended the federal government consider Green Globes as an alternative for LEED.
The U.S. Department of Defense, which owns more LEED-certified buildings than any other entity, has reportedly decided to allow its facilities to use the Green Globes program. The Department of Defense manages 2.3 billion sq ft of space in 300,000 buildings worldwide.
There is no question that the LEED system has had a profound effect on the green building industry. It has helped push awareness and use of sustainable construction materials and methods to every part of North America. That increase in popularity has created more demand for programs, and Green Globes has stepped up to fill a need. Suppliers to the precast industry should familiarize themselves with both programs and be prepared to provide supporting data. This effort can further enhance a company’s ability to take advantage of this growing market.
Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP, is NPCA’s director of Sustainability and Technical Education.