An Overview of Green Rating Systems

Article written by Scott Wick, summer associate at Kohrman Jackson & Krantz

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) used to measure how successfully a building meets various environmental standards. While LEED is the most widely known green rating system, it is important to understand that there are many alternatives.

One popular and widely recognized alternative to LEED is Green Globes, sponsored by the Green Building Initiative (GBI). Like LEED, Green Globes is a rating system developed to emphasize energy saving, environmentally-friendly design and construction practices. Both programs have much in common, but there are some distinct differences.

The most striking similarity between LEED and Green Globes is the structure of the rating system used by each program. Both are third-party certified programs that operate based on point systems with the potential to earn one of four possible levels of achievement:

The newest version of LEED (LEED v3), introduced in early 2009, rates building projects on a 100 point scale (plus 10 possible bonus points) in the following areas:
• Sustainable Sites
• Water Efficiency
• Energy and Atmosphere
• Materials and Resources
• Indoor Environmental Quality
• Innovation in Design
• Regional Priority

Each LEED category has a maximum possible number of points. The better the overall score, the higher the level of LEED certification:

• Certified (40-49 points)
• Silver (50-59 points)
• Gold (60-79 points)
• Platinum (80 points and above)

Green Globes maintains a 1,000 maximum possible point scale in the following areas:

• Energy
• Indoor Environment
• Site
• Resources
• Water
• Emissions and Effluents
• Project Management

The program awards Green Globes based on a percentage of the total points possible that a project achieves:

• Four Green Globes (85-100%)
• Three Green Globes (70-84%)
• Two Green Globes (55-69%)
• One Green Globe (35-54%)

Both LEED and Green Globes are effective programs for rating development projects. There is approximately an 80-85% overlap between the points rated by each program. The rating structure for indoor environmental quality and site selection are comparable between the two.

However, one striking difference is the manner by which each program counts points. LEED rating is based on the total number of points possible from the seven areas of analysis. However, some projects are in essence penalized because not all areas that earn points apply to every project. The Green Globe rating, on the other hand, is based on a percentage of possible points rather than total points. This means that there are no penalties for missing out on points from areas of assessment that are not applicable to a given project.

Another key distinction is that Green Globes places a greater emphasis on energy savings while LEED has a stronger emphasis on the selection and use of material resources. Also, in terms of energy savings, LEED focuses on more efficient use of fossil fuels while Green Globes provides higher ratings for projects that utilize alternative sources of energy.

Also, LEED is more comprehensive and stringent, but it is also bogged down in greater administrative hurdles and much more expensive. While LEED v3 provides some online capabilities, something that earlier versions lacked, Green Globes was designed as an online tool, which is very user-friendly and extremely inexpensive in comparison to LEED.

Finally, it is important to realize that other options exist beside LEED and Green Globes. The links below connect to other organizations and similar rating programs that assess development projects or a specific aspect of development related to green building. The key is to know that there are options out there and to determine which program best serves the needs of a particular development project.

Green Globes
Energy Star

For more information on green rating systems and green building codes, see our earlier posts:

LEED: The Good, Bad and Ugly
Green Building Codes: The alternative to LEED and other rating systems"

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