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Green building rating systems exist to address every project type from single-family houses and commercial buildings to entire neighborhoods. There are rating systems available for new construction, which focus on decisions made in the planning and design process and actions taken through construction, as well as for existing buildings, which focus on operations and maintenance throughout the life of the building.

A primary reason for the creation of rating systems is the need to more clearly define, implement, and measure green strategies and their outcomes and impacts. Federal, state, and municipal agencies across the country such as the General Services Administration GSA , Department of Energy , Department of Health and Human Services , and the Environmental Protection Agency , took an early lead in incorporating energy efficiency and sustainability by following green building guidelines in the design, construction, and renovation of Federal facilities.

Most states and many major cities have also incorporated green into their internal building requirements for new construction. A first-party assessment is one that comes directly from an organization that is associated with the entity making the claim or who may benefit from the claim. A second-party assessment is performed by an interested party such as a trade association. A third-party assessment is conducted by an independent party that has no financial interest or ties to the outcome of the assessment.

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According to RSMeans there are four principles that should be considered when evaluating a building rating or certification system:. The reasons for pursuing a green building certification for a project are varied. Certification through any rating system provides verification of the green nature of the project, and can be a valuable educational and marketing tool for owners and design and construction teams through the process of creating a more sustainable building.

Green building certification 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 "green" options.

Rating systems also clearly outline what green standards need to be followed and what types of green products should be included in construction specifications. Ultimately, the type of certification system pursued for a project depends upon that singular project; none of these certification systems are one-size-fits all. The dynamic nature of projects might prohibit one system but favor another.

The choice is dependent upon the uniqueness of each project and the project needs and requirements such as the project location, size, budget, and overall project goals. Also comparing essential issues such as cost, ease of use, and building performance will help determine which building rating system is applicable and which certification level is possible. 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.

So it is essential to investigate the most current versions of these programs to gain an understanding of particular requirements that must be met in order to achieve the best results. There are a wide range of economic and environmental benefits to sustainable design, often achieved through the use of standards, rating, and certification systems. Many sustainable buildings have also seen increases of up to 6. Other benefits of green buildings, such as higher productivity and increased occupant health, have been attributed to better indoor environmental quality, increases in natural daylighting , and healthier materials and products within green buildings.

The 12 GSA buildings were compared to industry standard performance of energy, water, maintenance and operations, waste, recycling, transportation, and occupant satisfaction metrics. While these benefits are possible, it is important to note that they are dependent upon factors such as climate, topography, timing, credit synergies, and local building standards. 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 U.

Energy Star Rating System —is a rating system created by the U. Please note that Energy Star also has a product certification program. See also Single-Attribute Product Certification above. This national survey, known as the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey CBECS , is conducted every four years, and gathers data on building characteristics and energy use from thousands of buildings across the United States.

Your building's peer group of comparison are those buildings in the CBECS survey that have similar building and operating characteristics. To receive an Energy Star rating, a project's energy usage must be tracked with the online Portfolio Manager and receive a score of 75 or more. Outlined below are the building rating systems most commonly in use within the U. Additionally, international programs are included to provide a reference point for those developing projects outside the U. BREEAM was the world's first environmental assessment method for buildings and is defined by building science and research.

BREEAM aims to deliver sustainable solutions, encourage a holistic approach to sustainability that is based on sound science and measures what is important, and improve building environmental performance. Innovation is rewarded through exemplary credits within specific issues. Each category is weighted to encourage projects to focus on the categories with the highest environmental impact and minimum standards are set to ensure that key aspects of performance across the standard are met to achieve the higher levels of certification. This provides a level of flexibility for use while maintaining the rigor of the standard.

The standards are set by building life-cycle stage and define the building types that are included. Where a building type is not included, BREEAM offers a Bespoke service that tailors the criteria in the existing standards to the development's specific use, sustainability opportunities and its location without compromising the rigor of the standard. The BREEAM standards are regularly reviewed and updated to reflect the latest building science research and knowledge.


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Project teams select an Assessor, trained and licensed by BRE, to verify the performance described is accurate and supported by evidence required by the standard. The report is subject to a quality assurance process and once passed, the certificate is issued. For New Construction and Refurbishment and Fit Out, an interim certificate can be issued at the Design Stage and the final certificate issued once construction is complete.

On-site visits are required for certification. LEED is used throughout North America as well as in more than 30 countries with over 6, projects currently certified across the globe and over 21, projects registered. One hundred points are available across these categories with mandatory prerequisites such as minimum energy and water-use reduction, recycling collection, and tobacco smoke control.

Within each category are credits that pertain to specific strategies for sustainability, such as the use of low-emitting products, reduced water consumption , energy efficiency , access to public transportation, recycled content , renewable energy , and daylighting.

There are no on-site visits required and certification can occur upon completion of construction. Green Globes —originated in Canada and was brought to the U. It is now cited in many Federal, State, and Municipal mandates. Users can indicate that certain credits may not be applicable to a project, a feature unique to Green Globes. It also does not have prerequisites. A Green Globes rating requires a Green Globes Assessor to perform an onsite assessment of the building. This ensures that the self-reported claims made in the online documentation are verified. Both new construction and existing buildings can be evaluated using Green Globes; commercial or multifamily.

The first step toward a Green Globes certification is completing a self-reported online assessment survey, which is required at various stages throughout design and construction. At the construction documents phase and after substantial completion, a Green Globes Assessor will perform a site visit to verify the claims made in the survey.

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A Green Globes certification of one through four globes can then be earned once verification is confirmed. It examines site, water, energy, materials, health, equity, and beauty. All of its tenets are mandatory making it the most rigorous green building certification system in the market today. After online registration, projects must join the living building community where discussions concerning compliance are held, and documentation occurs. Certification occurs twelve months after project completion, with an on-site audit to ensure compliance. The NZEB designation verifies that a building is truly operating as claimed, harnessing energy from the sun, wind, or earth to exceed net annual demand.

To earn this certification, a building must meet five requirements of the LBC:. There are certified projects in South Korea and Japan, and projects are certifying most recently in China and Israel.

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SITES certification is for development projects located on sites with or without buildings—ranging from national parks to corporate campuses, streetscapes to homes, and more. SITES is used by landscape architects, designers, engineers, architects, developers, policy-makers and others to align land development and management with innovative sustainable design. Land is a crucial component of the built environment and can be planned, designed, developed and maintained to protect and enhance the benefits we derive from healthy functioning landscapes.

SITES helps create ecologically resilient communities and benefits the environment, property owners, and local and regional communities and economies. WELL —is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being by looking at seven factors, or Concepts. WELL is grounded in a body of medical research that explores the connection between the buildings where people spend more than 90 percent of their time, and the health and wellness impacts on occupants.

WELL is composed of over Features that are applied to each building project, and each WELL feature is designed to address issues that impact the health, comfort, or knowledge of occupants. Many WELL Features intended to improve health are supported by existing government standards or other standards-setting organizations.

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WELL Features are categorized as either Preconditions —necessary for baseline WELL Certification or Compliance, or Optimizations —optional enhancements, which together determine the level of certification above baseline certification. WELL is further organized into Project Typologies which take into account the specific set of considerations that are unique to a particular building type or phase of construction.

There are many international green building design systems that also set up their criteria through a nationalistic focus, keeping local standards and codes in mind. They include:. The BCA Green Mark Scheme rates buildings according to five key criteria including: energy efficiency, water efficiency, environmental protection, indoor environmental quality, and other green and innovative features that contribute to better building performance.

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The program outlines a six step scheme that also offers cash incentives to developers, especially focused on addressing improvements to existing construction in areas such as energy use reduction and materials conservation. BEAM is an initiative that assesses, improves, certifies, and labels the environmental performance of buildings. It is a voluntary program developed in partnership with, and adopted by the industry.

BEAM is intended to: stimulate demand for more sustainable buildings in Hong Kong and other regions, giving recognition for improved performance and minimizing false claims; provide a common set of performance standards that can be pursued by developers, designers, architects, engineers, contractors and operators; reduce the environmental impacts of buildings throughout the planning, design, construction, management and demolition life cycle; and increase awareness in the building community, and ensure that environmental considerations are integrated at the beginning of a project.

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Certification can only be issued upon building completion due to a significant number of credits being based on actions taken during construction and upon completion. Each tool is intended for a separate purpose and target user, and is designed to accommodate a wide range of uses offices, schools, apartments, etc.

CASBEE covers the assessment fields of energy efficiency, resource efficiency, local environment, and indoor environment. Both indoor and outdoor spaces are considered as part of the assessment but are assessed separately. EDGE Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies —is a green building certification system for new residential and commercial buildings in emerging markets.

The program, which engages financiers, developers, regulators, and homeowners, shows property developers how fast and affordable it is to construct resource-efficient buildings, enabling them to pass value directly to building owners and tenants. EDGE enables design teams and project owners to assess the most cost-effective ways to incorporate energy and water-saving options into their buildings.

An innovation of the International Finance Corporation IFC , a member of the World Bank Group that focuses on private sector development, EDGE consists of a web-based software application, a universal standard and a certification system. Green Star SA —was developed by The Green Building Council of South Africa, and is based on the Australian Green Building Council tools to provide the property industry with an objective measurement for green buildings and to recognize and reward environmental leadership in the property industry.

Each rating tool reflects a different market sector office, retail, multi-unit residential, etc.