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Green Globes certification goes mainstream

The updated building certification system is gaining recognition as an alternative to LEED
Monday, January 27, 2014
By Jiri Skopek

A recent update of the Green Globes building certification for new construction was endorsed by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), causing a stir in the industry. Although Green Globes is not as well known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications, a growing number of projects are using it to certify their buildings.

Green Globes was developed more than 10 years ago as a more user-friendly and affordable certification system. Until recently, it was often referred to as the green building industry’s best-kept secret. As green buildings are increasingly becoming the norm, Green Globes itself is starting to become more mainstream.

As governments and industry members face pressure to address the impact of buildings on air, land, water, and the effects of climate change become widely known, developers are seeing the value of green buildings.

However, due to the perceived high cost, third-party certification of properties had typically has been reserved for flagship buildings or as mandated by governments until recently.

Some building owners have claimed that a building is ‘certifiable’ (but not certified) or ‘LEED equivalent’, as this is less costly and less onerous. Unfortunately, without some quality control, there is a tendency for owners to not follow through and keep up with green policies. As more buildings claim to be green, third-party certifications are the most transparent way to ensure that these claims are true and that goals are actually met.

Green Globes is being propelled as a prevailing certification method for three reasons: its user-friendliness, low cost and high credibility.

User-friendliness

Many green building assessments have similar criteria. This is because they are largely based on accepted best practice, industry standards (such as ASHRAE) and peer benchmarks. Where assessments tend to differ is in their format and delivery.

The Green Globes platform is an online questionnaire that produces automated reporting. The submission requirements for certification are simple, and consist of actual working documents, most of which are produced in the standard course of doing a project based on an integrated design process.

For example, the required documentation for a new construction project would include working drawings and specifications, modelling studies, records of integrated design sessions, as well as evidence of required studies such an erosion control plan and a commissioning plan.

An added benefit of Green Globes is that it has optional features that facilitate the integrated design process throughout the project delivery, starting at the pre-design and design concept stages. One timesaving feature is a pre-design goal-setting module, which generates a document that can be used as the basis for creating environmental intent section in specifications.

Cost

Green Globes is designed to be used as an in-house support by the design team, avoiding the cost to engage additional consultants to co-ordinate the integrated design process. As there are no additional submittal requirements over and above documents which should normally be produced, this reduces the time and cost of producing a submission.

Credibility

Green Globes is widely recognized by governments and organizations across North America. A recent study by the U.S. GSA found that Green Globes met federal requirements for new construction as well as — and in some respects even better than — LEED.

In Canada, the Green Globes New Construction program has certified more than 100 buildings. BOMA Canada licenses and administers the Green Globes for Existing Buildings version, which is branded as BOMA BESt. There are now more than 4,000 BOMA BESt certifications. The federal government even references the program in its Federal Sustainable Strategy for Canada, and some provincial governments are doing the same in their own green policies.

The recently updated Canadian version of Green Globes for New Construction puts greater emphasis on quantifiable criteria. It is largely based on the ANSI/GBI 01-2010: Green Building Assessment Protocol for Commercial Buildings’ standard.

It addresses carbon target benchmarks, life cycle assessments and environmental performance declarations. It also includes innovation criteria, which, similar to the Living Building Challenge, focuses on the positive contributions buildings are able to make to the environment and communities — a refreshing departure from merely reducing the negative impacts of buildings.

As there is a continuum between Green Globes’ new and existing building modules, this provides a rigorous framework for buildings that want to go on a carbon diet throughout their life cycle.

Jiri Skopek is the managing director of sustainability with ECD Jones Lang LaSalle, and is best known for developing the suite of Green Globes environmental assessment tools. He is an architect and planner with more than 30 years of experience in sustainable development. 

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