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Green Globes Tops LEED in Federal Review, But Barely

By Paula Melton

This article originally appeared on BuildingGreen.com.

May 15, 2012
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Courtesy GSA
In 2002, the GSA selected Bennett Wagner & Grody Architects to oversee a $45.8 million retrofit of the Byron G. Rogers U.S. Courthouse in Denver. It became the first LEED Gold certified existing building in GSA's inventory.

After almost a decade of requiring LEED certification for all federal building projects, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is suggesting in a new report that the Green Globes rating system aligns slightly better than LEED with federal requirements for new construction, while LEED remains the most compatible green building rating system for existing buildings.

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The differences identified between the two systems are not marked, and the report acknowledges that apples-to-apples comparisons are difficult. The reviewers also claim the report “does not recommend a certification system,” but repercussions remain to be seen; a similar report from 2006 was used to justify GSA’s continued use of LEED.

To judge the “robustness” of green building certification systems, the reviewers compared federal guiding principles for building projects against features of three voluntary rating systems—Green Globes, LEED, and the Living Building Challenge—considering new construction separately from existing buildings. In keeping with the requirements of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the goal was to identify which systems allow projects to meet federal requirements with the least extra effort by project teams.

Findings regarding new construction

For new construction, Green Globes directly addresses the highest number of federal priorities—25 out of 27. However, as with all of the rating systems analyzed, project teams have to make an extra effort in several categories in order to meet federal guidelines.

• Although Green Globes has no prerequisites, optional credits helped the system match federal green building requirements more closely than those of any other rating system for new construction. Fifteen of these credits, however, would have to exceed the requirements laid out by Green Globes in order to match federal needs. Green Globes does not address two federal requirements at all: benchmarking and building system controls.

LEED prerequisites guarantee compliance with four federal requirements (something Green Globes doesn’t do at all), and optional credits provide compliance with seven more requirements. Nine credits would have to exceed LEED’s requirements in order to meet federal standards. LEED does not address seven of the categories at all, though this could change with LEED 2012 (which in draft versions for example, addresses integrated design).

• The Living Building Challenge (LBC) has only prerequisites and no optional credits. Fourteen LBC requirements align to some degree with federal requirements, but there are thirteen others that LBC does not address.

Copyright 2012 by BuildingGreen Inc.

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