The William J. Clinton Presidential Center, Little Rock, Ark., earned Two Globes from the Portland, Ore.-based Green Building Initiative and LEED Silver from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council. The building, which was constructed on a former industrial site, houses the Clinton library, museum and administrative archive.
THOSE IN THE DESIGN and construction industry know there is more than one way to construct a building. Depending on the climate in a specific geographic location, several options must be considered to ensure a building can protect its occupants and their possessions, as well as meet the owner’s requirements. For example, an offi ce in Miami that must stand up to hurricanes will not have the same structure as a hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyo., that must withstand heavy snowfall. Just as there are many options when it comes to designing and constructing buildings, there also are several options available when certifying a building under a green-rating system. Understanding the basics of the available rating systems will allow you to determine which is best for your project and help you better advise building owners. Although there are numerous greenbuilding rating systems available for commercial buildings, the three generating the most buzz in the U.S. are the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star; Portland, Ore.-based Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes; and Washington- based U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED. Read on for the highlights of each of these green-building rating systems.
Alberici Corp.’s headquarters, St. Louis, is a sustainable rehab of a 150,000-square-foot (13935-m2) metal building. The building earned a LEED Platinum rating from USGBC and Four
Globes from GBI.
Energy Star long has been recognized as an energy-effi ciency label for appliances, lighting fi xtures and HVAC equipment used within buildings. However, the program also certifies commercial building and design projects for impeccable energy performance. Th e certifi cation is derived by rating buildings using the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey, or CBECS, developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington. Th e database comprises a random sample of commercial buildings and is used for most of the 11 space types eligible for the Energy Star rating. To achieve the certifi cation, building owners must provide one year of actual, post-occupancy energy data rather than energy-modeling information from design projects. “When a building owner receives his or her energy-use information, it’s compared to the CBECS data and plotted on a distribution curve that shows where the building falls in relation to a comparison of that group of buildings,” explains Karen Butler, Energy Star’s manager for commercial building design. Buildings are rated on a scale of 1 to 100; facilities that achieve a score of 75 or higher are eligible for the Energy Star, which identifi es them among the top 25 percent of facilities in the country for energy performance. Commercial buildings that have earned Energy Star use on average 35 percent less energy than similar buildings and generate one-third less carbon dioxide. Building owners also can achieve Energy Star on their design projects by requesting the architect establishes an energy target based on specifi ed building and operating characteristics. Th e energy target is created using Target Finder, a no-cost online tool developed by EPA. As the design evolves and energy use is determined, Target Finder will generate a rating for the design; if it rates 75 or higher, the architect can apply for Designed to Earn the Energy Star. “This certifies that the design meets EPA criteria. However, it’s not a guarantee of performance; instead it’s an indication that the design team and building owner intend for the project to earn the Energy Star-qualifi ed building label once it’s built and operating,” Butler notes. Designed to Earn the Energy Star is conveyed by a graphic that’s placed on project drawings and can be used on other materials related to the specifi c project. A building design is eligible for Designed to Earn the Energy Star as long as it is not operating and generating utility bills. Once it begins generating utility bills—even if it’s not fully occupied—the building owner should track the energy use of the building to benchmark it against similar building types for the Energy Star label. “Th ere are drivers of energy use that vary somewhat by space type, but EPA research has shown that the bigger universal factors are square footage, the number of hours the facility is operated, number of people in the building and computer equipment; in other words, buildings would perform very well without people in them.” Butler says. For more information about Energy S tar for commercial buildings, visit www. energystar.gov and click on Buildings and Plants.
The InterContinental Chicago was constructed in 1929 and recently earned the Energy Star label with a rating of 88. The hotel is in the top 12 percent of energy-effi cient buildings in the U.S.
GBI’s Green Globes rating system was developed in Canada more than 10 years ago and is based in large part on the Garston, Watford, England-based Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method. Minor adaptations have made the system appropriate for the U.S. market, where it emerged in 2004. GBI off ers Green Globes for New Construction and Continual Improvement for Existing Buildings, which addresses building performance, operations and management. Green Globes rates a project based on seven categories: Energy, Indoor Environment, Site Impact, Resources, Water, Emissions and Project/Environmental Management. To earn an additional credit, known as an education credit, design teams can utilize a free, downloadable life-cycle assessment calculator that will help them understand the ecological impacts of diff erent building-material choices for new construction. Th e LCA calculator, known as EcoCalculator, was created by the Merrickville, Ontario, Canada-based Athena Sustainable Materials Institute.
Unlike other systems, Green Globes does not penalize for points not applicable to a particular project. Building attributes are compared to a Target Finder baseline rather than a hypothetical structure designed to ASHRAE 90.1 standards. And Green Globes, which has a Web-based format, can be used as a design tool. Ward Hubbell, GBI’s president, explains: “What makes Green Globes diff erent and, we think, very attractive is that Green Globes is an interactive Web-based system that not only evaluates the environmental characteristics of the building aft er it’s built, but also can serve as an interactive tool to enable the design team to incorporate environmental features into the building during the design stage. And because all this occurs online, Green Globes is very aff ordable and easy to use. Before you design a building, you can log into the system and enter values in seven diff erent areas. The soft ware will give you feedback as to what environmental attributes of the building are going to be. If you want to change the design based on the feedback the soft ware gave you, you can.” Once a building is constructed, GBI has a team of third-party verifi ers, including architects and engineers, who walk through a building to ensure it meets certifi cation requirements. Th ere are four tiers of Green Globes certifi cation—a One Globe rating is a sound building, Two Globes is good, Th ree Globes is excellent and Four Globes is outstanding. GBI was recognized by the Washingtonbased American National Standards Institute as an accredited national standards developer in 2005. GBI recently put its Proposed American National Standard 01-2008P through public comment. “Green Globes has been used extensively throughout Canada for more than 10 years so it is a proven tool as is,” Hubbell says. “Our pursuit of ANSI certifi cation as a consensus standard is an indication of our commitment to continuous improvement.” For more information about Green Globes, visit www.thegbi.org.
Probably the most recognized of the greenbuilding rating systems, LEED provides design and construction professionals with a checklist of environmental considerations for a building. LEED was created in 1995 with funding from DOE. The New Construction version was the fi rst rating system launched. Today, LEED is available for Existing Buildings, Commercial Interiors, Core & Shell, Schools and Homes. Currently, rating systems for Retail and Neighborhood Development are in their pilot phases, and a Healthcare rating system has completed its fi rst public comment period. LEED rating systems are developed through a consensus-based process led by LEED committees that include experts from the design and construction industry, including technical advisory groups that study the science of green building. Public comment and member balloting of new rating systems takes place and an appeals process is available. In 2006, USGBC became accredited as an offi cial Standards Developing Organization by ANSI. Project teams planning to certify a building under LEED should fi rst register the project with USGBC. Documentation from various stages of a project’s design and construction is required for certifi cation and can be submitted online. Each rating system imparts a certain number of points based on various criteria, including Sustainable Sites, Water Effi ciency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation & Design Process. A certain amount of points can earn a building a Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum rating. Third-party organizations review LEED documentation and determine certifi cation based primarily on modeling, plans and specifi cation information supplied by the project team. USGBC provides vast educational resources to ensure a project team can achieve LEED certifi cation, including workshops and online courses; in-house training; and Greenbuild365, a year-round interactive learning portal based on the annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo.
The current LEED ratings have been scrutinized for point valuations. For example, installing a bike rack can earn the same point as more impactful energy-effi ciency measures, such as a cool metal roof. USGBC seeks to address those issues in LEED 2009, which is an update to all the commercial LEED rating systems. Th e largest change is a redistribution of how points are weighted with more point values placed on strategies that directly impact the environmental performance of a structure, especially as it relates to energy effi ciency and carbon-dioxide reduction. Rating systems will consist of 100 possible points, as well as six innovation and four regional points. Local USGBC chapters will help determine areas of local focus, such as water in the Southwest and energy effi ciency in northern climates. “We’re putting a lot of points in building operations and transportation, which means you will have to focus on those areas if you want to get higher levels of certifi cation,” explains Scot Horst, president of Horst Inc., Kutztown, Pa., and chair of the LEED Steering Committee. “What’s happened under the current rating system is that you can focus a lot on materials and environmental quality, which is well and good, but you haven’t necessarily given enough attention to energy effi ciency or transportation. By weighting the points in LEED 2009, we’re putting attention to where teams need to focus.” LCA is being piloted in LEED 2009. Th e current materials credits aren’t going away, but project teams willing to work within the pilot program, using EcoCalculator as the LCA tool, and provide feedback can substitute some materials credits with LCA credits. Pending member approval, LEED 2009 is scheduled to launch in January 2009. For more information about LEED, visit www.usgbc.org.
NO ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL PROGRAM
Although every design and construction team should fi rst consider codes and the function of a building, in today’s world of escalating energy and materials’ prices and constrained resources, environmental considerations should be high on the list of priorities. Going green does not require a building be certifi ed under any program. But if you decide to contribute to the positive press generated around sustainability, consider applying for Energy Star, Green Globes and/or LEED certifi cation based on what’s best for your specific project.