Tsk…tsk…can’t the green rating systems get along? As LEED and Green Globes duke it out in the press and through lobbyists, the question is: What’s the fuss all about? Let’s back up for a moment into respective corners of the ring and briefly review the game plans.
For years, the U.S. Green Building Council’s building rating system has ruled as the benchmark for sustainable building. The USGBC Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) system establishes strict standards and has been the heavyweight champion of green building in the U.S. and elsewhere. However, all title holders are challenged at some point. Some view LEED as too strict and exclusionary, leading to a movement to adopt other rating systems or to have federal and state legislative bans on the use of LEED on government projects. It is a bit frustrating for LEED advocates to have states like Alabama, Maine, and Georgia ban the use of a quality rating system on public projects when LEED is credited with being the major reason building sustainability practices have grown so widely and so successfully in the U.S. in the first place. It’s kind of like getting kicked out of the ring for some events!
The justification for the bans vary, depending on who you are talking to. Talk to someone at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative or the American Tree Farm System and the reason given is that LEED harms the wood industry by only recognizing Forest Stewardship Council certification. Talk to representatives of the chemical industry, and the concern is that LEED would inform occupants of the chemical content in building materials. (Hmmm…wonder what they are hiding in their boxing gloves?) Talk to supporters of the ANSI consensus process, and they seem to almost resent the fact that LEED votes are limited to USGBC members, even though there are more than 188,000 LEED professionals and 13,000 member organizations that assess each version.
Fighting for the Green Championship Title
When the most recent version of LEED v4 was introduced, it had been reviewed by thousands of designers, architects, engineers, and builders who went through the proposed changes with a fine tooth comb. There were several votes before it was finally approved and then launched at the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo held November 2013. During this time, competitive rating systems were promoting their building rating systems as more industry friendly. When Green Globes stepped into the ring and put up a good fight for rights to the green title, the fuss was raised to a new level.
Recently the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) recommended to the Department of Energy that either LEED or the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes rating system be used for federal buildings, which was quite clever. Though Green Globes lauded this as a victory, LEED was pleased that its opponents failed to get it banned. For now, LEED remains the heavyweight champion of the world but also realizes it must defend its title.
Green Globes is a valid building rating system, but it does have differences when compared to LEED. For example, Green Globes incorporates the ANSI approved consensus development process, but it does not have program prerequisites. LEED is a more stringent rating system in the eyes of many, but that is intentional. Just recently, LEED took a one punch when the Green Building Initiative announced a LEED Fellow has accepted the position of President of the Green Building Initiative. Jerry Yudelson was an avid LEED advocate, so this could actually have been considered a knockout punch thrown by Green Globes.
However, the reality is that both LEED and Green Globes remain in the ring, and both are fighting for environmental sustainability through green building. But with Green Globes gaining more solid footing as a result of the GSA recommendation and LEED bans in multiple states across the US, it is difficult to deny there is a shift in the industry taking place. Since no one should enter a boxing ring without plenty of practice, it’s time for the professionals in the industry to learn how the two rating systems actually compare to each other.