There are a number of green building programs, and one of the oldest is the Austin Energy Green Building Rating system. In fact, the program which served as the foundation for LEED celebrated its 20th year in 2011 and the completion of the 10,000th rating. However, the natural question that arises is the relationship of the Austin program to LEED.
There is ongoing discussion about the need for multiple rating systems in the nation. Some people believe that LEED fits every situation and adding other programs only adds complexity, confusing the issue. The argument for multiple rating systems is that it makes sense to have choices available to designers and builders, providing them an opportunity to choose the system that best fits the specific project. That may make it likely that more buildings will adhere to a set of green standards. Of course, it is also quite possible that having too many sets of green building standards will be so confusing that builders will avoid using any of them.
The Austin Energy Green Building program has addressed this issue to a certain degree, by enabling homes to earn dual certifications. Single family homes can earn both Austin Energy Green Building certification and National Green Building certification. The goal is to eliminate dual inspections and paperwork should an Austin contractor or homeowner want a residence to obtain national certification. That still begs the question of how these rating systems blend with LEED.
There are naturally many similarities between all three of these rating systems. However, LEED has the most stringent verification system in that two different reviewers are involved in the certification process. LEED for homes certification requires a review by a Provider and a Green Rater. On the other hand, having more than one rating system promotes the development of the highest standards because more than one group of experts is developing and reviewing the requirements on a regular basis. Competition almost always produces more efficient results.
In some zones, The Austin Energy Green Building Rating is required. In a few of those cases, the LEED Certified rating can be substituted for the AEGB rating. In those cases, it is clear that LEED and the Austin system are sharing a similar definition of ‘green’. That cannot be said in all cases. There is an underlying need to define ‘green’ across the board in order to develop consistent standards, and it is just as significant to encourage experts and professionals to work together, rather than independently in mutually exclusive groups. Having multiple rating systems can prove to be a hindrance to joint efforts.
This should not be taken as a criticism of the Austin Energy Green Building Rating in any sense. The Austin system has been highly successful. That said, one has to wonder if a single system like LEED would be even more advanced than it even is now if the professionals across the nation had shared their expertise for a common goal. LEED AP Gail Vittori called this looking ‘beyond’ what exists now to continually push the green rating systems.
Do you think that local green building rating systems such as AEGB can peacefully coincide with national and global systems such as LEED? Does the proliferation of green building ratings help or hurt the broader goals of making sustainable buildings more mainstream? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!