As global concerns about the environmental impact of the built environment intensify, green building certifications have emerged as powerful tools to foster sustainable practices in the construction and real estate industries. In this article, we explore the explore the significance of green building certifications, the benefits they offer, and give a comprehensive overview of the most prominent certification programs worldwide. You can jump straight to a specific green building certification by clicking on it below:
What is a green building certification?
A green building certification is a process to verify that a building was designed and built in a way that improves energy efficiency, reduces water consumption, promotes a healthier indoor environment, effectively manages resources and waste and reduces environmental impact.
The certification process typically involves a set of guidelines and criteria that a building must meet or exceed in order to receive certification. An accredited third-party organisation will often conduct the assessment and provide the certification.
There are a variety of green building certifications around the world, with LEED in the United States, BREEAM in the United Kingdom and NABERS in Australia being some of the most well-known. Each program has its own set of criteria and scoring systems,
These certifications can be applied to all types of buildings, including commercial, residential, and public buildings. They are seen as a mark of quality and environmental responsibility and can add value to a property by demonstrating commitment to sustainable practices.
Why are green building certifications important?
Green building certifications are becoming increasingly important as a tool to demonstrate that a property is committed to sustainability and responsible resource management. These certifications play a pivotal role in fostering environmentally friendly and sustainable practices in the construction and real estate industries. They guide the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings to be more energy-efficient and water-conservative, substantially reducing their environmental footprint.
In addition, these certifications promote the creation of healthier living and working environments, with improved air quality and better natural lighting, enhancing the well-being and productivity of occupants.
Green building certifications also offer significant economic benefits. They frequently result in cost savings through reduced energy and water consumption, and they may be eligible for tax incentives. Furthermore, their market value tends to be higher, and they are often more appealing to potential tenants or buyers, given the growing awareness and demand for sustainable properties.
What are the benefits of green building certifications?
Green building certifications provide numerous benefits to commercial property owners. Here are just a few examples:
- Cost savings: Green buildings are designed to be energy and water-efficient, resulting in lower operating costs over the long term. Energy-efficient lighting, heating, and cooling systems, water-saving fixtures, and other eco-friendly features can drastically reduce utility bills.
- Increased property value: Properties with green certifications often have higher market value compared to similar non-certified buildings. They are considered more modern, future-proof, and desirable, leading to higher rental and sale prices.
- Market differentiation: Green certifications allow property owners to distinguish their properties in a competitive market. As awareness of environmental issues grows, more tenants and buyers are looking for eco-friendly buildings.
- Risk management: Green certifications can help commercial property owners mitigate risks associated with regulatory compliance. As governments worldwide implement stricter environmental regulations, owning a certified green building ensures you are ahead of the curve.
- Improved occupant health: Green buildings often provide better indoor air quality and access to natural light, leading to improved occupant health, well-being, and productivity. This can be a selling point for potential tenants, especially businesses looking to maximise employee performance and satisfaction.
- Public image: Owning a green building can enhance a company's public image by demonstrating a commitment to environmental sustainability and corporate responsibility.
- Access to incentives: In some cases, green buildings can qualify for tax benefits, grants, or other financial incentives provided by local or national government bodies to promote sustainable construction.
What are the different green building certifications?
Green building certifications vary widely in their focus, requirements and recognition. Below, we provide a brief introduction to some of the most widely used certifications in the industry
LEED, which stands for ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’ is a green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and is the most common certification found around the world. It provides a framework for creating energy-efficient, resource-conscious and environmentally friendly buildings. LEED has nine separate certification programs, including ones for commercial, retail, new construction, existing buildings and more.
LEED evaluates buildings on several key criteria, including sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Based on their performance across these categories, buildings can achieve one of four certification levels: Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum.
BREEAM is a sustainability rating system developed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in the United Kingdom in 1990. The system evaluates the environmental performance of new and existing buildings, infrastructure, and master planning projects. BREEAM measures a building's environmental impact across ten categories, including energy, water, waste, pollution, transport, and ecology. The categories are weighted based on their environmental impact, and a building must achieve a minimum score in each category to achieve certification.
To get certified under BREEAM, the building owner or developer must appoint a licensed BREEAM assessor, who guides the project team through the certification process. The building will undergo an assessment, and a BREEAM rating will be awarded based on its performance across the ten categories. The levels of BREEAM certification are designated as Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding.
The National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) is a government initiative in Australia designed to measure and compare the environmental performance of buildings and tenancies. This operational rating system focuses on several key areas including energy efficiency, water usage, waste management, and indoor environment quality.
NABERS is a performance-based rating system that assesses the actual performance of a building over a 12-month period. The system uses a standardised rating scale of one to six stars, with six stars indicating a building's exceptional environmental performance.
In 2020, NABERS was introduced to the UK, marking the system's first international expansion outside of Australia and New Zealand. The move was driven by the UK government's ambitious net-zero emissions target by 2050 and the need for a reliable and internationally recognized rating system to assess the sustainability of buildings. NABERS UK is run by BRE as the scheme administrator.
The Green Star rating system, founded by the Green Building Council of Australia is a voluntary sustainability rating system for buildings in Australia. Ratings can be achieved at the design, construction or fit out phase of buildings, or during the ongoing operational phase. Green Star evaluates buildings across nine categories: management, indoor environment quality, energy, transport, water, materials, land use and ecology, emissions, and innovation.
While less intensive than the NABERS process, the Green Star rating is set to add to the ongoing peer pressure within the industry to provide energy efficient buildings. There are four Green Star rating tools, providing a means of certification for building design and construction, operation, fitouts and communities
Energy Star certification is a widely recognised symbol of energy efficiency in the United States, backed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. The Energy Star score is a numeric value that indicates the energy efficiency performance of a building relative to similar buildings nationwide. The score is calculated using a statistical model that takes into account factors such as building size, location and operational characteristics.
A building must gain a score of at least 75 out of 100 to earn the ENERGY STAR label. Gaining the ENERGY STAR label certifies that a building is performing in the top 25% of similar buildings in the United States, based on energy-use data.
The Green Globes certification program is offered through the Green Building Initiative in the United States, and consists of three categories: new construction, existing buildings and interiors. For buildings to quality, they need to meet at least 35% of the program’s 1000 available points. The process consists of an online survey, a third-party on-site assessment and a post-assessment, with buildings earning a rating of one to four green globes.
The Green Globes certification originated in Canada, but was brought to the United States by the Green Building Initiative. At present, the certification is still only available in these two countries.
WELL Building Standard
Administered by the WELL Building Institute, the WELL Building Standard takes a different approach to sustainability in buildings, focusing on the overall impact of buildings on human health and well-being. To measure this impact, the standard examines seven categories, including air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.
WELL Certified™ buildings are those which improve the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, and performance of their inhabitants. It can be applied to any construction project, and the levels of achievement are Silver, Gold, and Platinum Certification.
The WELL Building Standard is a global program, with buildings in over 12 countries having achieved certification.
Green Mark Certification
The Green Mark Certification Scheme is a green building rating system developed by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) in Singapore, first launched in January 2005. The scheme evaluates buildings based on their environmental performance and awards them with a certification level ranging from Green Mark Certified to Green Mark Platinum. The system evaluates buildings based on criteria such as energy efficiency, water efficiency, environmental protection, indoor environmental quality, and other green features.
As a government initiative, it support Singapore's wider strategic focus on sustainability, with national commitments captured within Singapore's Green Building Master Plan.
EDGE, which stands for Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies, is a green building certification system for new residential and commercial buildings in emerging markets. The program enables design teams and project owners to assess the most cost-effective ways to incorporate energy and water-saving options into their buildings.
Developments can obtain certification by achieving a minimum projected reduction of 20% in energy and water use, in addition to savings in energy embodied in materials, compared to a standard building.
Developed by the International Finance Corporation (a member of the World Bank Group that focuses on private sector development), EDGE Certification is a global program that is available in over 160 countries around the world.
Living Building Challenge
The Living Building Challenge certification is based on buildings’ sustainability performance over a 12-month period. It uses a flower metaphor, requiring buildings to meet requirements (called ‘petals’) in seven areas, including site, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity and beauty.
The Living Building Challenge is one of the most rigorous green building certifications, as it requires buildings to be net positive in terms of energy, water and waste. This means that to obtain certification, buildings must generate more energy than they use, capture and treat a certain quantity of water on site, and keep their waste from ending up in landfills through diversion and reuse.
Which green building certification should I choose?
Choosing the right green building certification largely depends on your specific goals, the nature of your projects, its location and the available resources. Here are a few important considerations to help guide your decision
- Your sustainability goals: What are your primary objectives for the building? If energy efficiency is your main focus, you might consider Energy Star or LEED. If you are interested in broader environmental impacts, BREEAM or the WELL Building Standard might be a better fit.
- Geographic location: Some certifications are more widely recognised in certain regions, and some are only applicable in certain countries. For example, NABERS is well-known in Australia, while LEED is recognised on a more global scale. And certifications like the Green Mark Scheme and Green Star are only available in their countries of origin (Singapore and Australia, respectively).
- Costs and resources: Certifications require time, expertise, and financial investment. You'll need to understand the costs associated with the certification process, which includes registration and certification fees, the cost of potential design and construction modifications, and ongoing costs for recertification or performance tracking.
- Type and size of the project: Larger, more complex projects might benefit from more comprehensive certifications like LEED or BREEAM, while smaller projects may find simpler certifications like Green Globes more manageable.
- Regulatory requirements: Some regions or cities may have regulations requiring certain certifications, or they may offer incentives for specific green building standards. For example, the CBD program in Australia requires sellers and lessors of office spaces of 1000 square metres or more to obtain a NABERS Energy rating before the building goes on the market for sale, lease or sublease.
Ultimately, the goal when choosing a green building certification is not to collect the most certifications, but rather to choose the one that best aligns with your building’s sustainability goals and provides the most value for your investment.
How can building analytics help you achieve certification?
Building analytics software, such as CIM’s PEAK Platform, can be an invaluable tool in helping commercial property owners achieve green building certifications. These systems monitor, collect and analyze data from various building systems, such as HVAC, lighting and water systems, providing insights into the building’s performance and identifying opportunities for improvement. Here’s how PEAK can help facilitate your path to certification:
- Energy efficiency monitoring: PEAK monitors your building's energy consumption in real-time, identifying any inefficiencies or energy wastage. This real-time data can be used to optimize energy usage, an important factor in achieving certifications like LEED, BREEAM, and NABERS
- Water usage tracking: By monitoring water usage, PEAK can help identify leaks or excessive usage, providing opportunities to save water and improve your building's water efficiency rating.
- Indoor environment quality: PEAK can monitor factors affecting indoor environmental quality, such as temperature, humidity, and air quality. This can be particularly useful for certifications like the WELL Building Standard, which focuses on occupant health and wellbeing.
- Predictive maintenance: PEAK can predict potential equipment failures, ensuring optimal performance and efficiency. This proactive approach to maintenance can contribute to energy savings and lower emissions – factors considered in many green building certifications.
- Tenant comfort: PEAK helps to balance energy efficiency with occupant comfort—often a crucial aspect of certifications like the WELL Building Standard. For instance, it can ensure efficient HVAC operation for optimal temperature and air quality.
Overall, leveraging building analytics software can streamline the process of achieving a green building certification, providing valuable data insights to guide your sustainability efforts and verify your progress.