The mission of the Green Building Initiative (GBI) (www.thegbi.org) is to accelerate the adoption of building practices that create energy efficient, healthy, and environmentally sustainable buildings. To further the mission, the GBI brought the Green Globes assessment and certification system to the U.S. in 2004. The GBI is the exclusive provider of Green Globes for new and existing buildings in the U.S.
Green Globes is a web-based program for commercial buildings that includes on-site building assessment by a GBI authorized third-party assessor. The program has certified an array of building sizes and types including data centers, offices, multi-use, higher education, K-12, transit centers, government facilities, and grocery stores. A partial list of Green Globes certified buildings is available on the GBI web site.
The GBI is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit headquartered in Portland, Oregon. In addition to offering the Green Globes suite of tools, the GBI developed and supports the Guiding Principles Compliance program used to assess compliance of federal government buildings to the sustainability requirements of Executive Order 13514. The company also provides training and certification for professionals who use both programs. The GBI serves a membership that includes both producers and users of green building products and services. It is governed by an outside board of directors.
History of the Green Globes System
Both Green Globes and LEED trace their origins to a system started in 1990 in the United Kingdom called BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). Outside North America, BREEAM is a widely used environmental assessment method for buildings. It helped set the standard for best practices in sustainable buildings and has become an important measure in describing a building’s environmental performance. There are now more than 200,000 buildings certified under BREEAM. BREEAM was subsequently developed as a standard for use in Canada through the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). However, it became clear that the standard would need to be more user-friendly before it would be widely adopted. The developer worked to merge the BREEAM standard with a questionnaire-based rating tool. Later, it was converted to a web-based format and was renamed Green Globes.
Besides being distributed by the GBI in the U.S., Green Globes is available in Canada and has been used for more than 3,300 building certifications including those owned or used by the Canadian federal government. The program is marketed through the Building Owners & Managers Association (BOMA), Canada as BOMA for Building Environmental Standards (BESt).
In 2005, GBI became the first green building organization accredited as a standards developer through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). GBI subsequently developed the first ANSI standard for green commercial buildings. This standard is now used to guide development of Green Globes products. The standards development process used a 30-member consensus committee broken into three equal parts of users, producers, and interested third parties. The ANSI committee controlled and determined the technical content of the standard following ANSI’s internationally renowned consensus process to ensure that the content was not unduly influenced by any one individual, group, or organization. This public process included open meetings and four public comment periods. GBI received ANSI certification of the new standard in 2010.
Green Globes Rating and Certification Programs
Green Globes NC is used for new construction while Green Globes CIEB is used for continual improvement of existing buildings. Both programs combine thorough evaluation protocols with a user-friendly, online interface and the most rigorous third-party certification process in the industry.
Green Globes Program Features
- Web-enabled interactive online software tool to assess building sustainability;
- Environmental assessment protocols, including ENERGY STAR benchmarks;
- “Best practice” guidance for design, construction, and operations;
- Immediate feedback from automated reports with improvement guidelines;
- A building audit by an independent GBI trained assessor to determine rating and certification;
- Personnel certification training for Green Globes Professionals (GGPs) and Green Globes Assessors (GGAs)
Green Globes incorporates a questionnaire-based online survey to help users identify and quantify the environmental attributes of their building design or building operations. The survey covers the following categories: management, site, energy, indoor environment, resources, emissions and water. It also includes questions about environmental controls, hot water systems, boilers, the building envelope, lighting, and alternative energy sources. The total points for the environmental criterion equal 1,000.
Energy is the most heavily weighted of the environmental assessment areas. Energy equates to 38% and 35% in the Green Globes NC and CIEB tools respectively. Measuring and benchmarking projected energy performance is one of the most important steps to ensuring actual building performance. The ENERGY STAR Target Finder and Portfolio Manager programs provide this benchmark by comparing information from a database — the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) — with actual performance data. Green Globes NC awards points for achievements in Target Finder, while Green Globes CIEB awards points for achievements in Portfolio Manager.
Green Globes Rating Scale
The same scale is used in the rating protocols for both Green Globes NC and CIEB. Buildings need to achieve a minimum of 35% of potential points to be eligible for certification. Ratings of one, two, three, or four Green Globes are awarded depending upon the percentage of points received Below is the breakdown:
85-100% = 4 Green Globes
70-84% = 3 Green Globes
55-69% = 2 Green Globes
35-54% = 1 Green Globe
There are several benefits to the assessment and certification process:
- Online and Assessor feedback highlights the potential for additional operating cost reductions
- The marketing/publicity value of certification can improve the image of your organization
- You can satisfy government requirements, qualify for tax incentives
- Buildings become more marketable
The process for both Green Globes NC and CIEB has some common elements. It begins with the building team gathering data and documentation, then using the information to complete the online evaluation survey. The team then receives a preliminary score and guidelines for improvement. The team may purchase a certification from the GBI, who then assigns a third-party Assessor to validate information entered into the survey and provide additional guidelines for improvement. The Assessor works with the building team to schedule and prepare for a site visit. After the assessment has been completed, GBI awards a building rating and issues a certificate. As an option, clients may also purchase a building plaque that recognizes the number of Green Globes earned.
For new construction projects, Green Globes NC guides users through the integrated design process. Users perform the preliminary assessment of the building’s design. Then a report is generated from the system at the Schematic Design and Construction Documents stages. This report provides valuable feedback, including recommendations for improvement and supplementary information such as links to academic reports or government research.
There are two stages of certification in NC. In Stage I of the formal certification process, users submit the documents they have already created, including but not limited to a set of final drawings and specifications, the results of a life cycle assessment, an energy performance design and modeling documentation, cut sheets, etc. They also submit the records (or minutes) of the integrated design meetings and activities that took place. The Green Globes Assessor reviews all documents to verify that the criteria have been satisfied. The Assessor writes a report that itemizes the findings of the review, the projected Green Globes rating, and highlights opportunities for improvement.
To obtain the final Stage II certification and rating (one to four Green Globes), the Assessor performs an on-site review of the building once it’s completed, preferably after commissioning.
For existing buildings that have been in operation for at least a year, Green Globes CIEB is used for assessment and certification. Users complete an online survey, similar to Green Globes NC, and provide 12 months of utility and water bills. Users also submit relevant management and operations documents including written policies, manuals, procedures, and records. There is only one stage of certification with CIEB as compared to the two with NC. After the above criterion has been collected, an on-site audit of the building is conducted to certify the building. This is typically completed within two months of ordering.
How Green Globes is Different
- Green Globes has no prerequisites. All buildings can enter the program but they can be excluded from certifying if they don’t receive at least 35%, the lowest threshold for one Green Globe;
- Questions in the survey contain a “Tool Tip” box - accessible by clicking on the question. Tool Tips provide an explanation of the criteria, cite a relevant standard if available, and often provides tips on documenting the response;
- Green Globes has weighted criteria, allowing for a more accurate scoring of an environmental benefit or impact;
- Selected questions that don’t compromise the structure of the building may be marked as “non-applicable.” This allows points that are impossible or unreasonable for a building to achieve to be removed from the overall total. This feature helps eliminate “point chasing” and allows for a regional approach, taking into account differences in local codes and standards. All questions marked as non-applicable will be reviewed for acceptance by the GBI Assessor.
- Customer support and feedback is available throughout the process, both through the online tools, and through GBI staff.
Green Globes Recognition
Federal Government – The Federal government recognizes GBI and Green Globes for its ability to help the nation meet its environmental goals. Green Globes is used by numerous federal agencies, including the Department of Interior, Department of Health and Human Services, State Department, General Services Administration (GSA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In 2012, the GSA released an evaluation conducted every five years that rated green building assessment and certification systems. For new construction, the ANSI standard (ANSI/GBI 01-2010: Green Building Assessment Protocol for Commercial Buildings) that is the foundation for the latest version of Green Globes was judged as meeting more of the federal requirements than any other program including LEED. For existing buildings, Green Globes was ranked second.
State and Municipal Government – More municipalities and states are requiring or incentivizing green building certification as a way to increase green building practices. As of June, 2011, 23 states and Washington, D.C. had passed laws, regulations, or executive orders that specifically reference or are inclusive of Green Globes.
Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) – An important driver of green building and environmental data collection are NGOs. For example, the Global Reporting Initiative produces guidelines for organizations to publicly communicate their ecological footprint and is working to make such reporting as routine as financial reporting. While the scope of such reporting includes more than just building issues, it does include the measurement of operational energy, source energy, and transportation issues, all of which are determined by using Green Globes.
While such endorsements are important, the single best reason for using Green Globes is that it empowers building owners, as well as the professionals involved in a building’s design, construction, and operation, to make the building as green and environmentally friendly as possible. The interactive format, user-friendly survey tools, and automated reports also serve as a building sustainability consultant that’s on call 24 hours per day. Insightful recommendations are engineered into a personalized report unique to the project or building, which helps reduce “soft” costs — such as staff time — often associated with using a green rating program. Green Globes demonstrates a practical, direct, and effective method to assess and certify every building through a straight-forward process.
Green Globes Offers a Practical Choice
Green Globes is more than just a technical protocol. It provides a building’s architect, designer, builder, and owner with practical and effective methodologies to measure and improve design and construction practices as well as to monitor building operations over time. It’s a complete system designed to help everyone involved in a building work together to make it more energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and less costly to operate.
By using Green Globes, sustainability becomes an achievable, affordable and attainable goal for every building.
Read the Green Globes article in the February issue of DCJ Magazine