Certifying The Certifiers: GSA One Step Closer To Choosing A Federal Green Building Program

Green BuildingLast week, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) came one step closer to identifying a federally recognized green building certification system. The review, conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE) and commissioned by the GSA, narrowed down the list of candidates to three: the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes and the International Living Building Institute’s Living Building Challenge.

By way of background, LEED has been the federal standard since 2006 and is certainly the most well-known of the programs, with 10,000 buildings having been awarded certification and over 150,000 professionals involved in the program. However, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) requires the GSA to make an evaluation every five years and identify a system that it “deems to be most likely to encourage a comprehensive and environmentally sound approach to certification of green buildings.” The EISA requires that sustainable design principles be applied to federal design and construction projects for new buildings and major renovations.

The review evaluated how closely certification systems align with federal sustainable design principles and high-performance operational requirements derived from the Energy Policy Act, the EISA, the High-Performance Sustainable Building Guiding Principles, and Executive Order 13514. It is worth noting that none of the systems met all of the federal requirements (there are 27 for new building construction and 28 for existing buildings), leading some to believe that more than one of the three will be chosen. Green Globes met, at some level, 25 of the federal requirements for new buildings and 22 for existing buildings. LEED aligns on some level with 20 federal requirements for new buildings and 27 for existing buildings. The Living Building Challenge met, on some level, 14 of the new building requirements and 17 of the existing building requirements.

Green Globes has been in use since 2004 and uses a 1 to 4 rating scale.  LEED was developed and launched in 1998 as a consensus-based building rating system with multiple rating systems based on the building type and life cycle with several levels of certification. The Living Building Challenge is a program for buildings that have been occupied for a minimum of one year. This is due to the fact that it is based on measured, rather than anticipated performance.

Now that the GSA’s review is complete, it will make a recommendation to the Secretary of Energy who, in consultation with the GSA and the Department of Defense, will develop findings taking the review into account. The public will have an opportunity to comment and then a formal recommendation will be made. Stay tuned!