You Decide: Green Globes v. LEED

by Spilman Thomas & Battle, PLLC

The U.S. General Services Administration recently added Green Globes as an additional third-party green building certification system for federal government construction projects. With this addition, many are now asking about the difference between Green Globes and LEED.
Green Globes has emerged, in some parts of the U.S., as a rival building option to the more well-known Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (“LEED”) system. According to Green Building Initiative (“GBI”), which runs Green Globes, the “GBI was originally conceived as a way to bring green building to the mainstream.” Green Globes was developed in the U.K. in the 1980s and, near the end of 2004, the GBI brought the Green Globes environmental assessment and rating tool to the U.S. market.
How Does Green Globes Compare to LEED?
Popularity: By sheer number of projects, Green Globes is far behind the curve created by LEED, although it is a newer system. Green Globes has been used in a small number of buildings in Portland and approximately 850 buildings across the U.S. By comparison, LEED has been used in more than 750 projects in Oregon alone and more than 55,000 around the world. However, Green Globes is beginning to make headway primarily in the West and Northwest where LEED has been the primary guidance for green building.
Environmental Benefits: Both Green Globes and LEED certification provide environmental benefits such as reduced energy usage, decreased water usage and lower carbon emissions. One main difference is LEED certification focuses on the source of the products and materials used in buildings and projects.   For example, LEED v4 awards points for using nontoxic building materials and disclosing ingredients of building materials.  It also awards points for using wood harvested under the Forest Stewardship Council green rating system endorsed by the Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace.  Green Globes, on the other hand, has less rigorous material requirements.  For example, it gives credit to lumber harvested under the Sustainable Forest Initiative created by the timber industry, which permits much larger clear cuts and routine use of herbicides. In addition, while Green Globes has so far been focused on buildings only, LEED covers buildings, data centers, warehouse and distribution centers, schools, retail and mid-rise residential projects, and entire neighborhoods, among many others.
Oversight and Membership: Green Globes is run by the nonprofit GBI based in Portland, Oregon.  GBI recently appointed Jerry Yudelson, a prominent green building advocate and LEED Fellow, as its president.  According to GBI’s press release following the appointment, Mr. Yudelson “will oversee the growth of the non-profit, including ongoing development, expansion and marketing of the Green Globes green building rating system.” In addition to Mr. Yudelson, GBI is overseen by just over 50 member businesses.  It does not have individual chapters across the country. LEED is run by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council (“USGBC”) based in Washington, D.C., and has more than 75 chapters and hundreds of branches across the country. USGBC has more than 13,000 member businesses and organizations including product manufacturers, contractors, engineers, architects and developers, and more than 185,000 LEED certified professionals. By comparison, GBI has approximately 10,000 “Friends of GBI” and 1,100 active Green Globes Professionals.
Certification: GBI reports the certification process associated with Green Globes is simpler and less time-consuming  because it is an interactive web-based system. However, LEED v4 is also available online to help manage the LEED certification process. According to USGBC, through “LEED Online,” project teams can submit documentation, ensure documents are in compliance with LEED credit requirements, coordinate resources among project team members, manage public facing project details, submit technical inquiries regarding LEED credits, and track progress towards LEED certification.  Both GBI and USGBC certify professionals who are considered to be Green Globes and LEED experts, respectively, and both require third party verification. The LEED and Green Globes scoring systems are similar, both having four levels of certification. LEED buildings and projects can achieve basic, silver, gold or platinum rankings. Green Globes buildings and projects can achieve one, two, three or four Green Globes.  LEED v4 has nine credit categories for new construction: integrative process; location and transportation; sustainable sites; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; indoor environmental quality; innovation; and regional priority.  By comparison, Green Globes has eight assessment areas: site, energy, water, emissions, project management, indoor environment, and materials and resources.
According to the EPA, buildings in the U.S. account for 39% of total energy use, 12% of total water consumption, 68% of total electricity consumption and 38% of carbon dioxide emissions. By any account, these are striking numbers. By adopting green building strategies, both economic and environmental performance can be maximized. Green buildings almost always have lower operating costs and have been shown to improve occupant productivity, increase occupancy rates, and raise rental and lease rates. In addition, green buildings improve air and water quality, reduce waste streams, and conserve and restore natural resources.
If one is interested in investigating whether green building can help a business’ productivity while improving the environment, we suggest doing homework on the various programs that can lend credibility to the project and help attain the goals.     


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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