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GSA Selects 2 Green Building Systems

Thursday, October 31, 2013

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Move over, LEED. An additional green-building certification system, Green Globes, has gained favor for federal projects.

Touted as an "affordable alternative to LEED," the Green Building Institute's Green Globes system has been ranked in line with the U.S. Green Building Council's long-time front runner in a new recommendation.

The U.S. General Service Administration recommended that government agencies use both rating systems in federal construction and renovation projects.

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Federal officials say they have found two green-building rating systems to help measure how federal buildings of all kinds can best save energy, improve performance and reduce utility costs.

“[W]e’ve made this recommendation using input from the public, industry stakeholders, and sustainability experts,” Kevin Kampschroer, director of GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings, said in a statement.

“We’ve found two tools that allow us to measure how federal buildings of all kinds can best save energy, improve overall performance, and cut down utility costs.”   

The GSA announced its recommendations Friday (Oct. 25) to the Department of Energy after more than a year of analysis, public-comment periods and reviews.

GSA’s decision to endorse both systems for use in the federal sector could usher in a new era of green building that LEED has dominated since 2003.

Recommendation Details

In its recommendation letter to the Secretary of Energy, GSA anointed GBI’s Green Globes 2010 and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED 2009 as third-party certification systems that the federal government can use to gauge performance of its buildings.

It is worth noting that both systems have recently been revised or are undergoing revision. In its letter, the GSA indicates that it should formalize a process to keep current with revisions to the systems.

The agency noted that “other certification systems were not selected because they did not align with the government’s requirements.” The other system mentioned likely refers to the International Living Building Institute's Living Building Challenge, which GSA also reviewed by the GSA as part of the process.

Green Globes Logo
Green Building Initiative

Green Globes was established in 2000 as an online assessment and rating tool in Canada. GSA has endorsed the 2010 version to gauge performance in the federal sector. Developers call the system an "affordable alternative to LEED."

Specifically, GSA recommended that agencies achieve LEED-Silver certification or two Green Globes for new construction and major renovation projects, and “achieve as many points in the energy and water categories as possible.”

“This should not dissuade agencies from earning a higher certification level from either green building certification system if the agency deems such pursuit to be cost effective or necessary to allow the agency to continue its mission,” the recommendation letter said.

GSA said that certification systems like LEED and Green Globes help in measuring reduction targets for water, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions against industry standards. Agencies can use one of the two certification systems that best meet their building portfolios, which range from office buildings, to laboratories, to hospitals, to airplane hangars.

Meanwhile, GSA noted that federal construction and modernization projects must adhere to the government’s own green building requirements and executive orders and that no single certification system meets all of the government’s requirements.

Next Steps

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, GSA is required to evaluate green-building certification systems every five years in order to identify a system and certification level that will be most likely to encourage a comprehensive approach to greening federal buildings.

Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building
GSA

GSA's Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings works to promote, coordinate and stimulate green building across the entire federal government. Currently, that includes more than 400,000 owned or leased buildings containing more than 3 billion square feet of space. 

Now that GSA has made its recommendation, the Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz, will consult with the Secretary of Defense and GSA Administrator to make a final determination. No estimate on the timing of that decision was available Tuesday.

Green Camps Speak Out

Certification system camps and other stakeholders are not awaiting the final nod to voice their opinions on the recommendation.

“At this point, it is unassailable: LEED works,” Roger Platt, USGBC senior vice president, global policy and law, said in a press release.

“Any government agency that chooses to follow the private sector in using LEED certification does so because the result is better buildings and savings for the taxpayer.”

The Green Building Initiative also applauded the GSA’s decision.

The Green Globe endorsement "is representative of our achievements in providing a comprehensive, transparent and consensus-driven rating system and product line to the the market," said GBI chairman Ray Tonjes.

The American High Performance Buildings Coalition, which includes the American Chemistry Council and American Coatings Association, called the inclusion of Green Globes a “step in the right direction.”

“The AHPBC applauds GSA’s decision to recommend for the first time to DOE that the federal government use more than one green building rating system.”

The group also says that “much more” is to be done to “ensure that all green building codes, standards, ratings systems and credits used by the federal government are grounded in sound science and developed through true voluntary consensus processes that are steeped [in] technical rigor, full transparency, broad stakeholder input and due process.”

   

Tagged categories: Certifications and standards; General Services Administration; Green building; Green design; Green Globes; LEED

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