LEED vs. Green Globes
Green building certification programs are third party independent verification systems to assure that buildings meet stringent standards for sustainability and the environment. These standards guarantee that buildings represent little embodied energy expenses, and will consume less energy over their life span. Because green buildings are built with better envelopes, that is, the structural elements that keep the inside in and the outside out, green building certification programs also usually include provisions for indoor air quality.
A building's embodied energy is the amount of energy expended in its construction. Buildings made with imported Italian marble, for instance, have the embodied energy that was required to ship the marble over from Italy. In El Paso, where sand is abundant, buildings made from concrete have little embodied energy because sand, a major component of concrete, is readily available locally.
Another consideration for building materials is how renewable the material is. Bamboo, though not produced locally, grows quickly, and is therefore considered a renewable material.
The use of recycled material is also a component for sustainable building materials. Recycled materials already have their carbon debts effectively written off. Using locally available recycled materials creates less of a carbon footprint than new materials, or recycled materials that are imported from another locale.
Green buildings are designed to use less energy. Reducing a building's energy consumption is easier than generating energy from renewable sources. Reducing your energy consumption by switching to evaporative air conditioning, or, better yet, indirect evaporative air conditioning, is a more sustainable practice than putting solar panels on your roof to power your refrigerated air conditioner. The best way to reduce a building's heating and air conditioning expense is by making sure the conditioned air stays inside. So green buildings are designed and built with more effective thermal envelopes to reduce leakage.
Because green buildings are relatively more 'air tight,' special care must be taken to insure the air quality inside. Materials that emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's, in the trade vernacular), are shunned, because VOC's are bad for people's health. Some paints emit VOC's over a prolonged period, as do some cleaning solutions. So green buildings are built with paints and other materials that are 'low VOC,' and are built with surfaces that can be cleaned with 'low VOC' solutions.
Green building certification programs are third party independent verification systems to assure that buildings meet these standards. There are different green building certification systems used in different parts of the world. Most are based on the United Kingdom's Building Research Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). Australia uses a system called Green Star. In Germany, it's DGNB. For Japan, CASBEE. The two most popular green building certification systems in the United States are LEED and Green Globes.
LEED, by the U.S. Green Building Council, is the more popular and well known of the green building standards. A LEED AP is a LEED Accredited Professional, meaning he has taken classes and passed a test covering the basics of LEED certification. The newly instituted comparable professional certification in the Green Globes system is a Green Globes Professional.
The people who do the building assessments are also required to be certified by their sponsoring organizations.
A casual survey of blog comments on the internet reveals that LEED is generally considered to be more bureaucratic, and Green Globes is considered more practical.
A 2006 white paper by the faculty at the University of Minnesota found that Green Globes is more focused on energy use, and LEED has more of a concentration on materials. However, since that time, the two systems are converging. LEED has adopted NAHB Energy Star as a requirement for certification. Green Globes has always required NAHB Energy Star for Green Globes Rating.
Further, LEED is more expensive than Green Globes. In June of 2008, LEED registration cost approximately $900 to $3,000 and certification cost approximately $1,875 to $20,000. A Green Globes self-assessment cost $500, with certification running around $3,000 to $6,000.
If Green Globes is a fully legitimate and respectable green rating system, then why does LEED get all the publicity?
LEED is the more popular brand. It's better known. And, says Auden Schendler, in a 2007 article in Fast Company Magazine, "one of the reasons you'll find very few critics out there is that lots of folks make money on LEED. And it is a bit of a cabal--it's like criticizing the pope in Rome. People don't want to alienate themselves from this great emerging movement." Schendler is the director of environmental affairs at Aspen Skiing Company and co-author of the 2005 article in Grist Magazine "LEED is Broken: Let's fix it."
Both LEED and Green Globes are valid tools for evaluating environmentally high performing green and sustainable buildings. Perhaps, like VHS and Beta, one will drive the other out. Or maybe the both meet the fate of video tape, and be superceded by Blu-ray.