Green Building Rating Systems

Anyone who has anything to do with green buildings probably knows about LEED, the rating system developed and sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifies both practitioners in the field and buildings and similar projects. But you might be surprised to learn that several other rating systems exist, both in this country and around the world. In fact, virtually every industrialized nation has a green building rating system, and even smaller, less developed nations have joined the fray. Here is a rundown of systems around the world.

United States

Awards certification of building projects on certified, silver, gold, and platinum levels and individuals on LEED Accredited Professional (AP) and Green Associate levels.

Certifies professionals in these categories:
LEED AP Building Design + Construction
LEED AP Operations + Maintenance
LEED AP Interior Design + Construction
LEED AP Neighborhood Development

Certifies building projects in these categories:
BD+C Building Design + Construction
ID+C Interior Design + Construction
O+M Building Operations + Maintenance
ND Neighborhood Development
Cities and Communities

Evaluates projects according to six categories:
Site development
Water consumption and conservation
Energy strategies and atmosphere impacts
Efficient use of resources and waste management
Indoor environment
Innovation in environmental strategies

Complete with barrels for collecting rainwater, the Philip Merrill Center, headquarters for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, ranks as one of the most notable green buildings in the country. Courtesy Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Energy Star
Developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and managed by the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy. Gauges energy efficiency of comparable building types.

Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA)
Offers incentives to its members that serve as competitive motivators but are not actual ratings resulting in certification.

Living Building Challenge
International program developed by the International Living Future Institute and Cascadia Chapter of the USGBC. Building must be occupied and in operation for at least a year before applying for a rating. Goes beyond LEED requirements and encourages net zero energy and net zero water buildings. Has its red list of chemicals prohibited from use in a Living Building.
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Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC)
Developed by the non-profit organizations Health Care Without Harm and Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems and based on LEED.

Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS)
Developed by the California Energy Commission and Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric with Charles Eley and non-profit organizations.

Enterprise Green Communities
Developed by the Enterprise Foundation for affordable housing projects

Green Globes
Developed in Canada based on the BREEAM system; there it is known as Go Green/Go Green Plus and is operated by BOMA. In the United States, it is operated by the Green Building Initiative.,

ASHRAE Standard 189
Developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers with the USGBC and IESNA.

National Green Building Standard
Home building construction practices developed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and International Codes Council (ICC).

Courtesy Wholesale Solar.

Minnesota Sustainable Design Guide
Operated by the Center for Sustainable Building Research at the University of Minnesota.

Austin Energy Green Building
Developed by community-owned power company Austin Energy. Formed the foundation for many U.S. rating systems, including LEED.

Developed by Alameda County, California to steer green home design and be compatible with LEED for Homes, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) guidelines, and Energy Star for Homes ratings. Administered by Build It Green.

Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environmental Efficiency (CASBEE)
Developed by the Japan Sustainable Building Consortium. Incorporates life-cycle assessment (LCA).

United Kingdom
Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)
One of the oldest and most extensively used rating systems, it was developed in 1990 by the Building Research Establishment Ltd. Includes systems for courts, existing buildings, prisons, offices, retail buildings, and schools and its Code for Sustainable Homes.

Green Star Australia
Developed in 2002 by the Green Building Council of Australia for commercial office buildings. Based on a combination of influences including LEED and BREEAM, it offers a tool for each phase of a building’s life cycle: design, construction, occupancy, and ownership.

National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS)
Developed by the Australian government and managed by the New South Wales Department and Climate Change for commercial and residential existing buildings.

Hong Kong
Building Environmental Assessment Method (BEAM) Plus
Administered by BEAM Society Limited

Courtesy Carleton College.

Haute Qualite Environnementale or High Environmental Quality (HQE)
Developed by the Association pour la Haute Qualite Environnementale

Founded by the Dutch Institute for Building Biology and Ecology (NIBE) and the Dutch engineering firm DGMR. Administered by the Dutch Green Building Council.

The Green Mark Scheme
Developed by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA)

South Africa
Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) has developed a system based on Australia’s Green Star.

Liderar pelo Ambiente (LiderA)
Developed by Manuel Duarte Pinheiro.

Guideline for Sustainable Building
Developed by the German Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning. The Passiv Haus standard and Planning Package is a design guideline for low-energy buildings.


Excerpted from Fundamentals of Integrated Design for Sustainable Building by Marian Keeler and Bill Burke, John Wiley & Sons