Eric Truelove, P.E., LEED-AP, Director of Sustainable Services at The Renschler Company in Madison, Wisconsin, kicked off last Thursday’s Building Design + Construction, New Developments in Green Building, webcast with an excellent overview, and comparison, of the Energy Star, LEED, and Green Globes rating systems. Subsequent presenters during the hour and a half webcast also discussed a variety of emerging green design tools relating to daylighting and landscaping. If you missed it, you can access the webcast on demand here, or download the presenters’ slides here.
First off, with respect to Energy Star, Truelove explained that owners should employ the system regardless of whether they use either LEED or Green Globes. Essentially, Energy Star serves as an inexpensive form of commissioning, attempting to guarantee that buildings save the energy they’re supposed to. One year after a building starts operating, owners can go to the Energy Star web site, plug in their utility bills, and see how the building is performing. “The cost is negligible and there’s great feedback,” Truelove said.
After a brief overview of LEED, Truelove next spent a significant amount of time discussing the basics of the Green Globes rating system. The system has been around since 1991- it was introduced in Europe, then came to Canada, and is now administered here in the U.S. by the Green Building Initiative. It awards 1,000 points across seven credit categories- project management (50), site (115), energy (380), water (85), resources (100), emissions (70), and indoor environment (200). Projects that earn 35% of the 1,000 points receive one globe, 55%, 70%, and 85% receive two, three, and four globes, respectively. In this respect, Green Globes mirrors LEED’s four levels of project certification.
Its largest benefit, in Truelove’s estimation, is that Green Globes doesn’t require a construction team to generate any additional paperwork outside of that which is already produced on the project. “For LEED, you have to produce things you normally don’t in construction,” he said, “and this is a huge objection from the construction industry.” Truelove also likes the fact that Green Globes provides feedback to design teams during each phase of the project. “You input as you go- from schematics to the design phase- and each time you do that, the system gives you feedback and says you did this well, you need to improve here,” he said. “It’s a great tool for first year engineers and architects who want to learn green building or for firms that don’t have much experience with green projects.”
As compared to LEED, Truelove noted that it’s much easier to get partial credits for points with Green Globes than with LEED. “In LEED, it tends to be either or- you’re in or out,” he said. “The LEED process is much more stringent, and much more exciting, but it can be disappointing because you’re fighting for one last point.” Truelove pegged the out-of-pocket costs with pursuing Green Globes certification at a maximum of $10,000 per project as compared with LEED’s minimum of $35,000. However, his experience has been that Green Globes’ 1,000 point system intimidates some owners. On the other hand, he noted the difficulty that project teams may have in telling an owner that it will have to pay $1 or $2 extra per square foot in order to secure LEED certification. “For smaller buildings, 10,000 to 30,000 square feet, Green Globes [thus] tends to be a better option,” he said. For larger buildings, he advises clients to pursue LEED. “Every project, though, no matter the size, should use Energy Star as a follow up to certification,” he said. “One of the biggest challenges in the [real estate] industry is in saving energy, but the real challenge is going back and showing that you did it.”
Looking ahead, Truelove would like to see a third certification system to challenge LEED and Green Globes and foster continued improvement to these already “excellent” rating systems. “I believe that a cost-effective, streamlined system is attainable that will allow more owners to get involved,” he said. After the presentation, the webcast posed a question to the audience asking whether, “[b]ased on Eric Truelove’s experience, would you consider Green Globes in a future project?” 53.3% said “it sounds interesting, might give it a try,” 27.2% said they’d “like to know more about it before trying it,” 15.2% said they were “not sure,” and only 4.3% said they “prefer LEED.” Perhaps the most interesting statistic of the presentation? In LEED’s 10 years of existence, only 622 buildings have been certified. According to Truelove, at this rate, it will take another 55,000 years to certify all of our commercial buildings!
I think everyone, regardless of his or her preferred rating system, would agree that this is unacceptable. After all, the point, as Truelove noted in his presentation, is “not to promote a good green building rating system, but to promote a good green building.” And, as he said in closing, “[w]e need a system where 85% of owners look at it and say ‘hey, I can do it! And I want to do it!’”