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By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the August 2006 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
In late 2006, the Green Building Initiative (GBI) will begin the process of certifying the Green Globes rating system by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). If this undertaking is successful under ANSI’s purview of the consensus procedure, Green Globes will be designated as an American National Standard, which the GBI hopes would encourage building professionals to use the system when designing a new building.
Green Globes is an online building assessment tool for both residential and commercial structures. Designed in a question and answer format, it has been used in Canada since 2000, having been adopted by BOMA Canada in 2004 (known as Go Green Plus) and by the national government the following year.
In 2004, the GBI acquired the rights to distribute Green Globes in the United States. Currently the system is being used in new construction projects; an existing buildings pilot is being tested. The GBI became accredited as a standards developer by ANSI in 2005, the plan being to pursue certification as an American National Standard.
Since Green Globes’ introduction to the U.S., three buildings ranging from 7,000 square feet to 62,500 square feet have earned some level of certification under the system. Based on a 1,000 point scale, projects can earn between one and four Globes, with four indicating the highest level of sustainability within the system.
Says Ward Hubbell, executive director of the GBI, “The tool is useful for both small and large buildings. But we speak about small buildings a lot, because we’re usually also talking about small budgets. It’s more justifiable for many smaller projects.”
The price for each building assessment is $500. Third-party verification, where a GBI-approved firm validates the user data, typically costs between $4,000 to $5,000, says the GBI. Hubbell notes that having users assess projects online helps to keep down the cost of certification.
In preparing to pursue ANSI certification for Green Globes, the GBI held a meeting of its ANSI standards development committee in May. The group aims to complete the process by the end of 2007.
GBI has been seeking members for the technical subcommittees that will evaluate the seven areas of the rating system. These areas are: project management; site; energy; water; resources; building materials and solid waste; emissions and effluents; and the indoor environment. Each subcommittee is expected to have between six and 15 members.
The existing standards development committee, which oversees the overall process for GBI, is comprised of 30 members who represent various organizations and companies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, American Institute of Architects, Sustainable Buildings Industry Council, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and the Athena Institute, a not-for-profit organization that researches building materials.
As the GBI strives to make Green Globes more visible in the U.S. green building market, achieving ANSI accreditation would serve to give the system increased credibility. As per the ANSI process, the seven subcommittees will review and discuss the existing draft of the standard to ensure that its contents are suitable for designing and operating a high performance building. The GBI expects there may be some changes, but it is confident that the underlying framework of Green Globes will remain intact.
Says Vicki Worden, commercial programs manager at GBI, “Each of the seven subcommittees will use the knowledge and expertise of its members to fine tune what already exists in the draft standard, so the end result of using Green Globes will be a high performance building.” After the committees create the final drafts for each of the seven areas, the content will be put out for public review.
Jiri Skopek, technical advisor for GBI and an architect who helped develop the Green Globes system in Canada, adds, “There are some very good existing standards, such as those from ASHRAE. We expect the committees will harmonize the draft standard with some of those by examining how they relate to the issues addressed in Green Globes.”
The GBI also sees the ANSI process as an opportunity to make improvements. “The Athena Institute has done some interesting work in looking at construction assemblies in the U.S. as they pertain to life cycle assessments,” says Harvey Bryan, Ph.D, a professor at Arizona State University and a member of the GBI technical committee. “We are considering integrating the information into the building materials section of Green Globes. This would allow designers to compare assemblies.”
The GBI’s move to become an ANSI standard occurs against the backdrop of the LEED rating system, administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, being arguably the best known green building rating system. With Green Globes relatively new, there are bound to be questions about its technical aspects as well as the assessment process. Pursuing ANSI certification is one way the GBI can ensure the system undergoes the evaluation necessary to gain the confidence of potential users.
Information for this article was provided through interviews with Bryan, Hubbell, Skopek, and Worden. For more information, visit www.thegbi.org. To learn more about the ANSI process, visit www.ansi.org.