Green Building Programs: Toward High Performance Facilities

In assessing sustainability goals for 2017, an overview of five green building programs provides recent updates.

By Facility Executive Staff

Certifying sustainability milestones for facility design, construction, and operations can be an important tool for facility management executives. There is a wide range of green building programs to consider, and the programs pursued depend on the types of initiatives a facility team, along with its organization, decides to focus upon. From single attribute, such as energy to a holistic approach, facility executives are sure to find a program (or programs) that will help to track and verify efforts. The programs featured here focus on multiple attributes and stages of a facility’s life cycle, and the backgrounders that follow apply to the U.S. market.

BREEAM USAgreen building programs

Overview: BuildingWise, a U.S.-based LEED certification consultancy, and BRE, a global authority on all aspects of the built environment, recently launched a new partnership to bring BREEAM—the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, a leading sustainability assessment method for master planning projects, infrastructure and buildings—to the United States. BREEAM USA focuses on the BREEAM In-Use standard to address the 5.6 million existing commercial buildings in the U.S. that are not currently benchmarking sustainability efforts using a scientifically-based green building certification.

All existing commercial buildings (any size, any age and any condition) are eligible. While new to the U.S., BREEAM has completed 548,401 certifications and has 2,247,696 registered buildings in 77 countries.

Prerequisites/Process: There are no prerequisites to begin. Facility management teams register with BREEAM USA, and then complete a BREEAM In-Use online self-assessment for the building. Thereafter, the facility team will understand how the building is performing and be able to identify areas for improvement by reviewing the unverified score.

A BREEAM In-Use assessment takes users on a step-by-step process to achieve higher performing operations. Each of nine categories is scored separately, and facility managers can determine their specific needs and where best to focus efforts for improvement. Each question identifies the next level of performance so users can see the incremental steps needed to improve building performance and earn a higher score. The assessment tool allows facility leaders to make decisions on next steps based on available budget by providing data for benchmarking and continual improvement. Once a building has been fully assessed, depending upon the total number of credits awarded, a final performance rating is achieved.

green building programs
The Bloc development in downtown Los Angeles, CA. (Photo: BREEAM USA)

Recent/Upcoming Developments: BREEAM USA is customized to the particulars of the U.S. green building sector. The recently released BREEAM USA In-Use Technical Manual takes into account the specific legal requirements and government regulations and addresses nuances affecting the marketplace. The release of the updated technical manual brings BREEAM closer to full deployment in the U.S.

One of the first properties to undertake BREEAM USA In-Use is The Bloc in downtown Los Angeles, CA. Currently, The Bloc is in the final stage of a transformation into an open-air urban destination which will offer an activated experience of design-oriented, artisanal retailers and restaurateurs; a state-of-the-art, creative-leaning office building; and the renovated 496 room Sheraton Grand Los Angeles.

ENERGY STARfeseptoct16-grnbuildingfeature-energystarlogo

Overview: Introduced in 1992, ENERGY STAR is a voluntary program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The program works with businesses and organizations to transform the way that commercial buildings and industrial plants use energy. More than half of the Fortune 100® use ENERGY STAR tools and resources to assess how properties are performing, identify energy saving opportunities, and earn recognition. On average, ENERGY STAR certified buildings use 35% less energy and cause 35% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than similar buildings.

ENERGY STAR resources are available online at no cost to any type of commercial, institutional, or industrial building. Through ENERGY STAR, EPA also offers Portfolio Manager, an online resource management tool that can be used to benchmark and track energy, water, waste, and greenhouse gas emissions. Portfolio Manager provides more than 150 different metrics that give owners and managers insights into how their properties are performing, based on 12 months of actual performance data.

Certain types of buildings, such as offices, schools, hospitals, and stores can also receive a 1 to 100 ENERGY STAR score, which compares energy performance to similar properties nationwide. A score of 50 represents median energy performance, while a score of 75 means that building performs better than 75% of all similar buildings—and may be eligible for ENERGY STAR certification.

Since 1999, more than 27,000 buildings have earned the ENERGY STAR. In 2015 alone, more than 7,000 buildings earned the ENERGY STAR, representing more than 1.5 billion square feet.

Prerequisites/Process: To earn certification, a facility owner or manager must: set up a free account and benchmark in Portfolio Manager; receive an ENERGY STAR score of 75 or higher; begin the online application in Portfolio Manager; have a licensed professional conduct a site visit and verify the application (there is no cost to apply for certification); complete the online application in Portfolio Manager, upload a scanned copy of the signed application, and submit the application electronically to EPA; and respond to questions from EPA, if necessary, and then receive notification of application status.

Recent/Upcoming Developments: Owners and managers that benchmark energy and water use in EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager now have a new option to track and reduce the waste and materials generated by their buildings. With this addition, owners and managers can apply successful energy management techniques holistically to reduce carbon footprint and the costs associated with waste disposal.

green building programs
Dr Pepper Snapple headquarters in Plano, TX (Photo: ENERGY STAR)

In 2011, Dr Pepper Snapple reduced its annual electricity usage by one million kilowatts per hour at its 297,000 square foot headquarters facility in Plano, TX, earning EPA’s ENERGY STAR certification for the first time. Since then, the company has recertified the building as ENERGY STAR every year.

Dr Pepper Snapple enhanced the facility’s energy performance by making cost-effective improvements, including the installation of an environmental management system to control heating, cooling, and lighting schedules. A reflective membrane was installed on the roof to reduce radiant heat, and halogen light fixtures were replaced with high efficiency LED and fluorescent lighting.

Green Globes green building programs

Overview: Green Globes is an interactive design guidance, environmental assessment, and rating tool. It traces its origins to BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) and was introduced in the United States in 2004 by The Green Building Initiative. The program promotes resource efficient, healthier, and environmentally sustainable buildings. The assessment process involves interaction between the assigned assessor and design/construction professionals, building owners and/or facility managers. New and existing buildings adhering to Green Globes criteria typically yield reduced operational costs, increased occupant satisfaction, and minimized environmental impacts.

A wide variety of building types are eligible for certification, including offices, medical offices, hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, grocery stores, hotels, multi-family residential, dormitories, financial institutions, courthouses, fire stations, laboratories, data centers, churches, and warehouses.

As of August 2016, GBI has awarded 822 certifications under Green Globes programs representing more than 107 million square feet. An additional 311 projects representing 68 million square feet are undergoing Green Globes assessments.

Prerequisites/Process: All Green Globes assessments begin with the completion of an interactive online survey that calculates a preliminary score based upon the responses. Existing Building assessments require a site visit by a third-party assessor who will review the survey, verify responses with the supporting documentation provided, and visually inspect the building. Required documentation may include: 12 consecutive months of utility bills, equipment operating manuals (boiler, water heater, etc.), copies of contracts with green energy provider or RECs, documented energy policy, energy audit report within the last three years, training plans, mass transit route maps/schedule, water management plan, emission data or report, PCB survey or report, maintenance records for ventilation system, Environmental Management Plan and goals, and emergency response plan. Assessments include a detailed report containing the final rating, the assessor’s evaluation of compliance with the Green Globes criteria, and recommendations for future improvement.

Recent/Upcoming Developments: The Green Globes for Existing Buildings program is currently under review with an updated version anticipated in 2017/2018.

Green Globes for New Construction is based upon the ANSI standard ANSI/GBI 01-2010: Green Building Assessment Protocol for Commercial Buildings. The standard is currently undergoing revision through ANSI’s periodic maintenance process. The New Construction program will be updated in 2017 based upon the revised standard.

In 2014, ASHRAE headquarters was renovated in Atlanta, GA and achieved a Four Green Globes rating (highest level). Members donated mechanical equipment that allows the building to highlight separate systems on each floor for research/monitoring. A dedicated outdoor air supply (DOAS) system provides conditioned outdoor air to occupants at rates 30% higher than code minimums.

green building programs
Vegetative roof at ASHRAE headquarters in Atlanta, GA (Photo: Green Globes)

On the second floor, 12 ceiling-mounted, ducted heat pumps connect to a ground-source well field providing heat and cooling. A closed-loop piping system circulates water between the building and the ground-source wells. The roof features a 20 kilowatt photovoltaic solar array. The energy fed to the utility grid equates to approximately 8% of annual energy consumption.

The site was enhanced through removal of on-grade parking for a bio-retention pond, reducing heat island effects and lowering site runoff by 31%. Also, 92% of the building structure/shell was retained and 2,200 tons of construction waste was recycled.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) feseptoct16-grnbuildingfeature-leedlogo

Overview: In 1993, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was established with a mission to promote sustainability focused practices in the building and construction industry. Ideas were shared for an open and balanced coalition spanning the entire building industry and for a green building rating system, which would later become LEED. Introduced in 2000, this international standard promotes electricity cost savings, lower carbon emissions, and healthier environments.

LEED is flexible to apply to all building types—commercial, residential and entire neighborhood communities, and works throughout the building lifecycle—design and construction, operations and maintenance, tenant fit out, and significant retrofit. There are several primary LEED Rating Systems: Building Design and Construction (BD+C), Interior Design and Construction (ID+C), Building Operations and Maintenance (O+M), Neighborhood Development (LEED ND), and Homes. LEED shows independent, third-party verification that a project was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health.

There are 79,000 projects currently participating in LEED in more than 161 countries and territories totaling approximately 15.3 billion square feet.

Prerequisites/Process: Each category in a LEED rating system consists of prerequisites and credits. Prerequisites are required elements, or green building strategies that must be included in any LEED certified project. Credits are optional elements, or strategies that projects can elect to pursue to gain points toward certification. The prerequisites and credits work together to provide a common foundation of performance and a flexible set of tools and strategies to accommodate the circumstances of individual projects.

LEED rating systems generally have 100 base points plus six Innovation in Design points and four Regional Priority points, for a total of 110 points (Certified: 40-49 points; Silver: 50-59 points; Gold: 60-79 points; and Platinum: 80+ points). Green Business Certification Inc. provides third-party verification to review and verify building quality to ensure LEED criteria is being met.

Recent/Upcoming Developments: Beginning November 1, 2016, USGBC will fully transition to LEEDv4, the newest version of the rating system. Features of LEEDv4 include:

  • Materials: Focuses on materials to get a better understanding of what’s in them and the effect those components have on human health and the environment.
  • Performance-based: Takes a more performance-based approach to indoor environmental quality to ensure improved occupant comfort.
  • Smart grid: Brings the benefits of smart grid thinking to the forefront with a credit that rewards projects for participating in demand response programs.
  • Water efficiency: Provides a clearer picture of water efficiency by evaluating total building water use.
green buildings program
Saint-Gobain headquarters in Malvern, PA (Photo: Jeffrey Totaro)

As new versions of the rating systems are introduced, earlier versions are phased out for continuous improvement.

The North American corporate headquarters for Saint-Gobain, one of the world’s largest building materials companies and its largest construction brand CertainTeed Corporation, received LEED Platinum certification in 2016 for both commercial interiors and core and shell. Opened in October 2015, the 277,000 square foot facility in Malvern, PA maximizes the comfort and health of employees through the use of a range of the company’s building materials that improve air quality, moisture management, acoustics, energy efficiency, thermal management, and ergonomics.

Living Building Challenge green building programs

Overview: Now in its 10th year, the Living Building Challenge is a rigorous performance standard. It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully, and efficiently as nature’s architecture. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy. There are currently 346 registered projects globally, with 11 fully certified Living Buildings and a total of 44 buildings, which are certified at some level.

The Living Building Challenge is not limited by a building’s size or purpose; certifications range from a 924 square foot neighborhood dojo in Jamaica Plain, MA, to the 52,000 square foot Bullitt Center, a commercial office building in Seattle, WA.

Prerequisites/Process: The Living Building Challenge is distinct in that it requires not only meeting requirements set forth in the standard, but also a year of performance data (12 months, post-occupancy) to measure and verify that the building is actually making the positive impact that it is designed to produce. The program includes seven Petals for which a building may become certified, with 21 Imperatives within those petals. The Petals include: Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty.

The process begins with a facility executive determining that the building might qualify for the program, and that the project team might commit to it. Once a project is registered, there are different criteria for each Petal, and the International Living Future Institute team is available to mentor project teams through to certification.

Recent/Upcoming Developments: The Bullitt Center is a six-story commercial office building in the Central District of Seattle, WA. The Center is home to a number of commercial office tenants who are operating their businesses, while working in a net-positive energy environment. The Bullitt Center aims to advance the awareness and adoption of high performance building through ongoing educational efforts, and by demonstrating that performance-based design works in a market rate commercial project.

The information contained in this article was provided by the entities that administer each program. Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below. Or, to have your green building program considered for inclusion in the online article, please contact the Editor at