Green Globes Updated

Winter 2013
Internap Network Services Corp.’s Santa Clara colocation facility was the first public data center in the U.S., as well as the first nongovernmental building in California, to achieve Green Globes certification.

The most dramatic changes in the history of green building certification programs are unfolding in 2013, as both Green Globes and LEED undergo major updates. Changes to the Green Globes program are intended to improve technical rigor and enhance ease of use, as well as to reflect how current building science influences materials selection and other choices in building design and construction.

Green Globes has become an increasingly popular alternative to LEED for assessment of commercial buildings; in October, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) recognized Green Globes (alongside LEED) as one of two systems that federal agencies should use for green building certification. The program is administered in the U.S. by the Green Building Initiative (GBI), which released the updated version of Green Globes for New Construction (Green Globes NC) in July. The changes are based on an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard, “ANSI/GBI 01-2010: Green Building Assessment Protocol for Commercial Buildings.” Green Globes NC utilizes advanced building science to help produce buildings with higher levels of sustainability and lower operating costs. It is used for both new construction and major renovations of a wide range of buildings types, including office buildings, multifamily housing, hospitals and institutional buildings such as courthouses, schools and universities.

Process Overview

A Green Globes NC user enters design data in a web-based survey that provides a projected score. The GBI then assigns a third-party assessor to verify the user’s responses and provide feedback to the project team throughout the design and construction process. The certification process includes an on-site visit by the assessor at the conclusion of the construction phase to verify implementation and to gather additional information used in the final report. The GBI then issues a score based on that report. Buildings achieving a score of 35 percent or greater receive a rating of one to four Green Globes, based on the percentage of total points achieved.

graphic showing green globes process

The updated version of Green Globes NC also offers an optional pre-design review stage (not shown in the diagram to the left), which can suggest improvements and help the project team make decisions early in the design process that would cost additional time and money if made later.

Assessment Areas

Green Globes NC covers seven primary environmental assessment areas: project management, site, energy, water, materials and resources, emissions and indoor environment. The percent point allocation for each of these seven areas is shown in the table at right. A look at two of these areas offers further insights into how the updated program works.

Energy. Building energy performance typically has the greatest environmental impact and the greatest potential to reduce ongoing energy costs for the owner. The “Energy Assessment” area in Green Globes NC is worth up to 39 percent of the total possible points. The previous version of Green Globes required applicants to use EPA’s Energy Star Target Finder calculator to evaluate energy performance. Users of the new version can choose that path or one of three other newly identified paths, all of which were built on established standards or measures. Together, they address the broadest range of users, some of whom might otherwise be discouraged by the cost or difficulty of a single, prescriptive approach.
The four paths in the updated NC tool range from the familiar to the leading edge. Each path has specific requirements and maximum point thresholds that can be achieved. Extra points are available to reward superior energy performance.

table showing green globes assessment areas

Materials and Resources. The updated version of Green Globes moves away from the limited, single-attribute approach used to rate sustainable products in previous versions. With the advent of life cycle assessment and the availability of product certifications, design professionals can utilize a more comprehensive view of a product’s environmental impact. They can select materials based upon multiple attributes, such as appropriate application to building design and regional location and the anticipated building service life. Green Globes NC now utilizes a multiple-attribute approach and provides two paths for product selection: Path A (a performance path) and Path B (a prescriptive path).

Buildings typically are divided into two categories: the building assembly, which includes the core and shell, and the interior fit-out, which includes the interior partitions, finishes and furnishings used within the building. Green Globes users may use either Path A or Path B to evaluate product selection for each category, providing increased flexibility as well as expanded opportunities to compare products.

An Added Benefit: Guiding Principles Compliance

In 2009, the White House issued Executive Order 13514, which aims to “establish an integrated strategy towards sustainability in the Federal Government.” Section 2(g) of this executive order directs the head of each federal agency to implement high-performance sustainable federal building design, construction, operation and management, maintenance and deconstruction by “ensuring that at least 15 percent of the agency’s existing buildings (above 5,000 gross square feet) and building leases (above 5,000 gross square feet) meet the Guiding Principles by fiscal year 2015 and that the agency makes annual progress toward 100-percent conformance with the Guiding Principles for its buildings inventory.”

In 2011, the GBI introduced the Guiding Principles Compliance Assessment Program to assess and certify existing buildings. The updated version of Green Globes NC now includes the ability to assess and certify new construction against the federal government’s five guiding principles (employ integrated assessment, operation and management principles; optimize energy performance; protect and conserve water; enhance indoor environmental quality; and reduce environmental impact of materials). Finally, online training programs for Guiding Principles Compliance Professionals (GPCPs) and Green Globes Professionals (GGPs) are designed to help government building personnel, business owners, developers, architects and engineers become expert users of these tools. 

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