Green Globes certification system is rising

2013-02-15 Ashley Bach

It's easy to get caught up in the debate over forest certification when it comes to green building. The U.S. Green Building Council and its LEED system have rightfully been criticized for recognizing only the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and not the rigorous and much larger Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

But what many people don't realize is that LEED isn't the only game in town. Green Globes, a competing certification system that recognizes SFI, is gaining momentum as the preferred choice for builders around the country.

Green Globes, run in the U.S. by the Portland-based Green Building Initiative, recently caught the attention of the U.S. government, which is deciding whether to change its mind about LEED as the preferred certification system for new federal buildings. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which oversees most non-defense federal construction, will choose either LEED, Green Globes or the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge.

As Triple Pundit points out, Green Globes has some distinct advantages over LEED.

A March 2012 review of green building certification systems by the U.S. Department of Energy analyzed the relative efficacy of LEED, Green Globes, and the Living Building Challenge. The review considered a number of factors including the systems’ technical robustness, maturity, transparency and usability, the independence of auditors or assessors, and national recognition within the building industry.

The report found that the Green Globes certification system was actually better-aligned to meet the federal government’s requirements for new green building construction, while LEED aligned best for upgrades of existing buildings. While the report declined to make specific recommendations, Paula Melton of BuildingGreen.com noted that “a similar report from 2006 was used to justify GSA’s continued use of LEED.”

Private builders are also questioning LEED and looking to Green Globes as a replacement. The Orlando Sentinel, for one, interviewed a local expert in both certification systems.

Valencia College has several buildings certified as LEED (short for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design"), but it shifted to the Green Globes certification for its new, $21.7 million Lake Nona campus in southeast Orlando.

"I would say the Green Globes is definitely a more-flexible system. You work directly with an assessor, so if you have questions, then you can pick up the phone and get answers. You don't have to wait for a month for a response," said Johnnie Lohrum, an architect for SchenkelShultz Architecture's Orlando office. "They are striving to get your business. Their biggest benefit is common sense, to be honest with you."

Lohrum is one of the few local design-and-construction professionals with experience in both LEED and Green Globe certifications. He worked on the Valencia College Lake Nona facility, which was built by Gainesville-based Charles Perry Partners Inc. Construction. The three-story, 88,821-square-foot building won three Green Globes, which is comparable to getting a high-level LEED certificate.

The U.S. General Services Administration is taking public comment until April 6 as it decides whether to switch from LEED to Green Globes. Go here to leave your input online with the federal government and have your say on whether all rigorous, independent forest certification systems should be recongized as the green building industry continues to grow.