Three green-building certification systems received a stamp of approval from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) this week for use in federal projects. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system; Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes; and the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge got the OK. In 2007, LEED was the only certification system to pass the review.

Every five years the U.S. General Services Administration is required to review current green building certification systems to help identify a best system for federal use across all governmental buildings. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), which calls for the system evaluations, states that GSA-endorsed systems are those that the director of the GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings “deems to be most likely to encourage a comprehensive and environmentally sound approach to certification of green buildings.” The purpose of the review is to evaluate how different systems help the government meet its green building objectives. 

In evaluating green-building systems, GSA officials collected literature reviews, information from certification system owners, and interviews with system users over the course of one year. These findings were then presented to the U.S. Secretary of Energy who worked in tandem with officials from the GSA and the Department of Defense to choose a system—or, in this year’s case, systems—for the federal government.

EISA-cited criteria used in reviewing the certification systems for 2012 included:

  • Robustness of the technical components of the certification system to address Federal high- performance design and operational requirements for Federal facilities

  • Independence of auditors or assessors 

  • Availability of technically qualified auditors or assessors 

  • Documented verification method

  • Transparency of certification systems’ approach to collecting and addressing public comments

  • Consensus-based standard for documenting a development and revision process

  • System maturity 

  • Usability of the system 

  • National recognition within the building industry

Of the three systems named, the report finds that Green Globes aligns, at some level, with more than 25 Federal requirements, LEED aligns at some level with 20 Federal requirements, and the Living Building Challenge aligns at some level with 14 Federal requirements.

Reviewing the systems, the report notes that “none of the systems discussed in this report ensures that a building will meet Federal sustainable design requirements (once certified), or that the building will perform optimally. Federal sector high-performance, sustainable design and operations requirements can be met without the use of a green building certification system. At the same time, certification systems have been identified as useful tools by users when they are documenting, tracking, and reporting a building’s progress toward the Federal requirements.” The determination of which green-building system may be used depends on each project’s goals and one system is not mandated over the other two.

A full copy of the GSA’s report is available on its website at gsa.gov/graphics/ogp/Cert_Sys_Review.pdf.