Within the building industry, ‘green’ buildings have become a priority. Green buildings address sustainability and environmental challenges relating to energy, water, and waste.
Green Building Certification offers recognition to the community that a building has achieved strict sustainability standards. So why would they want this recognition? The answer is multi-pronged. Indeed, there are altruistic reasons, like reducing greenhouse gases and creating healthier spaces for their occupants. But there are practical reasons they’d want certification. First, it’s good for business. Think reputation and increased property values.
Who offers certification?
According to Yale Sustainability expert Mark Simon, certifications are typically overseen by non-governmental organizations. These organizations accept applications for new or renovated buildings and charge a fee to review and certify them. The US government also has Green Building Certification.
There are quite a few significant certifications, each with a nuanced focus.
Which programs are most popular?
The most popular certification is LEED. You are likely quite familiar with it or have at least heard of it. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is interested in all aspects of sustainability (lighting, energy, materials, site management, air quality, noise pollution, light pollution, acoustics, transportation, etc. Whew! That’s quite a list. Yale University sustainability experts summarize the LEED program this way: “LEED certification promotes buildings where all parts work together like a giant machine.”
WELL Building Certification
This certification focuses on human health-physical, emotional, and mental. It encourages exercise, proper nourishment, and improved sleep patterns. According to their website, “WELL applies the science of physical and social environments to benefit the health, well-being, and performance of your people.”
Living Building Challenge
The Living Building Challenge has the most demanding requirements, according to Yale experts. That said, the Living Building Challenge website indicates that they recently simplified their program “so the level of effort of teams is better aligned with their impacts at both project and market scales”. They focus on being “net positive” in terms of water, energy, and waste. Applicants can achieve just certain aspects of the certification instead of having to meet all aspects so that it is tailored to their particular project. As they explain it, “Living Buildings are:
● Regenerative buildings that connect occupants to light, air, food, nature, and community.
● Self-sufficient and remain within the resource limits of their site.
● Create a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them”.
US Energy Star Building Certification
Energy Star Certification must meet the standards set by the EPA. This certification “increases the environmental integrity of the property” according to their website. The building must provide evidence that it consumes less energy compared to seventy-five percent of similar buildings in the US.
What are the benefits of Green Building Certification?
I’m all about the practical aspects of sustainability in business.
● Sustainability is all the rage right now. That’s why reputation is a huge benefit. (Calling all marketers!)
● Another practical benefit: Green Building Certification can actually increase property values.
● Reduce energy consumption-good for the bottom line.
● Reduce water consumption-also good for the bottom line.
How about some altruistic benefits? After all, companies are made up of real people, not brick, mortar, and steel.
● Green Building Certification emphasizes healthier and more natural building materials, and amenities like natural light and green spaces.
● Many people today consider sustainability their moral responsibility.
● The health of a building’s occupants can be improved
● Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced.
What are the drawbacks of Green Building Certification?
● Sustainability has become more standardized, so the bar is higher now. The concept is much more common today than it was, say, 15 years ago.
● Applying for certification is expensive, including registration fees, consultation fees, and additional documentation fees from engineers, designers, etc.
● The application process is time-consuming and requires great effort (for example, coordinating the documentation from contractors, consultants, construction team, electrical and mechanical engineers, and designers)
● Smaller entities will be priced out of the market.
● Some certifications have requirements that don’t apply to all regions of the US. For example, California, with its focus on water conservation versus New Jersey, where its inhabitants prioritize heating.
You’ve got lots of Green Building Certification options. Every building is different. Do your due diligence, and select the one that’s right for your project…or not! Certification isn’t for everyone.
If your organization is building or renovating in the near future, contact the industry experts at Telkonet. We can help you meet your sustainability goals.
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