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Guiding You Through the Busy Green Ratings Systems

By Samantha Davidson and Tim Zelazny

To date, there are more than a dozen green certification rating systems for existing buildings. Talk about certification overload! To help you navigate which certification may be best for your building, ESD has created this guide.

What are the new certifications (such as WELL) about?

To put it simply, the newest certifications (WELL, Fitwel and RESET) are focusing on health and wellness to improve quality of life in the built environment and attract tenants. These standards allow tenants transparency in selecting a building that will provide superior air, water and/or lighting quality alongside various health and wellness amenities (such as exercise rooms). Buildings, in turn, can command higher rents and receive recognition for their commitment to providing a healthier building that supplements their sustainability program (LEED).

The certifications most are familiar with, including LEED, Green Globes, and ENERGY STAR, focus primarily on reducing consumption to save on operational costs. Going beyond ENERGY STAR, existing buildings have an opportunity to focus on additional categories outside of energy (such as water, health and wellness).

How do I know which certification to pursue?

The Existing Building Green Certification Matrix below provides a summary of several certifications. The matrix is organized with energy focused certifications on the left to health and wellness certifications on the right. The matrix also notes when certain certifications overlap (as LEED and WELL do) to help a building understand when a new certification can supplement an existing certification. The idea behind the matrix is to help you narrow a path/certification that best suits what your building is interested in marketing to tenants.

(Click on matrix below to enlarge)

Why should I certify my building?

Research shows that green-certified buildings outperform non-green-certified buildings in the following ways:

Eichholtz, P., N. Kok, and J. Quiqley, “The Economics of Green Building.” Maastricht University and University of California – Berkeley, August 2010.

The reason green certifications are successful is due to third-party verification. The verification process ensures that a building’s sustainability targets are integrated and not removed due to value engineering. Additional benefits outside of the statistics above are increased tenant engagement, improved air, water, lighting and/or acoustics and public recognition.

How can I make my LEED EBOM recertification easier?

In 2017, a client reached out to ESD to pursue its LEED EBOM recertification on a 1.5-million-square-foot government building in Chicago. ESD helped the property understand its recertification options by utilizing the matrix above. Due to the building’s high Energy Star score, it was recommended that the client pursue recertification using the Performance Path. The result? A decrease in consulting fees due to reduced documentation via Performance Path, and an increase in LEED rating and building performance awareness. The building jumped from LEED Silver in 2012 to LEED Gold in 2017 and plans to use the savings on consulting fees to pursue a health and wellness certification!

ESD has experience in multiple existing building green certifications. Most recently, our portfolio includes LEED EBOM, LEED Performance Score, ENERGY STAR, WELL, and Fitwel projects. In addition to project experience, ESD’s thought leadership has been involved in the following presentations and publications:

Please reach out to Tim Zelazny at tzelazny@esdglobal.com or Samantha Davidson at sdavidson@esdglobal.com for additional help to narrow down which certification(s) is best for you and its associated cost.

Our Mission is to Improve Society Through the Built Environment.

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