Sustainability should be a major concern for anyone in the commercial real estate space. According to studies*, tenants are willing to pay about a 9% rent premium for green building features. What’s more? A strong focus on sustainability can also help keep you competitive and it can also increase your property values* significantly.
A green building certification is a great way to showcase your firm’s focus on sustainability to prospective tenants and investors.
What are Green Building Certifications?
Fundamentally, a green certification system is a collection of ratings frameworks, tools and approaches that are applied to evaluate how a building project measures up in terms of sustainability.
When looking into a green building program it is important to understand that green certification requirements vary according to the different building certification systems used globally.
Ultimately, the goal is to achieve better quality buildings with environmentally-friendly elements integrated into their foundation for long-term sustainability, from the design phase to the construction, upkeep and potential renovation.
Green buildings use fewer resources, produce less waste, and often mean reduced operating costs due to better energy efficiency. Relying on a green building rating that certifies compliance with sustainable building standards will ensure that your company’s sustainability credentials are solid.
11 Green Building Certifications to Know
Want to make your commitment to sustainability known? Here are just a few of the green building certification programs you can take part in:
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), issued by U.S. Green Buildings Council, is the most easily recognized sustainable building certification out there. It has nine separate certification programs, including ones for commercial, retail, new construction, existing buildings, and more.
Each program has a points-based rating system. You get points for each green building feature, and your point total determines whether you’re LEED Certified, LEED Silver, LEED Gold, or LEED Platinum (the highest level).
To apply, you’ll need to:
- Head to the U.S. Green Buildings Council website to register your project, fill out your forms, and pay the application fee.
- Identify the credits you’re seeking, and prepare documentation to support how you achieved them.
- Wait for the USGBC to review your application. They may ask for supplementary documentation in the process.
- Get your certification. You’ll need to pay a fee based on the size of your project and the certification you’re seeking.
Energy Star is another well-known green building certification that’s offered through the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. To qualify, your building needs to be at least 15% more energy efficient than traditional properties. These certifications last for one year.
To apply, you’ll need to:
- Have an Energy Star score of 75 points or higher.
- Register for a Portfolio Manager account and fill out your application.
- Get an approved engineer or architect to conduct a site visit and verify your project.
- Enter the site visit information into your account
- await the final verdict
BREEAM (the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is an international program that recognizes sustainable buildings and infrastructure projects.
The certification comes with a star rating from one to six and a designation of “pass,” “good,” “very good,” “excellent,” or “outstanding.”
You can get BREEAM-certified on new construction, in-use, or refurbishment projects. To get started, you’ll need to:
- find a licensed assessor in your area
- register the project
- have the project assessed
- await your certification
The Green Globes certification program is offered through the Green Building Initiative.
The process consists of an online questionnaire, a third-party Assessor and an Onsite Assessment.
To qualify, you need to meet at least 35% of the program’s 1,000 available points.
To get started, just file a quote request for your project.
Living Building Challenge
The Living Building Challenge certification is based on your building’s sustainability performance over a 12-month period. To qualify, you need to achieve all seven “petals,” which include materials, site, water, health, equity, beauty, and energy.
To apply, you’ll have to register at Living-Future.org, pay your registration fee, submit your documentation over the course of 12 months, and submit to a data audit at the end of the year.
National Green Building Standard
A sustainable building certification from the National Association of Home Builders, the NGBS designation is for residential properties only (including single-family homes, multi-family properties, and mixed-use developments.)
Like LEED, it has different levels of certification, ranging from Bronze to the much-coveted Emerald.
To apply, you’ll need to score your building, hire an accredited project verifier, have your designs verified and scored, send your report to the Home Innovation Labs, and pass a final inspection with the verified. You’ll receive your certification once the process is complete.
The GreenGuard certification is all about air quality and focuses on low-emission building materials, mold prevention, moisture protection, and more. The application process requires various planning meetings, reviews, test groups, compliance testing, and a final certification package.
According to the GreenGuard Environmental Institute that manages the program, it usually takes up five to six months to complete.
WELL Building Standard
The WELL Building Standard measures sustainability using seven core concepts, including air, water, nourishment, light, movement, and more.
Awarded by the International WELL Building Institute, the certification focuses on the overall impact of buildings on human health and wellbeing. The entire certification is broken down in this guidebook.
NABERS is a green building certification available to Australian projects only. It measures environmental impact on a six-star scale, based on energy use, waste production, water use, and indoor environment.
Green Star is another Australia-based option that certifies interiors, building designs, energy performance, and even entire communities.
The process requires online registration, documentation, and an independent panel assessment.
The Comprehensive Assessment System for Built Environment Efficiency is a green building certification in Japan, though it’s currently being piloted for international use.
The program certifies residential and commercial construction, urban development, and city management. The application process includes various assessments.