Green Building Certification: LEED For Some, Green Globe For Others

At the Green Building Festival in Toronto hosted by the Green Building Alliance, the LEED accreditation system for green buildings was given mixed reviews.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Green Globe are the two leading green building certification programs in Canada. The LEED Green Building Rating System® is a voluntary, consensus-based standard first developed in the U.S. for assessing high-performance, sustainable buildings. The Canada Green Building Council has adopted the LEED Accreditation system.

Green Globes was developed in Canada with support of federal and provincial ministries and public utilities and in the UK, by the RICS foundation and Faber Maunsell. Green Globes is an online building audit for assessing and rating new and existing buildings against best practices, standards and principles of green architecture. It is being used by BOMA Canada as a national environmental recognition and certification program for existing commercial buildings called the BOMA 'Go Green' program.

Kevin Hydes, a founding member of  Canada Green Buildings Council, and Chair of the U.S. Green Buildings Council that runs the LEED program in the U.S., talked about how the LEED accreditation system for buildings was transforming the construction market to become more environmentally friendly – in the U.S., Canada and now creating interest worldwide. 

LEED, Hydes stated, is a “leadership standard”, not for the majority of new buildings, but for the 25% of new buildings where owners want to be leaders in green design.  A LEED certification seemed to be an assumed goal in many presentations and discussions at the Festival, and the manufacturers in the accompanying trade show were explaining how their products could assist in gaining LEED points. 

However, LEED certification has not reached anywhere near 25% of new buildings – so far only 268 buildings have been certified worldwide and another 2,069 are registered as in the LEED process.  The keynote speaker for the Festival, Bob Berkebile, Principal of the American architectural firm BNIM Architects and a leading authority on sustainable design said LEED was “a flawed process”.  

Disenchantment with LEED has been expressed in detail in a paper on LEED shortcomings entitled LEED is Broken – Let's Fix It by Randy Udall and Auden Schendler. They are significant proponents of green design who also acknowledge the importance of this accreditation initiative.  Their article led to a couple of recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, 'Green' Buildings Are Trendy,
But Do They Save Energy?'
and 'Green Building Practices Are Required by States'.  

Concerns about LEED come from a variety of standpoints from difficulty understanding the LEED system to cost of certification including consultant necessary to prepare supporting documentation and very different cost of activities that gain equal LEED points such as bicycle racks compared to new heating systems. LEED also lacks a minimum requirement in significant areas such as improved energy performance. Overall, LEEDs puts the emphasis on getting a basket of LEED points rather than on 'good design'.

Green Globes, the alternative to a LEED certification, has been adopted for new Federal buildings according to Margaret Boyce, Manager of Sustainable Building and Communities for Public Works Canada.  In her presentation on activities of the new Federal Office of Green Government Operations (OGGO) she said new Federal government buildings that cost over $1 million are to be certified under Green Globes, and buildings over $10 million are to be certified Gold under LEED.  Clearly the government thinks that LEED is not the best approach for smaller, yet still significant construction projects.

Jiri Skopek of EDC Energy and Environment Canada Ltd. who led the design of Green Globes, explained that it has a lot to offer, particularly for 75% of developers who are not trying to be leaders in sustainability but may want to build a more environmentally friendly building.  According to Skopek, it should cost less than $5000 including consultant time to reach Green Globe accreditation.  Green Globes is being picked up quickly in the U.S. and promoted by the U.S. Green Building Initiative.

Greg Allen of Sustainable EDGE who was also at the conference recommended Green Globes for smaller projects, citing the high cost of LEED certification as the reason, although he believes LEED has better recognition value than Green Globes.

It appears that both LEED and Green Globe have their place and that accreditation and recognition through these types of schemes is an essential part of moving forward with Green Building design.


Ann launched RENX in 2001 as a part-time venture and has grown the publication to become a primary source of online news for the Canadian real estate industry. Prior to…

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Ann launched RENX in 2001 as a part-time venture and has grown the publication to become a primary source of online news for the Canadian real estate industry. Prior to…

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