Good news for LEED: The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has formally recommended that the green building rating system remain in use for federal projects. And even better news for Green Globes: The GSA has also expanded its options to include the system from the Green Building Initiative as a second green building certification system.
The GSA recommendation that the federal government use Green Globes 2010 and LEED 2009 as the third-party green building certifications for federal conversation and renovation projects was given to the Department of Energy (DOE) on Oct. 25, and is the culmination of more than 17 months of study. In May 2012, the GSA announced that it was reviewing Green Globes, LEED, and the Living Building Challenge for use in federal projects.
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) applauded the move, calling the recommendation "a very positive outcome, putting Green Globes on par with LEED in federal use of green building rating systems."
According to Jason Metnick of SFI, GSA policy for many years had been to use only LEED, which awards its certified wood credit only for wood products certified to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Green Globes, on the other hand, recognizes SFI, American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Canadian Standard Association (CSA), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), and FSC standards in awarding points for certified wood, according to Metnick.
"This opens the door to greater use of North American SFI-certified wood in federal building construction and renovation," Metnick says.
The DOE recommendation is required every five years under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), and this year’s recommendation comes after much debate regarding the federal government’s use of the LEED rating system. Following the GSA’s announcement that it would examine three rating systems for potential use and recommendation, in July 2012, 27 organizations formed the American High-Performance Coalition (AHPBC) to advocate for the use of other rating systems, with a specific emphasis on systems developed with ANSI or ISO-type processes. That same month, more than 1,200 organizations and businesses signed a letter to the GSA advocating for the continued federal use of LEED. In early 2013, the GSA announced that it was not yet ready to decide which certification system to recommend, and extended a public comment period for 60 days to further evaluate the three options. That same month, a report from the National Research Council compiled in response to a request from Congress for a report on the use of energy efficiency and sustainability standards for military construction recommended that the U.S. Department of Defense continue to require LEED Silver or equivalent ratings for new buildings and major renovations. The report found that the DOD’s policy on the use of LEED was sound.
As the year progressed, the support for LEED continued to grow, with the GSA’s Green Building Advisory Committee recommending in May 2013 that the administration continue to use LEED for all GSA buildings. Contention seemed to grow in July when Skanska USA announced that it was resigning from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in protest of the organization’s backing of the AHPBC due to AHPBC’s lobby against the use of LEED in government projects (and in protest to the coalition’s lobby against the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill).
In announcing the formal recommendation of LEED, the GSA issued the following statement from Kevin Kampschroer, director of GSA’s office of federal high-performance green buildings: “GSA has opened this review to an extensive public process, and we’ve made this recommendation using input from the public, industry stakeholders, and sustainability experts. We’ve found two tools that allow us to measure how federal buildings of all kinds can best save energy, improve overall performance, and cut down utility costs.” The release also notes that “other certification systems were not selected because they did not align with the government’s requirements,” “no one certification system meets all of the federal government’s green building requirements,” and that the GSA will conduct more regular reviews of green building tools on the market.
Certainly teams at the U.S. Green Building Council were cheering on Friday. “At this point, it is unassailable, LEED works,” Roger Platt, senior vice president of global policy and law, said in a release on the GSA recommendation. “Any government agency that chooses to follow the private sector in using LEED certification does so because the result is better buildings and savings for the taxpayer.”
The AHPBC applauded the inclusion of Green Globes in a release, stating “Today’s announcement by GSA is a step in the right direction however much more must be done to ensure that all green building codes, standards, rating systems and credits used by the federal government are developed through confirmed, true voluntary consensus processes that are steeped in science, technical rigor, full transparency, broad stakeholder input, and due process.”