Evolution of Green Building Rating Systems

An evident trend in Green Building Rating Systems is the expansion of topics and criteria into increasingly comprehensive and all encompassing programs that look beyond the traditional technical areas of sustainability. The traditional focus was related to environmental aspects of a single building's infrastructure, grounds and indoor environment. However, there is a very apparent migration to include sustainability criteria associated with the activity within the building, or more likely multiple buildings, especially with the more compex occupancies such as Healthcare and Senior Living. The facility types at the leading edge of this emerging trend are generally campus environments, with multiple occupancies housed in a varying inventory of buildings. Although the overall facility type is classified as one activity, e.g. Senior Living, in realty the single 'activity' is comprised of several building occupancy types encompassing most or all of the activity support space. The shifting emphasis is characterized as a holistic sustainability assessment looking at facilities and how they interact and support program activities and outcomes.

    Two more recent programs developed to target specific occupancy and activity are the Sustainable Tracking and Rating System (STARS) for higher education and the Senior Living Susutainability Guide (SLSG) for seniors living facilities. Both programs represent industries that are typically campus type facilities and encompass multiple activites and building types to support their respective complex missions. Importantly, both of these programs avoid 'reinventing the wheel' by deferring facilities technical criteria to an existing green building rating system: LEED and/or Green Globes.

    Two other very pertinent examples within the traditional green building rating system realm are LEED for Healthcare and Green Globes CIEB for Healthcare, which target new design/constraction and existing buildings respectively. Each of these programs evolved from the orginal labeled rating systems to also address specific sustainability requirements related to hospital activity. LEED for Healthcare, for example, includes a criterion titles 'Areas of Respite', which relates to the facility promoting patient wellness and healing. Contained within the Green Globes CIEB for Healthcare is a criterion for specific lighting requirements unique to healthcare and not necessarily in the energy saving or general indoor environment category. 

   Suffice to conclude that this trend will continue, which will help green building rating systems continue to be relevant, while providing specific institutional industries a comprehensive tool to holistically evaluate the facility and program activity interface. As with any emerging concept, challenges also materialize; one would be overlapping wth accreditation standards, requiring sythesis; another would be the associated demand for either very specially qualified individuals as assessors, or the creation of specialty teams to competently assess and verify compliance with program criteria.

Content Provided By:

Kevin Stover, PE Commercial Program Consultant, Green Building Initiative