green building certification

11 Green Building Certifications That Enhance Your Property's Value

Green building certifications have become increasingly important in North America as the building industry strives to adopt sustainable and environmentally responsible practices. These certifications are essential for promoting energy efficiency, reducing environmental impact, and improving the overall quality of buildings. Several notable green building certifications and standards are available to guide and assess sustainable construction in Canada and the United States. This comprehensive guide explores North America’s most prominent green building certifications, why pursuing one is essential, and offers guidance on making an informed selection that aligns with your sustainability goals.

Why Should You Get a Green Building Certification?

Green building certifications offer a wide range of benefits for individuals, organizations, and communities involved in the construction and operation of buildings. Here are some compelling reasons why obtaining a green building certification is a wise choice:

Environmental Responsibility: Green building certifications are founded on environmental sustainability principles. By pursuing these certifications, you demonstrate a commitment to reducing the environmental impact of your building projects. This includes conserving energy, water, and natural resources and minimizing waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy Efficiency: Many green building certifications, such as LEED and Passive House, strongly emphasize energy efficiency. Energy-efficient buildings contribute to a greener planet and result in lower operating costs for owners and occupants through reduced utility bills.

Healthier Indoor Environments: Certifications like the WELL Building Standard focus on creating healthier indoor environments. They address factors such as air quality, lighting, and acoustics, which can directly impact the well-being and productivity of building occupants.

Increased Property Value: Green building certifications can enhance the market value of properties. Buyers and tenants often prioritize sustainable and energy-efficient buildings, leading to higher demand and potentially higher rental or resale values.

Regulatory Compliance: In some regions of Canada, green building certifications are becoming mandatory or incentivized through building codes and regulations. By obtaining certification, you ensure compliance with local requirements and may gain access to financial incentives and tax benefits.

Community and Stakeholder Engagement: Green building certifications can improve your relationship with the community and stakeholders by demonstrating your commitment to sustainable practices. This can be particularly valuable for businesses looking to enhance their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

Risk Mitigation: Green building practices often lead to more durable and resilient structures. By incorporating sustainable design and construction methods, you can reduce the risk of damage from extreme weather events and other environmental factors.

Global Recognition: Many green building certifications have international recognition, making it easier for projects to attract global investors and partners who value sustainable development.

11 Types of Green Building Certifications

LEED (Canada & US)

LEED is a globally recognized green building certification system that evaluates the sustainability of buildings based on several categories, including energy efficiency, water conservation, materials selection, indoor environmental quality, and sustainable site development. It provides a comprehensive framework for designing, constructing, and operating environmentally friendly buildings. LEED certifications come in various levels, such as Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, based on the points achieved within the rating system.

BREEAM (Canada & US)

BREEAM is an international green building certification system focusing on sustainable design, construction, and operation. It assesses various aspects of a building’s performance, including energy efficiency, water conservation, health, and well-being. BREEAM aims to reduce the environmental impact of buildings and promote sustainable practices across the globe.

Green Globes (Canada & US)

Green Globes is a flexible and cost-effective green building certification system that evaluates the environmental performance of buildings. It comprises three categories: new construction, existing buildings, and interiors. To qualify, you must meet at least 35% of the program’s 1,000 available points. The process consists of an online survey, a third-party on-site assessment, and a post-assessment. It provides a practical alternative to LEED and has been embraced by many North American projects looking to achieve sustainable construction goals.

Passive House (Canada & US)

The Passive House standard emphasizes exceptional energy efficiency and airtight building envelopes to minimize heating and cooling energy needs. It originated in Europe but has gained popularity in North America. Passive House buildings maintain comfortable indoor temperatures with minimal energy consumption, significantly reducing heating and cooling costs.

WELL Building Standard (Canada & US)

While primarily centred on the health and well-being of occupants, the WELL Building Standard also incorporates elements of environmental sustainability. It assesses factors like air quality, lighting, water quality, and other aspects of indoor environmental quality. WELL-certified buildings aim to provide healthier and more sustainable living and working environments.

Living Building Challenge (Canada & US)

The Living Building Challenge is an advanced green building certification program focusing on regenerative design and sustainability. Buildings pursuing this certification must achieve net-positive energy, water, and waste performance, among other criteria. This holistic approach encourages projects beyond merely reducing environmental impacts and aims to positively contribute to the environment and local communities.

Zero Carbon Building Standard (Canada)

Developed by the Canada Green Building Council, the Zero Carbon Building Standard assesses and certifies buildings that produce zero carbon emissions associated with their operations. This certification promotes carbon-neutral buildings and aligns with Canada’s goals to reduce carbon emissions in the built environment.

TRUE (Canada & US)

TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) is an internationally recognized certification program administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) that focuses on helping facilities and organizations achieve zero waste goals. TRUE certification promotes waste prevention, diversion, and responsible resource management, emphasizing sustainability efforts and environmental stewardship. By measuring and verifying the efficiency of resource use and waste reduction practices, TRUE certification supports facilities worldwide in minimizing waste production, lowering their carbon footprint, and contributing to sustainability initiatives, aligning with a global commitment to waste reduction and environmental responsibility.

BOMA BEST Sustainable Workplaces (Canada)

BOMA BEST Sustainable Workplaces, by BOMA in Canada, certifies organizations for their commitment to sustainable operations, emphasizing energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation, and overall sustainability. This certification signals dedication to eco-friendly workplaces and positions them as leaders in sustainable practices.

Energy Star Rating for Buildings (Canada & US)

Energy Star Rating for Buildings, established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States, certifies energy efficiency in commercial and institutional buildings across North America. Like the well-known Energy Star program for appliances, it evaluates a building’s energy performance, offering a benchmark. It signifies a commitment to reducing energy usage, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and saving on operational costs, helping attract sustainability-focused tenants and fostering a more energy-conscious, sustainable built environment in North America.

National Green Building Standard (US)

The National Green Building Standard (NGBS), developed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), is a comprehensive and nationally recognized green building certification primarily focused on residential construction in the United States. It provides criteria and performance levels for various aspects of green building, including energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor environmental quality, site sustainability, and materials and resources. The NGBS offers certification levels ranging from Bronze to Emerald, enabling builders to choose the level that aligns with their sustainability goals and budget, thereby promoting the creation of sustainable, energy-efficient, and environmentally responsible homes across the country.

Choosing the Right Certification

Selecting the appropriate green building certification is a multifaceted decision that hinges on several key factors, each vital in aligning the certification with the project’s unique needs and objectives. 

Sustainability objectives should harmonize with the certification’s core criteria, whether achieving net-zero energy, minimizing water usage, or focusing on indoor environmental quality. While LEED is renowned for its adaptability and global recognition, other certifications like Passive House or Living Building Challenge may be more aligned with specialized sustainability objectives.

Moreover, the budget allocated for sustainability initiatives is another critical consideration. Some certifications may entail higher costs regarding documentation, auditing, and compliance, so ensuring that the chosen certification aligns with the project’s financial constraints is imperative. The project’s geographical location is equally pivotal, as regional climatic conditions, building codes, and local incentives can sway the decision toward certain certifications better suited for the specific region.

Engaging with experienced green building experts or sustainability consultants is strongly recommended to navigate these intricate considerations effectively. These professionals bring valuable insights into the certification landscape, staying up-to-date with industry trends, regional regulations, and emerging best practices. 

Wrapping Up

Green building certifications are integral to the built environment. They provide a framework for designing and constructing environmentally responsible and energy-efficient buildings that contribute to a healthier planet and better living and working conditions. Whether pursuing LEED, BREEAM, Green Globes, or other certification systems, builders and developers have numerous options to support their sustainability goals and create a more sustainable built environment in Canada.

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