Five ways green building owners can measure sustainability

Climate change is real — any arguments to the contrary are, well, not true. Buildings account for 70 percent of electricity consumption and 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. We as a company believe strongly in keeping our operations as green as possible however we can, whether it’s buying renewable energy credits or making sure none of our employees commute to work in a car.

The International Monetary Fund building in Washington, DC, which has a LEED Gold Certification.
The International Monetary Fund building in Washington, DC, which has a LEED Gold Certification. Photo via Bloomberg.

The great news is, property owners can do something about this. The rise in popularity of green buildings has helped reduce electricity usage and carbon emissions while also increasing the bottom line for those who run them. If you’re new to the green buildings world, it can get a little confusing — there are an awful lot of acronyms out there. So what do they all mean? Here are five different ways green building owners across the world can measure their sustainability.

LEED

You’ve probably heard of this one. The U.S. Green Building Council‘s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building program is the preeminent program for the design, construction, maintenance, and operations of high-performance green buildings. Depending on the achievement reached, there are a few different levels: LEED Certified, LEED Silver, LEED Gold, and LEED Platinum. The process of getting LEED certified focuses on the materials used, energy and water usage, and the health and human experience overall. It doesn’t just end once the certification is reached — ongoing performance is reported to maintain this status.

ENERGY STAR

You may have heard of this one, also. ENERGY STAR was created by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, and it began as a way to identify and promote energy-efficient products. Nowadays, this also includes certifying buildings that perform better than at least 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide, as measured by the EPA.

401 N Michigan Ave, an ENERGY STAR labeled building in downtown Chicago.
401 N Michigan Ave, an ENERGY STAR labeled building in downtown Chicago. Photo via Zeller Realty Group.

BREEAM

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is based largely in England but is applicable in more than 70 countries. It was actually the first sustainability assessment method for buildings. Its focus is on using natural resources more efficiently with a holistic measurement across nine different categories.

WELL Building Standard

WELL (International WELL Building Institute) describes itself as using a “human-centered approach” to address overall health, rather than the reduction of carbon emissions themselves. Its certification is based on seven different factors: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. IWBI has partnered with LEED, and can be earned in conjunction with it. Like LEED, there are different levels of certification possible: Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a BOMA 360 building.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a BOMA 360 building. Photo via Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

BOMA360

BOMA 360 (Building Owners and Managers Association International) focuses solely on commercial real estate, and places an emphasis on “operation and management.” It can be earned in conjunction with LEED or ENERGY STAR to achieve higher total rental income and tenant satisfaction. BOMA BEST is a similar certification in Canada, though it has a higher focus on energy and environmental management, with several levels — Certified, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

What else?

This is only the beginning — there are many ways to set your building apart from the rest and market its location and design. If your building is already LEED- or ENERGY STAR-certified, we can even add that information to your TransitScreen.

Anything we missed? Email us at [email protected] and let us know!

USGBC and the related logo are trademarks owned by the U.S. Green Building Council and are used with permission.