Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a green building certification system, developed by the US Green Building Council in 1998.
Like BREEAM, LEED certification is available for all building types including new construction, existing buildings, shell and core, and fit-out. Interestingly, it also covers domestic dwellings, which, in the UK, is covered by the Code for Sustainable Homes.
The system has been successfully modified and adopted by many countries, including India, Canada, Italy and Brazil. In addition, more than 20 countries have also joined the LEED International Roundtable.
By March 2011, a total of 8579 LEED certificates have been issued worldwide. The certification fee varies from $2250 to $27 500 depending on a project's rating ambitions, size, and whether the applicant is a member of the US Green Buildings Council.
Launched in 2002, Green Star is a rating system developed by the Green Building Council of Australia and modelled on BREEAM and LEED. Country-specific versions are also used in New Zealand and South Africa.
To date, 345 Green Star certificates have been issued in Australia, with 92 within the last 12 months. The certification fee varies from AUD 8,000 to 33,000 depending on size of the project and membership of the Green Building Council of Australia.
The DGNB (Deutsche Gessellschaft fur Nachhaltiges Bauen) certification system was developed in 2009 by the German Sustainable Building Council.
As with the other systems described here, the DGNB covers all the relevant issues of sustainable construction. DGNB is organised around six so-called qualities: ecology, economy, socio-cultural and functional issues, techniques, processes, and the site.
To date, 155 buildings have been certified or pre-certified using DGNB, including those located in Austria, Switzerland and Luxemburg. Some countries, such as Hungary, have developed their own rating based on DGNB. The certification fee varies from €1600 to €20 000. As with BREEAM, other fees such as registration may apply.
Estidama was launched two years ago. It is the first assessment scheme specifically tailored to the Middle East.
Estidama is a building design tool to help developers construct and operate buildings and communities more sustainably. The scheme is a key part of Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, the drive to build the city of Abu Dhabi according to innovative green standards.
The scheme is not something that people do, nor is it a green building rating system like the LEED or BREEAM schemes. Rather, it is a collection of ideals that are imposed in an elective building code format.
However, Estidama does use a green building rating process called the Pearl Rating System. This is used to evaluate sustainable building development practices in Abu Dhabi.
In terms of its present goals, Estidama is focused on the rapidly changing built environment. It is in this area that the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) is making significant strides to influence projects under design, development or construction within Abu Dhabi.
Differences between schemes
The main difference between the various national assessment systems is the weight they give to different environmental categories. These naturally follow the main environmental and social issues for that region, which results in rating systems tailored to account for climate and local culture. Some systems also give credits for compliance with building regulations.
For example, Japan's Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environmental Efficiency (CASBEE) is more concerned about land use, while Estidama (sustainability in Arabic) was developed by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council.
Not surprisingly Estidama stresses the importance of water conservation.
In some of the systems a building has to score against all the criteria, so a client or designer cannot select the assessment criteria. So if a building is weak in one category, it will be penalised for not earning a credit.
In some countries the assessment of a building cannot be separated from its local environment. For example, a building will be marked down on its sustainability if local health and educational systems are weak or non-existent.
Most green ratings around the world tend to be voluntary systems. The unanswered question is how quickly they will become an essential aspect of all planning applications contributing to the sustainable development.
Irrespective of the timing, there is one other common trait of global rating systems: a trend for both the process and the assessment criteria to become progressively more demanding and more complicated. This leaves the construction industry worrying about the effect on building development, and, more importantly, what effect it might have on the environment and on building occupants.
For green rating schemes to have a future, construction industries and clients around the world need to be provided with tangible proof from the schemes' operators that increasingly demanding rating systems will actually make a positive difference, not add cost and complication.
Green certification must add value to all, not become a souvenir trinket from hell.
Irena Saniuk MSc is a BREEAM assessor with BSRIA. BSRIA provides a range of building compliance services including BREEAM assessments.
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