The direct and indirect impact on the environment of buildings is extensive. Buildings utilize energy, water, and raw materials during construction, renovation, reuse, and demolition, generate wastes, and emit harmful air pollutants. These facts led to the establishment of the “green buildings”, the term itself and its’ standards, certifications, and rating systems to mitigate the impact of buildings on the natural environment through sustainable development.
As a rule, “green” building is integrated building practices that significantly reduce/eliminate the negative environmental impact of a building and maintain/improve the quality of life of our environment. To categorize under the green building class, it is not enough to just construct the building, what’s more; the method considers the complete life cycle of a building: planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance, refurbishment, and destruction. Following this, the green building practices focus on many common elements, especially energy, water, materials, waste, indoor environmental quality, and health, that can be addressed separately, or in a combination.
Green Buildings: Standards And Certification Systems
The first critical issue is how far you must go to be a part of the “green buildings” ecosystem. Many national and international green building programs differ in their own priorities and requirements. So then, choosing the most trustworthy and applicable building programs for a particular project can be challenging. This section covers an introduction to some regularly used terms and an overview of the most generally known green building standards, rating, and certification systems.
Consequently, rating or certification systems have been established to evaluate the level of sustainability of buildings and consider the project as a whole. The purpose of the rating system is to certify the different aspects of sustainable development. The more sustainable elements included in a project, the higher the level of certification that could be awarded.
When we look deeply at these standards and certifications, various systems worldwide verify green buildings, and new ones are added with each passing day. Some of the most common are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method), Green Globes, WELL, RESET (Regenerative Ecological, Social, and Economic Targets), and many more. While each is unique, broadly speaking, they all share the same purpose and general structure.
LEED was developed in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to assess a building’s environmental impact. There are four levels of LEED certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum and buildings are rated for categories including sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, material and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation, and design process. In terms of indoor air quality, LEED-certified buildings usually have healthier interiors with more daylight and cleaner air free of hazardous contaminants and chemicals. And LEED-certified structures often have lower vacancy rates than non-certified ones.
The WELL Building Standard was launched in 2013 by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), is a system that measures, certifies, and monitors features of the built environment that impact occupant health and wellbeing through the air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. To put it simply, WELL is a kind of vehicle to improve the quality of life of all occupants throughout the lifecycle of a building. This performance-based system focuses on seven core elements: air and water quality, light, acoustic, nourishment, comfort, and mind, which define the score and result in the award of a Silver, Gold, or Platinum standard. As it relates to indoor air quality, The WELL Air concept exists to encourage high levels of indoor air quality through a variety of holistic design methods targeted at decreasing hazardous contaminants exposure. A WELL-certified building may include air quality monitoring and awareness, air filtration, operable windows, improved ventilation, and smoke-free surroundings.
RESET is created and administered globally by the GIGA, which integrates building standards development with research and cloud technologies. Compared to other green building standards, RESET is a building certification that focuses on the comfort and health of the building’s occupants, emphasizing indoor air quality. The standard uses technology to evaluate the performance of buildings and interior spaces during their lifetime. As a sensor-based and performance-driven data program, it underlies the framework for data quality, continuous monitoring, data collection, and reporting results with benchmarking. With constant indoor air quality monitoring and cloud technologies, the system enhances environmental awareness. It encourages more sustainable solutions to air quality problems. Unlike the other systems, where performance is evaluated over a few days, RESET certification is based on data collected over a substantial amount of time via calibrated real-time monitors.
Apart from all these, it should be noted that these systems can complement each other in many ways. LEED certification generally focuses on the physical building and its services, such as energy/resource efficiency and saving on utility bills. On the other hand, WELL encourages us to improve comfort, and enhance health and wellness. In the end, it is safe to say that there is no consistent use or definition of the term “standard” in the building community. Any standard can be adopted as a voluntary or mandatory program.