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LEED tops green building programs

Howard Carsman and Janet Kim Lin
Dolan Media Newswires

Portland, OR – Green building rating systems share essential principles, but the application, documentation and certification procedures for each program vary, as do costs.

Here’s how the systems stack up:


The Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method, created in the United Kingdom in 1990, was the first environmental certification system. LEED and Green Globes are based on BREEAM.


The best-known green building certification program is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000, LEED has is the standard in many building codes and state statutes. A 100-point system designates buildings as certified, silver, gold or platinum.

LEED certification is paperwork-intensive and expensive. Some estimate the entire process costs between 1 and 5 percent of the overall project cost. Registration and certification costs are about $13,000 for a 500,000-square-foot project.

Green Globes

Green Globes was developed by the Green Building Initiative and positions itself as an alternative to LEED. Though perhaps lesser known than LEED, the Green Globes rating system also has been incorporated into many local codes and state statutes. Green Globes uses a 1000-point system, and it issues one to four globes based on the percentage of applicable points achieved.

The program does not have prerequisites, instead allowing actions to count toward certification points. The total registration and verification cost is about $5,000 to $7,000 per project.

Built Green

Built Green is prevalent in the Northwest residential building market. It is a program of the Master Builders Association that provides homebuyers with rating systems for single-family homes, multifamily residences, community developments and home remodels.

Built Green uses a checklist and is generally a self-certification program. The builder sends a signed copy of the checklist to the MBA, which awards a rating from one to five stars. A four- or five-star rating requires certification by the MBA.

Fees typically range from $10 per lot to $150 per unit.

Earth Advantage

This program, started by the Portland General Electric Co., was originally focused on utility-based energy conservation. Over the course of a decade, it evolved into a sustainable-building program.

Certification under Earth Advantage involves a plan review and consultation with an Earth Advantage representative, an on-site walk-through and performance testing. The additional cost for building a home to Earth Advantage standards is 0.5 to 1 percent of the total building cost.

Earth Advantage is the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes Program Provider.

Green certification can present a significant project expense; however, it should not be viewed as the cost of going green. Any builder can implement sustainable building elements without obtaining certification.

When favorable public perception is the goal, brand recognition is key in choosing a building-rating system. While LEED is more rigorous and commands a higher price, it is, for now, the market front-runner.

Howard Carsman and Janet Kim Lin are LEED-accredited professionals and construction attorneys at Bullivant Houser Bailey PC.

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