Navigating Green Globes

Green Globes is a contender in the sustainability certification arena. It is one of the most popular green building rating systems alongside LEED. (Check out my post on LEED for more.) Green Globes offers a holistic approach to new, existing, and interiors projects seeking sustainability certification. Just like the other rating systems covered here on The Thread, the Green Globes certification process is monitored by a third party verification system. GBI (Green Building Initiative) oversees Green Globes and provides testing and performance verification of its sustainability standards.

Its website explains its background and approach and even offers comparisons of its rating system and LEED. I have not seen another rating system mention another rating system on their site, and I admire Green Globes for opening up the conversation to consumers immediately. This approach also aids project teams as they decide which rating system is most applicable to their project. Green Globes is transparent about what costs are associated with its certification which varies by project location and the size of the project.

GBI also oversees third party verification of Guiding Principles Compliance. Federal Guiding Principles establishes sustainability guidelines for projects owned by the United States federal government. The Guiding Principles Compliance page on the Green Globes website outlines sustainability strategies specifically for projects owned by the DoD (Department of Defense).

History of Green Globes

Interestingly enough, the history of Green Globes begins with BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). BREEAM was also influential in the creation of LEED and is used widely in the United Kingdom. BREEAM established itself as a sustainable force to be reckoned with beginning in the 1980s. Green Globes and LEED were still “growing up” a few years later and both gained popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Soon, BREEAM principles were adopted in Canada with the name Green Globes. The standards were then used on projects in the United States beginning around 2004.

Gaining Globes

The Green Globes rating system has a total of 1,000 points that projects can attempt to earn. It’s certification levels are based on percentages of the total 1,000 points earned. The minimum percentage to receive certification is 35%, which earns a project a one Green Globe certification. That same project can earn up to 54% and remain in the one Green Globe tier. Upon earning 55-69%, a project can earn two Green Globes. 70-84% of points achieved earns three Green Globes. The top-tier certification is four Green Globes awarded to projects that earn 85-100% of points.

The rating system is made up of categories in which projects can earn points based on performance, 

Project Management

This category includes the all important concept of integrated design and establishing sustainability goals. Integrated design encompasses project teams working together to achieve shared sustainability goals. All project stakeholders including the building owner, owner’s representative, architect, designers, and engineers. Depending on the project delivery in use, more project stakeholders may include contractors, developers, facilities managers and others.

In most cases, sustainability and performance goals are established at the very beginning stages of a project. The project team can then tailor their designs, innovations, and building efforts to meet these goals. Both project management and design includes all building considerations and the project site and surroundings.

As the design process begins, project teams can earn Green Globes points by considering the building and all of its materials in terms of the life of the building. Building systems and materials should be designed and selected while keeping projects’ sustainability goals at the forefront.


Green Globes certified projects carefully consider the location of their project, since the project’s site has major impacts on its overall sustainability. Project teams can consider which sites are best based on their area’s existing development. The Green Globes point system encourages building projects to minimize site disturbance. Site disturbance can be in the form of erosion during construction as well as maintaining and protecting existing wildlife.

A site’s landscaping and thoughtful design can be helpful in stormwater management as well as reducing the outdoor water use demand. Project design teams should also consider what impacts transportation will have on the site. Transportation can require impermeable surfaces, such as paving that can impact natural water systems. Large amounts of paving can also contribute to the heat island effect which is common in urban areas. Lastly, the outdoor lighting on a project site should abide by all regulations and guidelines that prevent or reduce light pollution.


Green Globes certified projects always perform at higher levels than  standard buildings when it comes to energy. A project’s energy performance can be modeled during the design phases. This modeling aids project teams on their mission to design buildings and building systems that meet their predetermined sustainability goals. During construction and after occupancy, the building’s metering systems give the project owners and any commissioners data that proves the real energy performance. Metering can demonstrate if the actual performance varies from the original design levels, at which point, the project owners can take measures to resolve any performance issues. 

Not surprisingly, projects can earn points in this category by implementing renewable energy sources. More points are available for on-site renewable energy sources, but Green Globes also allows projects to purchase off-site renewable energy credits.

Water Efficiency

Water is vital to many building systems. With that in mind, Green Globes understands that there are also multiple ways to increase the efficiency of building systems involving water. Green Globes specifically calls out certain types of building uses that require more than standard amounts of water. These include laundry facilities, pools, commercial kitchens, and some laboratory and medical facilities. The Water Efficiency category has specifics for commercial and residential projects. It also awards points for projects that create alternate water sources that meet the building’s demands and for implementing greywater treatment.


Since both renovated and new buildings require a lot of materials, this Green Globes category rewards designs that utilize sustainable materials and consider the life cycle of individual materials and the building as a whole. Project teams can also get closer to certification by earning points for using existing structures and materials from the project site or found materials from another location. 

During the construction process, project teams should put a plan in place to minimize and properly dispose of or recycle construction waste. Streamlining fabrication and waste disposal processes can aid projects in gaining points in this category.

Indoor Environment

Now that the major building components are covered in the above categories, there are still many decisions to be made regarding the building’s interior environment. Project teams design of HVAC systems should contribute to indoor air quality standards and occupant thermal comfort. This category also covers acoustic comfort for occupants by anticipating and masking and/or reducing noise created by building systems.

Project teams can improve the indoor environment and gain Green Globes points by utilizing energy efficient lighting systems that incorporate both artificial and natural light. 

Additionally, Green Globes certified projects should have indoor environments that have no or safe levels of indoor pollutants and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Pest control and safe drinking water are other important components of this category.


Green Globes is a comprehensive rating system as we can see. Its requirements give project teams flexibility within its guidelines to create sustainable, high performing buildings. Green Globes also encourages integrated design which sets project teams up for success when it comes to achieving sustainability goals. Use this link to browse the impressive list of Green Globes certified projects.


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