The Green Building Initiative (GBI), developer of the Green Globes rating system, has released a draft of its GBI-01 standard for public comment. The standard provides the technical framework for achieving certification under Green Globes for New Construction.

The current version of the standard was published in 2010, though GBI updated Green Globes in 2013 in a process separate from ANSI standard development. Future updates are set to continue under ANSI’s “continuous maintenance” guidelines.


“Users will see that issues like reducing carbon emissions and increasing indoor air quality are heavily weighted to encourage teams to prioritize items that reduce health impacts,” notes Vicki Worden, executive director of GBI. “However, they’ll also see that flexibility was a priority, and the standard is designed to ensure it is accessible for teams to pursue incremental achievement and to avoid being penalized by credits they cannot pursue.” She adds that this is in keeping with GBI’s hope that its system will lead more people “to give green building a try.”


Major updates

This draft represents an overhaul so extensive that ANSI advised against releasing a redline version, according to Worden, because it would have been too difficult to interpret. Updates include the following:


Weighting—The draft places significant new emphasis on Water Efficiency (now 19% of the total available points, compared to 13% in the 2010 standard) and slightly bumps up the point distribution for the Site section while slightly bumping down the points for Energy.


Minimum requirements—Green Globes doesn’t have prerequisites but does have minimum achievement thresholds in each category. For all categories, this threshold is now 20%, a significant change from percentages that heavily emphasized energy efficiency in the 2010 standard.


Service life and durability—The Project Management section includes an incentive to complete either a life-cycle cost analysis or a building service-life plan. It also encourages design for moisture control, referencing ASHRAE 160–2009, which provides guidance for using hygrothermal modeling tools.


Although hygrothermal modeling tools (and this standard in particular) are still working out significant kinks, it is worth noting that moisture and mold are among the most significant health issues in buildings.


Transportation—The Site section has seen significant changes, particularly with newly introduced incentives for transportation alternatives.


Three energy paths—David Eldridge Jr., P.E., an associate at Grumman/Butkus Associates, told BuildingGreen that the committee’s major goal with the Energy section was to get more specific with some of the compliance language.


It also diverges radically from the 2013 version of the rating system. The draft offers three equally weighted options for whole-building energy performance—a predictive-modeling option similar to the approach used in LEED, a method that relies on modeled carbon reductions, and a prescriptive path that references ASHRAE 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code.


This section also drastically cuts the total points for whole-building energy reductions (formerly 30%, now 18% of the total points offered), and it abandons the approach introduced in Green Globes 2013 that permitted mixing points between prescriptive and performance paths.


Three water paths—This version of the standard abandons the elaborate system for calculating water points from 2010. A section on water-efficient fixtures references three distinct options: ASHRAE 189.1, the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), or the IAPMO Green Plumbing & Mechanical Code Supplement. Points offered for alternative water sources have nearly doubled.


Risk assessment—The Materials section has been completely reworked, though its primary focus remains on life-cycle assessment (LCA), one of the hallmarks of Green Globes since its inception. The standard offers up to 30 points (out of 1,000) for a whole-building LCA demonstrating improvement over a baseline, and an additional 25 points for choosing products with environmental product declarations (EPDs).


New features include a section encouraging products from manufacturers that divert at least 80% of their waste, as well as an incentive for design for disassembly (see Re-Framing Sustainability: Green Structural Engineering).


In an apparent answer to LEED v4’s credit on material ingredient transparency, the draft also introduces a risk-assessment framework for product ingredients. “Incorporating risk-based assessment—which is based on the science of toxicology—instead of hazard-based assessment is of course noteworthy,” Charles Kibert, Ph.D., P.E., told BuildingGreen. Kibert, who is chair of the Materials subcommittee and a GBI board member, added, “The consensus of the Materials committee is that this approach is superior to HPDs, red lists, and other banned materials lists.” 


The credit references NSF 355, a green chemistry standard. Projects can achieve up to 15 points for demonstrating that products have undergone an evaluation of health risks that could result from exposure to chemicals found in the end product.


Risk assessment is an essential tool used by regulatory agencies to determine safe levels of chemical exposure, but it’s more contentious when it comes to manufacturers’ assessments of their own products (see Building Products and Health: A Look at Risk vs. Hazard). BuildingGreen asked Kibert what he thought would be the most controversial feature of the Materials section. “I suspect the risk-based assessment will draw the most attention,” he said. “We hope for a lively public-comment period!”


IAQ testing—The draft provides a new section on actual VOC testing of indoor air before occupancy and overhauls the sections on lighting systems and daylighting while vastly expanding guidance on views, thermal comfort, and acoustical comfort as well. The standard also updates VOC emission standards to the current version of CDPH Standard Method v1.1.


Distinctive features compared with LEED

This draft includes several items that distinguish the standard from the LEED for New Construction rating system:


Still prerequisite-free—Though hotly debated in both subcommittee and consensus body meetings, prerequisites are not part of this draft, and minimum requirements have decreased in all categories.


“N/A”—The draft retains the option to mark certain credits as “not applicable.” This reduces the maximum number of points on a case-by-case basis, effectively resulting in a higher achievement percentage.


A thousand points of green—The draft standard continues to offer a total of 1,000 points (LEED has 100). This provides opportunities to offer a wider variety of options (a credit can provide 1 point in Green Globes, the equivalent of an 0.1 points in LEED, which does not offer partial points).


Emphasis on building longevity—Sections relating to a service-life analysis, moisture management, and design for deconstruction are unique to Green Globes and add up to 28 points.


No energy reporting—Though the system has incentives for installing monitoring equipment, there is no requirement or framework for reporting energy or water use, as there is in LEED.


How to comment

Green Globes has spurred criticism in the past, due primarily to its zealous support from the mainstream timber and plastics industries—support that has sometimes been expressed as lobbying for legislation that bans or otherwise restricts the use of LEED. But committee members BuildingGreen spoke with encouraged Green Globes’ critics to comment on the draft.


“If that’s how you feel, get involved,” opines Josh Jacobs, technical information and public affairs manager at UL and vice chair of the Materials subcommittee. “Submit a comment. Show up to the committee meetings. That’s where you can make change.”


Besides, he says, the standard needs help from the green building brain trust. “We have about a hundred people involved. That’s a drop in the bucket when you consider the amount of sustainable knowledge on a North American scale. We need people’s comments and ideas on everything.”


Worden echoes these sentiments: “Every public comment will be heard and responded to by GBI’s Consensus Body. Debate leads to education, and that’s something I consider to be an central part of GBI’s mission.”


A public-comment form can be downloaded on the GBI website, and the comment period will remain open through October 26, 2015.


For more information:


Green Building Initiative