Third-party green building rating system Green Globes for New Construction has received its most significant upgrade since its release in the U.S. in 2006. The upgraded system, which will be available for use in July, features significant changes to its energy and materials sections.

The upgrades to Green Globes NC are based on ANSI/GBI 01-2010: Green Building Assessment Protocol for Commercial Buildings. The standard was developed by GBI using an ANSI-approved consensus process involving stakeholders from the building sustainability industry.

Administered by Portland, Ore.-based Green Building Initiative (GBI), the web-based program for green building guidance and certification includes an on-site assessment by a certified third party. The program is positioned as an affordable alternative to LEED for commercial buildings, including those operated by the federal government. Program fees are 30 percent to 50 percent that of LEED, says Sharene Rekow, GBI vice president of business development.

The program’s alignment with ANSI comes at a time when LEED is facing criticism because it is not developed with consensus-based processes in conformance with ANSI or ISO. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) currently uses LEED as its system of choice regarding green building for new construction and major renovations. The GSA manages nearly 10,000 federal buildings and is one of the primary drivers of energy efficiency in the federal government.

While LEED is the current preferred system for use in GSA projects, under requirements dictated in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the administration is currently reviewing potential green-building certification systems for use going forward. This review is required every five years. While the final decision has not yet been made, organizations such as the American High-Performance Building Coalition have been lobbying the GSA to instead choose a system such as Green Globes that is in conformance with ANSI processes.

In addition, in May, Greentech Media reported that U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) would potentially introduce an amendment to the Shaheen-Portman Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act that would prevent the GSA from using rating systems that are not ANSI-certified. Because LEED is not ANSI-certified, the amendment would effectively ban the system from GSA use. However, Landrieu has not yet put forth the amendment.

In its recent upgrades, Green Globes has made adjustments to target use in federal agencies. The new version, which will be available for use in July, now includes the ability to assess and certify new construction and major renovations of federal buildings for compliance with the Guiding Principles as required by Executive Order 13514. Signed by President Barack Obama in October 2009, the order addresses federal leadership in environment, energy, and economic performance. About 250 federal buildings have been assessed by GBI so far, says Rekow.

GBI also enhanced all of Green Globes’ seven assessment areas, most notably those covering energy and materials and resources, Rekow says. Users can now choose between four paths for energy performance assessment. Three of these are common to the building industry: Energy Star, ASHRAE Building Performance Method, and ASHRAE Building Energy Quotient. The fourth, developed within the ANSI process, is an operational energy approach that uses carbon dioxide equivalency (CO2e) as the basis for its calculations and captures energy performance through the entire cycle of energy consumption from source production and generation to building consumption. Bonus points have been introduced for buildings that obtain the highest levels of energy performance, such as zero net energy or 51 percent or greater reduction in CO2e emissions.

The program’s updated Materials & Resources section introduces a more sustainable and innovative methodology for the selection and specification of products based upon multiple attributes, says Rekow. This is a more rigorous approach that replaces the outdated and less-thorough single-attribute assessment method. This new approach focuses on full life cycle assessment, multi-attribute certifications, and third-party certified Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

Click here for more information on the updated program.