Is LEED Still Leading? The Evolving World of Green Building Practices


Growth in Green Building

According to Dodge Data and Analytics’ latest World Green Building Trends 2016 report, global green building continues to double every three years. Even in a highly developed market like the United States, nearly half (44%) of the Dodge survey respondents reported that more than 30% of their projects are green today and more than 58% of the respondents expect to build green for more than 30% of their projects in 2018. It is clear that green building remains strong and is expected to continue to grow into the future.

According to the report, the main influencers of this growth include client demands, followed by other factors such as the right thing to do, state environmental regulations, market demands and the drive for lower operating costs.

Green Rating Systems Today

There are multiple green rating systems that impact the choice of building materials. Building products manufacturers are contacted regularly to provide product data that contributes towards green credits in these rating systems. Types of product information include environmental product declarations (EPDs), volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions and content data, health transparency information, recycled content and others. Typically the pertinent documents for green rating systems are available on the manufacturers’ websites.



Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most widely recognized green rating system in the world. Established in 1993, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC®) released its latest version; LEED v4.0 in November 2013 and all projects registered after October 31, 2016 must conform to LEED v4.0. The main changes impacting the choice of building materials include credits recognizing transparency initiatives around human health, environmental impact (EPD’s and LCA’s), and sustainable sourcing. Previous requirements for recycled content and local sourcing are retained, but have reduced value in the new system. 


GBI - Green Globes®

Green Globes® is an online green rating system licensed for use by BOMA in Canada and the Green Building Initiative® in the United States. Established in 2000, Green Globes for Existing Buildings’ current version for New Construction is v1.4. This rating system is designed to be a self-assessment tool used by a project manager and the design team. It is a recognized American National Standards Institute (ANSI®) assessment system. The main focus areas impacting building material selection include EPD and LCA requirements as well as those for VOC emissions and content.


ILFI - Living Building Challenge™

The Living Building Challenge™ is one of the most challenging sustainability-focused building rating systems available today. The current version, 3.0, was released in 2014. The Living Building Challenge focuses on seven petals: Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. The main changes in this most recent version include an expanded focus on transparency around human health including use of the Declare System where manufacturers may choose to get their products listed as complying with this challenge. It offers an expanded red list of chemicals and an enhanced focus on responsible sourcing.


IWBI - The WELL Building Standard®

The WELL Building Standard® launched in October 2014 and is the newest green rating system. The Well Building Standard focuses exclusively on human health and wellness. It focuses on seven areas including air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. The impact of building material choices guided by this rating system are primarily health information transparency and indoor environmental quality issues such as acoustics and lighting.

What To Do

As a building design professional you may wonder why we need so many different green rating systems. Is one better than the others? Today, LEED is the most widely recognized system, but each of the other rating systems offers something unique for the design professional. Before choosing a system, review each one and choose the system that meets the design goals you have in mind for the space you are building. All of the systems offer multiple rating levels and some of the highest levels are quite challenging to achieve. 

Once you have chosen a system, you still have the choice to certify the building to the rating system or not. Getting the building certified may offer advantages such as building recognition and increased resale value. Certified or not, your building still offers the significant advantages of improved performance and a healthier and more enjoyable space for the occupants. For more information on each of the systems, click the links provided above.