Case study: Green Globes certification faster, cheaper than LEED

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Daderot/Wikipedia Drexel University's Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building during construction.

A five-story science building constructed on the campus of Drexel University in Philadelphia earned stamps of approval in sustainability from both LEED and Green Globes.

However, one certification came at a significant cost, according to a study of the two green building programs used by university employees.

The internal staff costs to meet LEED requirements totaled $125,000 compared to $9,000 for Green Globes, Associate Professor Jeffrey Beard found in his research of time sheets and other records kept by the project team and university.

Beard’s research was limited to the 130,000-square foot Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building, and his funding came from the Green Building Initiative (GBI), which manages the Green Globes program. However, the research was conducted without oversight from GBI, which is based in Portland, Ore.

The study shows Green Globes is less expensive to conduct and faster to complete than LEED, according to GBI President Jerry Yudelson.

“Green Globe certification currently gives the market a choice among certification systems and provides competition that helps improve results for users, resulting in more innovation and lower costs over time,” Yudelson said in a news release. “In this particular project, the cost savings to the university were on the order of $1 per square foot, a significant number for a large building.”

Green Globes also is considered friendlier to the plastics, lumber and chemical industries than LEED.

The Drexel building of science labs and classrooms earned three Green Globes — four is the highest — and a LEED gold rating, which is second to platinum in that four-level system.

Administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is the world’s most popular program for green construction with more than 21,000 commercial projects achieving its certification.

The study at Drexel does not provide a balanced comparison, according to USGBC spokesman Jacob Kriss.

“It lacks a holistic view as it only looks at one building, which isn’t enough of a sample size for a valid study,” Kriss said in an email.

“If you are looking for a truly independent review of LEED and its value, the National Academy of Sciences released a 2013 study strongly affirming the value of LEED certification and stated that LEED certified buildings result in significant reductions in energy and water use.”

That study says LEED offers long-term economic savings for federal agencies and that the Department of Defense has experienced positive net returns on its investments.

LEED had what many considered a monopoly on green building guidance until last fall when the General Services Administration, which is essentially the nation's landlord, approved Green Globes as an alternative to LEED.