Getting to Know Green Globes
Last month, I heard my first presentation on the Green Globes rating system. I felt like the Bishop of Canterbury hearing Henry the VIII tell me about this new "Church of England" he was planning to roll out. That is, I was suspicious, but interested to get the low-down on how it works with a real open mind, so that I might know what the future may or may not hold. I have to say, I find some of the innovations to be really good. Namely, a flexible tool that does what LEED’s high touted, but never delivered bookshelf model was supposed to do (or so I thought). For example, the fact that there are "NA's" for certain questions / credits makes total sense (note that these don’t exist for projects in the sticks for whom public transit is not available), and that fact that your scoring doesn't penalize you for having NA's also makes sense. So, for example, if I decide for good reason, not to do a white roof, then I shouldn't be penalized for it (we have a project in CO that is not getting platinum because they didn't want a white roof, or rather, couldn't document that the ballasted stones would qualify). Also, the fact that it's an online tool is kind of cool, although I haven't seen it in action and can't actually vouch. That said, I find other portions of it to be a bit scary. The main issue, to me, is the scoring of those subjective issues like space use optimization (and many many more) where a team can say, "yeah, we're doing that" and the reviewer can say "well, ok," without any of the transparency as to what thresholds have been met. Also, there are no prerequisites, so a building could provide no outdoor air, for example, make all the occupants sick and die, and still be certified. Lastly, I have a decent background in green building. When I hold up a LEED scorecard, I'm like a doctor reading a patient's chart. I know what's going on in the building, what they achieved, what they didn't, and I can usually find the associated strategies by looking around said patient-building. But with Green Globes, there is no "checklist" to see. Or rather, it's damn hard to get a hold of one unless you have a project in the works. It is therefore really hard to know what's weighted highly, what specific measures they are looking for, etc. This again falls into the lack of transparency trap, which for me is one of the program’s biggest failings to date. Also, I'm not sure I think that using Target Finder for to score a project’s energy performance is a good idea. I could be sold on this point, but I'm on the fence. Our use of Target Finder on New Construction projects has provided a rough sense of where a project should end up, but it seems a bit arbitrary. Plus, you miss out on the use of energy modeling as a way to explore options and encourage learning of the relative value of one energy-saving measure versus another (note: in talking to Green Globes representatives, I got the impression that one could use energy modeling as an alternative compliance path, and that almost any energy model would do (yikes!), but again, there is so little transparency that one has to really hustle to try to get any info. So in conclusion (and granted, I'm still learning and keeping an open mind), I’d say that as a "tool," it's fine. But as a rating system, it doesn't have enough transparency or standardization, let alone minimum standards for me to stand behind it. That said, none of what I consider to be obvious problems are unfixable. They could make it more transparent and less capricious. They could make it more based on standards. And they could add prerequisites. And it could still be a more flexible version of LEED, which could be really good. To me, what Green Globes really does is highlight the shortcomings of LEED and the need for its improvement. LEED does need to be more responsive to project specifics. It could use a little flexibility built in (a-la the bookshelf model). It does need a better online system. And it does need better response time and consistency among its reviewers. In the end, I'd rather have a LEED that is intended to create and maintain a standard of quality that responds to these needs rather than a Green Globes whose intention is to provide an easier way to certification without upholding the substance.