ANALYSIS: Green Building Standards

Dispatch from SSC Intern Emilia Pramova

The building you live/work in can drastically increase or decrease both your ecological footprint and overall financial costs. But with all these emerging trends in green buildings (or greening buildings), one can get confused about which model to follow. Green building standards such as "Living Building", "Passive House" and "Net Zero" have become increasingly popular and have diversified the benchmarks in the sector. For this reason, John Linnemann, from Aedi Construction, set out to provide a comprehensive view on each of the aforementioned standards, in addition to analysing how they compare to LEED certified buildings.



The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is probably the most popular of its kind and has become an iconic benchmark for green construction and development in the United States. There has been a tremendous response to it both from the private sector and the government. As of June 27, 2009, all construction projects seeking LEED certification must follow the LEED v3 guidelines. A detailed breakdown of the point rating system, the goal of individual changes and the requirements for achieving certification are provided by the U.S. Green Building Council.

LEED v3 retains the same four certification levels, Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, but has adjusted the scoring criteria for each level to a 100 point scale. It gives more weight to those credits deemed to be of greater value, including increased energy efficiency, renewable energy, access to public transportation, and water conservation. One of the major changes under LEED v3 is the new requirement that all projects seeking certification “must commit to sharing with the USGBC and/or GBCI all available whole-project energy and water usage data for a period of at least five years.” This change addresses the criticism concerning the lack of accountability.

Learn more by clicking here.

Passive House:

The Passive House model provides solutions to energy reduction and conservation. The standard greatly exceeds present regulations and is capable of reducing energy consumption by 90%, though it is currently implemented on a voluntary level only. Passive Homes require only 15kWh/m2a in comparison to conventional buildings with an average heating demand of 150kWh/m2a. The remaining demand for heating and hot water can be achieved through renewable energy sources.

Currently, over 15,000 buildings have been constructed according to the passive house standards, most of them in Europe. Energy losses are minimized and heat stays within the building due to the extremely effective insulation and a virtually air-tight building envelope primarily heated by passive solar gain. There is no radiation heat-loss through the outside walls of a passive house, nor any resulting draughts. During the summer, the heat stays outside while overheating inside is prevented.

For the key components, principles, and recommendations for achieving a Passive Home click here.

Net-Zero Home:

Net-Zero Energy homes have an almost net-zero annual energy consumption due to the energy-efficient construction, equipment, lighting, appliances and commercially available renewable energy systems. A Net-Zero Energy home is capable of producing an annual output of renewable energy at least equal to the total amount of energy purchased, thus returning as much as it consumes. Net-Zero buildings are more or less self-sustaining and substantially reduce carbon emissions by incorporating alternative energy sources (wind and solar energy being the most common). Hybrid systems, including wind turbines and solar panels, are used to supply batteries with the energy needed to power the home. In some cases a Net-Zero Energy home can function efficiently without being connected to local power grids.

Learn about all the important steps for achieving Net-Zero by clicking here.

The Living Building:

In response to the rapid adoption of LEED standards and with the objective of filling in existing gaps, the Cascadia Region Green Building Council developed the initial standards for Living Buildings. This standard started off with the aim of defining the greatest measure of true sustainability that is possible in the built environment. The Living Building is as close to true sustainability as currently possible and achieves the highest level of balance between the natural and built environments.
A certified Living Building generates all of its own energy with renewable resources, captures and treats all of its water on site, and uses resources with maximum efficiency. The standards apply to existing as well as new buildings. They require a structure to be complete and fully operational for one year before being awarded the certification. The rating criteria focus on 6 categories: Site, Energy, Materials, Water, Indoor Quality, and Beauty & Inspiration. The uniqueness of this standard is based on the fact that it puts a greater emphasis on performance, rather than on how the guidelines are met.

Discover more by clicking here.