Green Plus and LEED: A Comparison

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We are often asked about all of the different sustainability certifications and how Green Plus fits in the overall landscape.  This is the first post in a series of posts about different certifications.  LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a green building certification program administered by the US Green Building Council, assigns point values to specific sustainable practices employed in building design and operations.  LEED continues to gain consumer recognition and is widely respected for transforming knowledge and adoption of sustainable building practices.

One of the businesses Green Plus worked with considered LEED certification for her business, but found the price point prohibitive, though they adhered to LEED’s green building principles throughout their renovations and found the standard a useful source of guidance and information.  The good news is, there are a variety of ways to demonstrate one’s commitment to sustainability, and each process can prepare your organization for the next if you choose to continue with new certifications.

If you’ve ever wondered how Green Plus and LEED compare, here’s a quick primer.  First, the major differences:

  • LEED is a certification for buildings, while Green Plus is a certification for smaller enterprise management practices.  These practices include activities that affect management, employees, facilities, and your community.
  • LEED is green, while Green Plus includes social and economic practices as well (hence Green… Plus).
  • As a certification primarily driven by architects, designers and engineers, LEED is highly technical, requiring intensive calculations and documentation, while Green Plus is more akin to a university, focused on the adoption of new practices and requiring less technical, quantitative documentation (we heartily endorse the value of measurement, but know that for many smaller enterprises, measurement can be difficult to do initially, but becomes more feasible over time).  Green Plus involves verification of select documents as well as possible on site verification as well.
  • The investment to register for LEED is roughly $500 to $1,000 and the cost to document practices appropriately for LEED can run from $6,000 to $75,000.  The investment for Green Plus registration is less than $500, an investment amount intended to be within reach for smaller employers.  The investment required to qualify for Green Plus certification is largely one of devoted staff time to tackle the planning and implementation of practices.

Where LEED and Green Plus overlap, however, is in their environmental principles.  In this way, earning Green Plus certification can help one progress toward LEED certification, and vice versa.  LEED offers different certifications for different types of buildings and building projects, including New Construction, Existing Buildings: Operations & Management (EBOM), Commercial Interiors, Core & Shell, Schools, Retail, Healthcare, Homes and Neighborhood Development.  The LEED EBOM certification is most similar to Green Plus since it’s focused on ongoing operations.

Now that we’re clear on overall differences and versions of LEED, here are the common principles shared between LEED EBOM and Green Plus:

Sustainable Sites:

  • Identifying possible sources of pollution
  • Conducting waste audits
  • Creating an alternative transportation policy
  • Using plants that are adapted to the area and thus require less watering
  • Employing riparian buffers to assist in filtering water runoff

Water Efficiency:

  • Implementing water saving measures
  • Setting goals for water use reduction

Energy and Atmosphere:

  • Conducting an energy audit
  • Using renewable energy or purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs)

Materials and Resources:

  • Adopting an environmental purchasing strategy
  • Avoiding the use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in renovations
  • Purchasing Fair Trade products
  • Adopting a local purchasing strategy
  • Conducting a solid waste audit
  • Recycling

Indoor Environmental Quality:

  • Having exposure to daylight

Innovations and Operations:

  • Making the business case for sustainability upgrades

Who should pursue LEED certification?  LEED is optimal for designers, architects, and building managers who want to differentiate their properties as green or want to adhere to green building practices and make it official.  LEED is also ideal for sustainably-minded organizations who want to demonstrate their organizational commitment to sustainability – externally and internally – by occupying a LEED certified facility.

Who should pursue Green Plus certification?  Green Plus is optimal for smaller enterprises – businesses and nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees – seeking to adopt modern sustainable practices to make their organizations stronger and receive third party validation for their efforts from a university-backed program.  Organizations interested in continuous improvement, cost savings, branding themselves as sustainable, reinforcing a cultural commitment to sustainability, appealing to new market segments, and differentiating themselves in a competitive marketplace are all well-suited for Green Plus.

As LEED continues to take root, the practices listed above are becoming an expected norm.  If you’d like to learn more about the modern practices organizations are adopting to be more sustainable, reduce costs, increase brand loyalty and attract or retain talented employees, email to receive a copy of the Green Plus question set.  To review the entire LEED EBOM standard, click here.  If there’s a specific certification you’d like to see discussed in a comparison post, please let us know.

Photo by gwarcita, Available Under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License.

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