The rating systems for green buildings

The rating systems for green buildings
Gennaio 16, 2018 MDS

The growing awareness about climate change, has driven, since the beginning of 90s, to the creation of initiatives oriented to sensitize people and markets to environmental issues particularly related to building sector, responsible for around the 70% of carbon emissions.

These initiatives led to the creation of instruments, aiming to drive and certify design, construction and operation of building, following specific environmental requirements. The above-mentioned instruments, generically called “rating systems for green buildings” focus on how to reduce the environmental impact of new constructions and existing buildings.

Despite the global crisis of investment in the building sector in recent years, the market of green certified buildings has grown fast. See for example the trend of the LEED certification worldwide.

The green building certification are today fully recognized by the RE market. Investors are attracted by adopting sustainability rating systems, such as LEED or other scheme internationally recognized, for their investment, due to the relationship with green corporate initiatives and the added value in terms of wellness for occupants, low maintenance cost and visibility.
Below an executive summary of the main rating systems today available on the market and internationally recognized: LEED®, Living Building ChallengeTM, WELL®.


Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is developed by a non-profit organization called U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC since 1997. LEED includes a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of fit-out initiatives, whole buildings (commercial and residential buildings) and neighborhoods, aiming to help building owners and operators be environmentally responsible. Today LEED has been adopted in more than 170 Countries worldwide, with around 80.000 buildings already certified or under certification.

The recent update of LEED (LEEDv4) shifts the underpinning philosophy from a ‘do less bad’ to a ‘do more good’ mindset. In other world LEED buildings are not focused on reducing their environmental impact, but they are mainly focused on embedding strategies that actually protect and restore the environmental resources (water, energy, natural resources, etc.). In addition LEED expanded the scope of its goals to truly encompass the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. The result is a rating system that, through its main categories (Integrative Process, Location and Transportation, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Indoor Environmental Quality, Materials and Resources), recognizes global standards and rewards the design, construction and operation of environmental-friendly buildings, characterized by high indoor environmental quality outcomes.

Living Building ChallengeTM

The Living Building Challenge is a green building certification program and sustainable design framework that encompasses the concept of regenerative design, visualizing the ideal for the built environment. It uses the metaphor of a flower because the ideal built environment should function as cleanly and efficiently as a flower, giving to the environment more than it takes (ILFITM. The standard is based on seven petals (place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity and beauty) for a total of 20 imperatives.

The actual version of the standard (version 3.1) allow the full certification, pursuing all the 20 imperatives, the petal certification and the Net Zero Energy Building Certification. Moreover one specific feature is the availability of the scale jumping overlay to allow cooperation between projects and their neighbors; the Living Building Challenge recognizes the ideal scale for solutions is not always within a property boundary.

The Living Building Challenge is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings, since the certification is based on design verification, onsite inspections by a qualified auditor and actual performance data coming from one year of building monitoring for what concern energy and water uses. The result is the design of regenerative spaces that connect occupants to light, air, food, nature and community, buildings that are self-sufficient and remain within the resource limits of their site, healthy and beautiful.


 The WELL Building Standard® was pioneered by Delos®, and now it is administered by the International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™ The WELL Building Standard is a voluntary certification system, third-party certified through IWBI’s collaboration with Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI™

WELL Building Standard® expands the traditional attention to the indoor environmental quality being the first building standard focused exclusively on wellness and human health. It marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research – harnessing the built environment as a vehicle to support human health and well-being. The standard is organized in seven Concepts relevant to occupant health in the built environment – air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind – in which there are preconditions, mandatory for pursuing the certification, and optimizations.

The certification is based on the documentation review about the design and construction of the building or interior, onsite visual inspection and measurements. WELL Certified™ new and existing spaces can help create a built environment that improves the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, and performance of its occupants.


 Each of the above mentioned rating system has its own features, but they are aligned in its intentions and in many requirements. The selection of the certification program to pursue is in charge to the sustainability consultant, the design team and the Owner depending on many factors, such as the geographic context, the Owner’s objectives, the market recognition, etc.

According to a study of World Green Building Council in 2016 ( reducing energy consumption continues to be the top environmental reason for building green (selected as one of the top two reasons by 66 per cent of all respondents), protecting natural resources ranked second globally (37 per cent), and reducing water consumption ranks third (at 31 per cent). In this sense LEED and LBC are the most appropriate rating systems.

WELL Building Standard® supports the second wave of sustainability, which is human centered and intended to create healthy and comfortable indoor physical environment that impacts our health more than lifestyle, medical care and genetics.

Design team should be able to fulfill a great variety of project requirements in the field of aesthetic, beauty, energy efficiency, environmental performance, indoor environmental quality, etc. adopting and integrative design approach and involving specific skills and experts in the design and construction stage.



Elisa Sirombo
Paola Moschini