Green Globes streamlines environmental design
VAIL – Delve into the world of “green building” and typically one of the first mysterious acronyms encountered is “LEED.”A program of the U.S. Green Building Association, LEED stands for “Leadership in Environmental Design,” and its Green Building Rating System has established itself as the main standard used in determining how sustainable, environmentally friendly and efficient a building is. Getting a building LEED certified is a relatively complex process involving a fair amount of money and time. But for those individuals, governments or organizations who wanted a true green building, the LEED certification has been pretty much the only nationally recognized way to do so.But now, there’s a new player in the field, one that aims to make green building a simpler process through an online tool that works almost like the software program Turbo Tax: Plug in your information and the Green Globes program delivers answers on how to create the project as well as how it would rate on a scale of 1 to 4 once built.Aimed primarily at commercial buildings, Green Globes is a project of the nonprofit Green Building Initiative, based in Portland, Ore. Currently in the process of getting the word out about the program, Green Globes is sponsoring pilot projects around the country – including one in Summit County for the Summit Recycling Project.Carly Wier, director of the Recycling Project and its umbrella organization, the High Country Conservation Center, said the initial plan for its new facility near the Keystone landfill was to get it LEED certified. But as the county cropped the budget, that was one of the first things on the chopping block.That’s when they found out about Green Globes.”We looked at it, and it’s definitely more user-friendly and not as cost-prohibitive as LEED,” Weir said.
In addition to the ease of use and lower price, Weir said another advantage of Green Globes over LEED is the ability to exclude parameters that aren’t relevant to the project. In LEED, for example, there might be a consideration for an efficient cooling system – not something a commercial building in the mountains is likely to have. And those are points you can’t get in LEED or make up in another area.Auden Schendler, the environmental manager for Aspen Skiing Corporation who’s had a fair amount of experience with LEED, said the difference makes Green Globes appealing.”I think they’re worth competition to LEED,” he said. “With LEED, you get a credit based on the number of points you have, whereas with Green Globes it’s a percentage.”Spreading outVicki Worden, head of commercial programs for Green Building Initiative, was in the area recently to check on the Summit Recycling Project. She said the idea behind Green Globes is to make a green building program more accessible by using local homebuilders associations. One of the keys, she said, is stressing the financial and health benefits and not just the environmental ones.”There’s absolutely a cost benefit to building green,” Worden said. “The message is also hitting home with the concern over asthma and the roles buildings play with breathing problems.”
By the end of next year, Green Globes should be active in 30 major U.S. building markets, Worden said. With over 81 million buildings in the U.S. and only about 300 of them LEED certified so far, Worden said there’s plenty of opportunity for another standards program to keep busy. Plus, she said, it helps with every stage of the design – and isn’t just a checklist at the end.”It’s written in plain language, and you don’t need expensive consultants to get the job done.”But there’s still a lot of work to do in getting the name recognition up.”We’ve definitely entertained thoughts of using it,” said Schendler. “But LEED came first, so it’s tough. It’s a challenge for them to break into the market where LEED has all that name recognition and credibility.”With the growing interest in building more efficient buildings, it may be the time is ripe for Green Globes. Worden said the Canadian government is planning to do all of its federal buildings through the standard, which is a big boost. With the program now recognized by the American National Standards Institute and pilot programs in seven major markets, it may be well on its way.”It’s a common-sense building initiative that’s good for the health of the environment, but also helps the U.S. with global competitiveness,” Worden said. “We can’t ignore the need to build this way any more.”
If there’s one thing those involved in green building design and advocacy seem to agree upon, it’s that they don’t particularly like the name “green building” or “green built.” So far, though, no one’s come up with a better term.”I’m not sure why it’s called ‘green built,'” said Matt Scherr of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability. “A lot of it doesn’t have to do with the environment. I think ‘healthy building’ is a better phrase, because it’s about a healthier structure that’s more efficient and effective.”Whatever it’s called, typically a green-built structure will have some or all of the following:
• An orientation on the property that takes sunlight into consideration; a location that’s not in a wetland or wildlife area and minimizes ecological impact; use of native plants;• Energy-saving features that range from “passive solar” like more strategically placed windows to more active devices like solar panels, solar water heaters, radiant floor heating, “biomass” (wood, etc.) heating, and natural ventilation;• Water conservation features like low-flush toilets and waterless urinals;• Project management that includes purchase of environmentally friendly products and high-efficiency equipment from light fixtures to boilers;• Design that limits runoff and sewer contamination;• An indoor environment that has plenty of fresh air and reduced use of non-toxic paints, adhesive, etc.; lighting and acoustic comfort are also considered.For more information on green – or whatever – building, check out the Green Building Initiative at thegbi.org or the Green Building Council at usgbc.org.Alex Miller can be reached at 970-949-0555, ext. 14625 or at email@example.com.Vail, Colorado
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