Ecobuild Top 50 – Green Building Initiative
The Green Building Initiative (GBI) is a non-profit organization founded in 2004 dedicated to accelerating the adoption of building practices that result in resource efficient, healthier, and environmentally sustainable buildings.
Recognizing the need for credible and practical green building approaches, and the reality that one size does not fit all in regards to sustainable improvements, GBI seeks to create a tailored approach that considers the building type, purpose and occupants.
To facilitate this, they administer Green Globes, a web-based program for green building rating and certification that includes an onsite assessment by a highly qualified third-party assessor. Backed by its excellent customer support, Green Globes prides itself on offering a streamlined and cost-effective method for advancing the operational performance and sustainability of commercial and multi-family buildings.
The Green Globes program has modules to support new construction (NC), existing buildings (CIEB), existing healthcare buildings (CIEB Healthcare), and sustainable interiors (SI).
As the pace of construction continues to accelerate in America, with many cities developing into thriving metropolises, a major hurdle for both GBI and building owners is legislation that specifies only one sustainable rating system. Despite this, GBI believes that the built environment needs more than a ‘one size fits all’ approach, so that building owners can find and pursue the approach that works best for their needs.
As Vicki Worden elaborates, ‘opening up legislation to allow multiple rating systems fosters competition, which means that rating system developers can learn from each other and grow along with the evolving built environment.
‘To ensure that the eco-building industry continues to realize success within the wider property and construction market, it is imperative that multiple rating systems exist, and that they are treated equally in regards to legislation and tax incentives.’
While legislation has the potential to disrupt the efforts of the Green Buildings Initiative, there are other ways to circumnavigate these difficulties-ways to boost exposure for the company and their mission. Primarily, Vicki draws attention to the GBI’s reputation for superior customer service.
‘Sustainability is a conversation,’ she explains, ‘and each building, region, and project team is different. Every project assessed under Green Globes is assigned a dedicated GBI project manager and a certified third party assessor, to guide the assessment process from start to finish. Between these two individuals, clients are guaranteed to have their questions answered and assessments completed in a timely fashion, and that ultimately creates the best possible outcome for sustainable buildings. This approach allows everyone involved in the project to have access to people that can germinate ideas and keep the sustainability conversation moving forward, thereby producing a more sustainable building with each certification.’
Taking into consideration the behaviour of the wider industry, it is estimated that only 2% of new buildings in the U.S. are pursuing sustainability certification. To Vicki, this disparity offers a unique and unmissable opportunity to capitalise. As such, GBI aspires to reach the other 98% and bring them in to the sustainable building fold.
Exploring her future ambitions for the Green Building Initiative, Vicki is direct in her intention to inspire a new wave of sustainable construction enterprises. ‘Sustainable construction and operations need to move past the typical demographic of elite Class A buildings, so GBI’s tools aim to deliver achievable return on investment (ROI) for Class B and C buildings regardless of type, size or budget.
‘GBI has an ongoing commitment to deliver practical, flexible, science- and consensus-based tools into the hands of those that need them. All buildings – regardless of their current level of sustainability – should have the opportunity to benchmark performance, make improvements, and measure success.’
This is a vision that Vicki is vehemently passionate about pursuing. It has come to form the bases by which the GBI conducts its business, by not only raising awareness among their clients about the positive impact they are making by opting for a more sustainable project, but also taking steps to limit its control over clients. This accentuates the tremendous importance placed upon Green Globes, which underpins the leading customer service that Vicki believes sets the Green Building Initiative apart from competitors in the industry.
‘Project teams that are engaged in sustainable building assessment are typically more eco-friendly than their counterparts that are not. Although sustainable features and policies can be implemented without a third party verification, there is an unsurpassed level of accountability that comes with an unbiased, independent assessment.
‘Furthermore, Green Globes is more of a ‘referee’ than a policing agency. This means that project teams undergoing assessment will learn how to construct and/or operate a sustainable building. The Green Globes process provides a road map to project teams in the form of a survey that helps them understand what’s expected in a truly sustainable building.
‘Finally, GBI clients are encouraged to become more eco-friendly, because Green Globes is a flexible rating system that rewards them for being innovative and sustainable. Because technology advances so quickly, there is no way for any rating system to include every innovation or possibility. Therefore, we enable our assessors to interpret the intent of each credit as it applies to a specific project, award partial credit, and designate credits as non-applicable if appropriate, thereby empowering the assessors to reward clients for pushing the envelope and trying new things.’