Measuring Sustainability through Industry Programs

Which sustainability program is best for your building?

Many industry organizations offer programs to help you measure or plan sustainability initiatives. Most focus on providing some form of tool or scale. You accumulate points based on that tool’s specifications, and if you score high enough, you (or rather, your building) earn a certificate, a plaque, or some other form of recognition.

The first challenge is knowing which tool (or tools) to use. Here we present several options to help you find the right fit for your next building improvement initiatives.

Energy Star

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly with the US Department of Energy has established the Energy Star program. The focus of the program is to save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices. The Energy Star program is the preeminent program to focus on energy and water conservation in the United States. The program focuses on many aspects of sustainability, from products to practices. The most important part of their program for a manager would be the Portfolio Manager, which focuses on conservation of both energy and water in facilities. This program is a free resource to all building owners and managers.

Portfolio Manager is an interactive energy management tool that allows the tracking and assessment of energy and water consumption across a portfolio of buildings in a secure online environment. This tool can help building professionals set investment priorities, identify underperforming buildings, verify efficiency improvements, benchmark building energy performance, assess energy management goals over time, and identify strategic opportunities for savings and recognition opportunities. Using Portfolio Manager, you can:

  • Track multiple energy and water meters for each facility.
  • Benchmark your facilities relative to their past performance.
  • View percent improvement in weather-normalized source energy.
  • Monitor energy and water costs.
  • Share your building data with others inside or outside your organization.
  • Enter operating characteristics, tailored to each space use category within your building.
  • Rate your building’s energy performance.

Information on Energy Star is available on the program website,

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost efficient and energy-saving green buildings. As USGBC’s primary program, LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions. A comprehensive and flexible program, LEED works throughout a building’s life cycle.

LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health:

  • Sustainable site development.
  • Water savings.
  • Energy efficiency.
  • Materials selection.
  • Indoor environmental quality.

There are actually several LEED rating systems, including ones for new construction, existing buildings/O&M, core and shell, and others. The LEED rating systems are developed through an open, consensus-based process led by LEED committees. The comment period for Version 4, expected sometime in 2013, ended earlier this month.

For more information on LEED, visit

Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)

BREEAM is the product of the BRE Trust, a charitable company whose objectives are, through research and education, to advance knowledge, innovation, and communication in all matters concerning the built environment for public benefit. The Trust is the largest charity in the United Kingdom dedicated specifically to research and education in the built environment. The BREEAM assessment rating was first launched in 1990.

BREEAM sets standards for best practices in sustainable building design, construction, and operation. A BREEAM assessment uses recognized measures of performance, which are set against established benchmarks, to evaluate a building’s specification, design, construction, and use. The measures include aspects related to:

  • Energy and water use.
  • The internal environment (health and well-being).
  • Pollution.
  • Transport.
  • Materials.
  • Waste.
  • Ecology.
  • Management processes.

BREEAM adoption started in England and has spread through Europe, Australia, Asia, and parts of the Middle East and Africa. It is becoming more common in North America.

Green Globes

Green Globes is an assessment and rating system based on research by a wide range of prominent international organizations and experts. The Green Globes system is a building environmental design and management tool that delivers an online assessment protocol, rating system, and guidance for green building design, operation, and management.

The Green Globes system is used in Canada and the United States. The Green Building Initiative (GBI) operates Green Globes in the U.S. In Canada, the version for existing buildings is operated by BOMA Canada under the brand name BOMA BESt. The Green Globes system has also been used by the Continental Association for Building Automation (CABA) to power a building intelligence tool, called Building Intelligence Quotient (BiQ).

BOMA 360

The BOMA 360 Program takes operations and sustainability and incorporates a rating system to see where your building compares to other buildings. The intent of BOMA 360 is to “promote standards of operational and management excellence in commercial properties, and to provide a valid and objective evaluation of these properties as a service to the public.”

The program evaluates six major areas of building operations and management and benchmarks a building’s performance against industry standards. Only occupied commercial office buildings and industrial buildings are eligible.

Green Seal

Green Seal is a nonprofit organization that develops life cycle-based sustainability standards for products, services, and companies and offers third-party certification for those that meet the criteria in the standard. Managers will find this an important tool when looking at chemicals and other products that are used on their facilities. These may include janitorial, landscaping, and pest control products. Some building certification standards take the use of Green Seal certified products into consideration in their rating systems.

Municipal Codes

It should also be noted that many cities are adopting green codes, and some even reference USGBC’s LEED as standards. This is particularly true of publicly funded projects. USGBC is a private organization and is not a government agency; however, U.S. government agencies such as the General Services Administration reference LEED standards and certification for their projects, and this practice is growing in the private sector, as well.

Outside third-party certification and ongoing credentialing is perhaps the strongest aspect of many sustainability programs. Most programs are a collection of best management practices as recognized by a consensus of industry peers and experts. By reviewing the above sustainability programs (and many others), facility managers can find the proper fit between their organizations’ culture, priorities, and needs, and the available resources to help implement and monitor an ongoing and effective sustainability program.

This article is excerpted from the newly updated 2013 edition of the BOMI International course Environmental Health and Safety Issues, part of the RPA®, FMA®, and SMA® designation programs. Classes begin in January. More information regarding this course and BOMI International’s education programs is available by calling 1-800-235-2664. Visit BOMI International’s website,