Designing for Health: Understanding Well Building vs. FitWel



Designing for Health: Understanding Well Building vs. FitWel

Jane Rohde - May 2018

There are two major certifications that have been garnering a lot of buzz lately in the health and wellness design space: WELL Building Standard® and FitwellSM. As a designer, you’ve probably heard about both. But what are they and which one might be the right fit for the work you’re doing today or your next project?

Here’s the high-level look:

  • WELL Building Standard is primarily medically driven
  • FitWel is focused on public health issues

Let’s look a little more at each.

WELL Building Standard is designed to provide guidance for health and wellness in building construction and interior spaces. And scientific, medical, behavior, and environmental health factors were taken into account during its development. Research was used to support the desired credits (versus using the research to develop the criteria).

WELL Building offers a certification that incorporates concepts that relate to air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. The credits are listed, however, as preconditions and optimizations. This means, for example, that under “air” there is an optimization credit, toxic material reduction, that uses a red list approach that deselects materials based on concern about a chemical in its pure state (as opposed to allowing materials based on their overall effectiveness, application, and final state as a finished product).

Evaluating products should use risk and exposure in conjunction with the appropriate application to better understand the overall product formulation from a life-cycle perspective. While vinyl wall covering contains vinyl chloride, for example, that chemical is harmless in the finished product. Vinyl wall covering, meanwhile, is easy to clean and an ideal material often specified for healthcare facilities.

Another challenge for architects and designers seeking WELL Building certification is that, like LEED, it’s based upon square footage. This makes it expensive to achieve and tends to be used for higher-end construction projects. The proposed 2.0 version is looking at the affordability in addition to some of the preconditions moving into optimizations (prerequisites to options).

Finally, it is important to note that although often called a standard, WELL Building is technically a guideline, in that it was peer reviewed but not developed using an all-stakeholder ANSI consensus process.

FitWel is also designed to achieve health and wellness in building construction and interior spaces. Unlike WELL Building, which takes a proscriptive approach (i.e., do this to achieve our certification), FitWel’s approach is to let you mix and match strategies to evaluate where you currently are and how to continue to improve (i.e. better public health).

FitWel was created as a joint initiative between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA) in conjunction with experts in public health and design. It is evidence-based guidance in that the criteria were provided by the scientists at CDC to determine what would most significantly impact public health outcomes.

This is an important distinction: FitWel is directly based upon the evidence versus developing credits and then finding evidence to support the credit after the fact. Deselection methodologies are not included in FitWel because the science is not there to support a red list approach to product selection. Fitwel was piloted by GSA on a portion of their portfolio, including rural, urban, and suburban buildings of difference shapes, sizes, and uses.

FitWel offers three levels of certification that measure success in achieving “evidence-based design and operational strategies that enhance building environments.” The 55+ strategies fall into seven health impact categories that include community health, physical activity, occupant safety, and reducing morbidity and absenteeism. In other words, using design in conjunction with operations are tools for the betterment of public health.

An example of FitWel’s approach in action is its recent partnership with lender Fannie Mae, which is aimed at encouraging healthy affordable housing. Loan recipients whose buildings achieve FitWel certification are eligible for reduced interest loans and reimbursement of the certification fees. FitWel’s affordability is another key attribute to the use of a health and wellness certification system by a larger portion of the real estate marketplace.

Design 411: Codes, Standards, and Guidelines



Design 411: Codes, Standards, and Guidelines

Jane Rohde - May 2018

Codes, standards, and guidelines are critical elements in construction and design. And while the three terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. As a designer, it’s important to distinguish between the three and understand what each is and how these different elements come into play.

Here’s the high-level look:

  • Codes: must do (once adopted by a regulatory body)
  • Standards: completed in a consensus process and approved by a certification body
  • Guidelines: guidance typically developed by subject matter experts for industry professionals

Let’s look a little more at each.

Codes are mandatory requirements in construction and design. A code is adopted by a town, county, city, state, or other jurisdiction. It has the force of law, and it is regulated and enforced. It’s not optional criteria, and you can be fined or even imprisoned for not being “up to code.”

Take fire codes, for example. Every U.S. jurisdiction has one, and fire codes are enforced and regulated by that jurisdiction. Fire and life safety codes are typically developed by the National Fire Protection Association and adopted by local jurisdictions in part or in whole. Another example is building codes, which set minimum health and safety requirements for new and existing building renovations. The International Code Council often produces building codes, including the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Green Construction Code (IgCC). Once adopted, they are enforced and must be followed.

Standards are  developed using a consensus process that includes all stakeholders. That process usually follows an ANSI process for development of a standard that calls for “a balance of interests.”

Standards are often referenced by codes as the requirement to be met. For example, ASHRAE is a standards development organization. The ASHRAE Standard 189.1 is developed using a consensus process; the 2017 version will be used as content for the IgCC. The ASHRAE Standard 90.1, meanwhile, is an energy standard that is referenced in several code documents. From a product perspective, light bulbs are often “UL approved,” meaning they meet a standard for safety and/or energy efficiency.

Guidelines are just that: guidance to industry professionals. NIST, for example, publishes guidelines on topics from fire safety to materials selection. The Veteran’s Administration publishes design guidelines for its facilities. The Senior Living Sustainability Guide® offers guidance on designing housing for older adults and the Facility Guidelines Institute develops guidelines for acute, outpatient, and long-term-care settings.

Here’s where it can get tricky: some guidelines reference standards, and codes can also reference both guidelines and standards as part of their requirements. One example is the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes rating system, which is based upon the GBI/ANSI Standard – which in turn references other standards and guidelines as part of the criteria used to develop the rating system. Technical manuals that are developed for LEED and Green Globes are considered guidelines.  

Codes, standards, and guidelines all have important roles in developing.

Taking Credit! Update on LEED® v.4 Pilot Credit Influencing Material Selection



Designers and architects have an opportunity to move forward a life cycle, multi-attribute approach to product selection during the design process.

Taking Credit! Update on LEED® v.4 Pilot Credit Influencing Material Selection

Jane Rohde - Feb 2017

Specifying products and meeting LEED® v.4 Materials and Resources credits includes an exciting opportunity for designers and architects to sign up to utilize a Pilot Credit that reflects hard work on the part of manufactures developing interior products as sustainable solutions.  The pilot credit is entitled Certified Multi-Attribute Products and Materials

LEED® v.4 & Multi-attribute Product Certifications

The Intent of the pilot credit is “To encourage the use of products and materials for which life-cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically, and socially preferable life-cycle impacts.”  The requirements include products that have been certified utilizing ANSI/BIFMA, NSF/ANSI, Green Squared/ANSI, and UL Standards.  The product certifications have different levels of certification based upon meeting criteria that has been developed within a consensus based process.  

The credit requirements are to “Use products from manufacturers who have validated multiple environmental attributes relevant to the product via independent, consensus-based, third party certifications. The products must have earned and still maintain certification under the scheme. The manufacturer must publicly disclose the credit achievement results of the product on which the certification has been granted. Use at least 25%, by cost, of the total value of permanently installed products in the project.”

Products are approved through 3rd party certifications based upon the standard being utilized.  Here is an example of the Pilot Credit language based upon product type and application:

NSF/ANSI 332 – 2015 Sustainability Assessment for Resilient Floor Coverings. 

  • Must achieve two point in credit 5.2.2 [of the NSF/ANSI 332 standard criteria] and
  • Silver certified products contribute 50% of the total product cost
  • Gold certified products contribute 75% of the total product cost
  • Platinum certified product contribute 100% of the total product cost 

This is a large milestone for product manufacturers and trade associations that have been working to promote product transparency and life cycle assessment through completing consensus-based standards for evaluation of products.  

ASHRAE 189.1 & Multi-attribute Product Certifications

The pilot credit is complimentary to the ASHRAE 189.1 - 2014 document that is currently an optional compliance path for the International Green Construction Code (IgCC).  In chapter 9.0 The Building’s Impact on the Atmosphere, Materials, and Resources, the overall section Multiple-Attribute Product Declaration or Certification includes the following requirements: 

“A minimum of ten different products installed in the building project at the time of issuance of certificate of occupancy shall comply with one of the following subsections. Declarations, reports, and assessments shall be submitted to the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) and shall contain documentation of the critical peer review by an independent third party, results from the review, the reviewer’s name, company name, contact information, and date of the review or certification.” 

The sub-section Third-Party Multi-Attribute Certification includes the same certification standards that are referenced in the LEED v.4 Pilot Credit.  

“A material specific assessment shall be submitted for each product in accordance with one of the following standards, where applicable. The assessment shall be certified as meeting the minimum performance level specified in each standard.”  

In additional to the Third-party Multi-Attribute Certification compliance path for, both Industry-Wide and Product-Specific Environmental Product Declarations ( and respectively) are included as compliance paths that can be utilized in conjunction with Third-Party Multi-attribute Certification.

Note that the goal in 2018 is for the updated version of ASHRAE 189.1 to become the content for the IgCC, resulting in one compliance path for the IgCC versus 189.1 being an alternative path for compliance – basically providing one set of code requirements that are consistent.  It has also been discussed that the future of LEED certification could include compliance with IgCC / ASHRAE 189.1 as a baseline prerequisite minimum.  

Green Globes & Multi-attribute Certifications

Green Globes – New Construction (NC) in section 3.5 Material and Resources includes compliance with the same Multi-Attribute Certifications that are referenced in ASHRAE 189.1 and the Pilot Credit for LEED v.4. The provisions are included under Path B: Prescriptive Path for Building Core and Shell and Path B: Prescriptive Path for Interior Fit-outs.  

Green Globes poses their requirements as a question, because of their electronic questionnaire that is used as a proprietary interactive tool; the basis for their sustainable building and design evaluation and subsequent on-site assessment by a certified GBI Assessor. 

The language in section & includes the following criteria:

“Based upon the appropriate application and specification of comparable materials and products, what percentage of the products selected for the building core and shell (based upon cost) have:”

Third-party certifications that are based upon a multiple attribute standard(s) developed by a consensus based process from an approved standard development organization?”

In addition to the multiple attribute standards, Environmental Product Declarations (both Industry Wide and Brand Specific), Third-Party Verified Life Cycle Product Assessments, and Third-Party Sustainable Forestry Certifications are included within this section of Green Globes - NC.  The compliance paths are inclusive of one another versus being exclusionary; compliance includes “and/or” language; therefore, compliance could be achieved through some products that have completed EPDs and others that have achieved Third-party Certifications, as an example.    

The Green Building Initiative (GBI) is currently completing the ANSI consensus process for update to their ANSI/GBI 01-2010 Standard.  This document has gone through a public comment period and also includes the Multi-Attribute Certifications as part of the Prescriptive Path for building products in Section 10. Materials and Resources. 

The following is a complete listing of the multiple attribute standards that are included in the LEED v.4 Pilot Credit, ASHRAE 189.1 – 2014, and Green Globes – New Construction:  

Multi-Attribute Product Certification Standards

  • ANSI/BIFMA e3-2014 Furniture Sustainability Standard
  • NSF/ANSI 140-2015 Sustainability Assessment for Carpet
  • NSF/ANSI 332-2015 Sustainability Assessment for Resilient Floor Coverings
  • NSF/ANSI 336-2011 Sustainability Assessment for Commercial Furnishings Fabric
  • NSF/ANSI 342-2014 Sustainability Assessment for Wallcoverings
  • NSF/ANSI 347_2012 Sustainability Assessment for Single Ply Roofing Membranes
  • ANSI A128.1-2011 Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Green Squared Certification
  • UL 100-2012 Standard for Sustainability for Gypsum Boards and Panels
  • UL 102-2009 Standard for Sustainability for Door Leafs


Overall, designers and architects have an opportunity to move forward a life cycle, multi-attribute approach to product selection during the design process.  No longer is evaluating single attributes the only option, which does not necessarily provide the best sustainable product solution.  Trade associations and manufacturers have come together using a consensus process for developing sustainability assessment standards that provide transparency and LCA information on their manufacturing processes resulting in improved, third party certified products.  This is an exciting time to be an important part of the future of sustainability!   

Status on Codes, Standards & Guidelines: Who is Greening Whom?


Status on Codes, Standards & Guidelines: Who is Greening Whom?

Jane Rohde - Dec 2014

There are many questions in the “land of green codes,” and being close to the development of sustainable guidelines, standards and codes, it occurred to me that a “primer” outline may be of assistance for those that are trying to understand the different organizations and related documents in relationship to green building.  In addition, I think manufacturer representatives could benefit from having the “short list” as a reference when speaking to the architectural and design community.

 Green Building Rating Systems

The organization with the most market familiarity is the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and their family of rating systems called LEED®, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  Note that some folks believe that USGBC is a government agency, which is not true, as it is a nonprofit organization that happens to be located in Washington, DC.  The LEED® rating systems including Building, Design + Construction (BD&C), Existing Buildings (EB), Commercial Interiors (CI), Neighborhood Development (ND) and Homes.  LEED® rating systems are not developed utilizing a standardized consensus process.   LEED® categories include Integrative Process, Location and Transportation, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovation, and Regional Priority.  In regard to material and product selection, LEED® v.4 still includes a single attribute approach to credit, but is making some strides to utilize Environmental Product Declarations and some performance based information on life cycle analysis.  The introduction of Health Product Declarations has been included, but does not have a vetted process in place to evaluate products from a risk and threshold perspective.  This leads back to a ‘de-selection’ approach versus full product evaluation.

The Green Building Initiative® (GBI), a nonprofit organization located in Portland, Oregon, has both a family of green building rating systems called Green Globes®, as well as a green building standard, GBI/ANSI 01-2010 Green Building Assessment Protocol for Commercial Buildings.  Green Globes® includes an electronic survey process that also includes a third party assessment for New Construction (NC), Continual Improvement for Existing Buildings (CIEB), and CIEB specifically for Healthcare Facilities.  The notable point about Green Globes® is the New Construction module is being updated based upon information within the GBI/ANSI 01-2010 standard; meaning that the development of the revisions is based upon a consensus ANSI standard and process.  Green Globes® categories include Project Management, Site, Energy, Water, Resources, Building Materials and Solid Waste, Emissions, Effluents, and Other Impacts, and Indoor Environment.  CIEB also includes Environmental Management System as a category demonstrating continual improvement and benchmarking.  Green Globes®-NC is developing a more current guideline that includes product and material selections utilizing multiple attribute, life cycle analysis, and environmental product declarations. 

The International Living Future Institute,™ a non-governmental organization (NGO)has a rating system called the Living Building Challenge™, although referenced as a standard does not utilize a consensus based process for development.  The organization is intended to be an additional outlet to “promote the goals set by the USGBC” and has offices in Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, BC.  Project types include landscape and infrastructure projects, renovation and new building construction, and neighborhood, campus and community design.  The Living Building Challenge™ categories include Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity, and Beauty.  It should be noted that this rating system focuses on a “de-selection” or “red-listed” approach to product and material selections, instead of a life cycle or multiple attribute approach to specifications.

Green Building Standards

The Green Building Initiative® completed the GBI/ANSI 01-2010 Standard and is now utilizing this standard for updates to their Green Globes® portfolio.  ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1-2011 Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings was developed based upon similar information provided in LEED® 2009.  This is a continual maintenance standard and is due to be updated in 2014.  It currently appears that the update may include a re-evaluation of life cycle and multiple attribute paths for product and material selection, but may also include an alternative path that is still single attribute based.  The ASHE/ASHRAE Standard 189.3 is in development and addresses healthcare projects specifically. 

Green Building Codes

The International Code Council (ICC) has developed the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) 2012.  The sponsors for the code include the AIA, ASTM International, ASHRAE, USGBC, and IES.  The IgCC is the first model code to include sustainability measures.  Several states and local authorities have adopted the IgCC, but implementation on the local level for enforcement is in its infancy.  In addition, the IgCC has an agreement that allows the acceptance of the requirements in ASHRAE Standard 189.1 to be an alternative compliance path to the language included within the IgCC.  Both the IgCC and ASHRAE 189.1 have been developed utilizing a consensus process.  It is anticipated that in the next update to the IgCC that further evaluation shall be completed on criteria for the selection of products and materials.


The good news is that the future of green building rating systems, standards, and building codes is directed and moving toward a multiple attribute, life cycle approach to product and material selection.  As opportunities arise to be involved in comments and updates for rating systems, standards, and codes, it is recommended to “find your voice” and provide input to demonstrate a sustainable approach to product and material selection.

Green Globes – Sustainable Interiors Introduced


Green Globes – Sustainable Interiors Introduced

Jane Rohde - Jun 2014

Exciting News!

The Green Building Initiative recently launched Green Globes® – Sustainable Interiors at the NeoCon Conference in Chicago, June 8 – 11, 2014.  As part of the technical committee at GBI, I’ve been working on this new green building rating system that includes similar requirements to the Green Globes – New Construction rating system, with the exception that more points are focused on Materials and Resources because of the interior fit-out project type.

So how are products evaluated within the new Green Globes® – Sustainable Interiors?  Many trade association and product manufacturers are asking the same questions!  An approach that uses performance and comparison for the appropriate application is utilized throughout the Green Globes® – Sustainable Interiors building rating system, as it is throughout the family of Green Globes® rating system products.

Materials and Resources

The Materials and Resources section is worth 250 points out of the 1000 points available for the Green Globes® – Sustainable Interiors rating system.  There are two paths of compliance for Interior Fit-outs.  Path A is the Performance Path, which includes a relative comparison of a minimum of two alternative interior fit-out life cycle assessments (including finishes and furnishings) completed during the design phase.  Although completing an interior fit-out life cycle assessment is an aspirational credit, it was included to be consistent with the other Green Globes products.  As new tools continue to be developed, there will be a credit already in place that provides a life cycle assessment comparison option.  Path B, Prescriptive Path for Interior Fit-outs, is anticipated to be the most utilized path for compliance.  This path describes ways to comply with appropriate application and specification of comparable products, through identifying 10% or more of the interior fit-out materials and products that comply with one or more of the following:

  • Comparing products utilizing transparency information in the form of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs); both Industry Wide (generic) and Manufacturer Specific.
  • Third-party certifications that are based upon a multiple attribute standard developed by a consensus based process, such as ANSI.
  • Third-party certified product assessment based on ISO 14040 and 14044; covering cradle to gate scope, as a minimum.
  • Third-party sustainable forestry certifications.  Being that wood is different than a manufactured product and follows a chain of custody, it has been broken out separately from multiple attribute standards.

Further credits address minimized usage of interior materials.  Examples include furnishings that serve multiple functions, interior fit-out design that allows for future deconstruction, demounting and disassembly that fosters potential future reconfiguration.  Items such as modular furniture and casework, as well as interior demountable partitions are part of the sustainable survey.  Waste is also addressed in the Materials and Resources section, including interior building demolition waste and diversion from being landfilled.

Occupant / consumer based recycling programs are included that address storage areas and designated spaces at point of service for recycling containers and identification of designated pick-up areas.  Operational flows and circulation are addressed to handle recycling programs, as well as opportunities for composting.

Prefabrication of components for an interior fit-out are included in the credits within the survey; utilizing the idea that pre-fabricated versus conventional construction methods often reduce waste, both from a manufacturing perspective, as well as within an actual construction site for a project.  This would include items like wall and/or partition panels that are built off-site and installed on-site.

Extending Building Service Life is a strong basis for true sustainability.  Providing opportunities to understand the return on investment, as well as the durability and performance of products to establish a building service life that aligns with an organization’s cycle renovation schedule is key to creating on-going sustainable practices once a building has been completed.  In addition to building service life, there is also a need for evaluating and testing green cleaning products on surfaces and finishes that are being specified.  In order to verify that a product is going to meet the building service life requirements, cleaning and maintaining surfaces and products is part of the evaluation of continual improvement and sustainability.

The Materials and Resources section addresses the reuse of non-structural elements such as ceilings, partitions, doors and frames, cabinetry and furnishings.  It is intended to evaluate the existing conditions to verify if there are components that can be maintained or updated that reduce the need for new products.

The other environmental assessment areas for Green Globes® – Sustainable Interiors include Project Management, Energy, Water, Emissions and Other Impacts, and Indoor Environment.  It is wonderful to see something that is a rigorous green building rating system for interiors that is supported for ease of use through technology.  I encourage readers to spread the word that this is available!

For more information on the introduction of Green Globes® – Sustainable Interiors, visit EcoBuilding Pulse.

Great News for GBI and Green Globes


Green Globes is being added to the list of acceptable Green Building Rating systems for federal projects.

Great News for GBI and Green Globes

Jane Rohde - Oct 2013

It is creating a buzz in the design community!  GSA has made its announcement that Green Globes is being added to the list of acceptable Green Building Rating systems for federal projects.  After 17 months of evaluation of LEED®, Green Globes®, and the Living Building Challenge, GSA has decided to continue to accept LEED, and has added the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes as another acceptable green building rating system.

The Federal government owns approximately 445,000 buildings with a total of 3.0 billion square feet, in addition to leasing another 57,000 buildings comprising  374 million square feet of floor space.  These structures and their sites affect the natural environment, the economy, and the productivity of occupants that use these buildings.  Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership High Performance and Sustainable Buildings have been developed to address the sustainability and efficiency of federal buildings.  These include employment of integrated design principles, optimization of energy performance, protect and conserve water, enhance indoor environmental quality, and reduce environmental impact of materials.

The Green Building Initiative has completed a robust update to the Green Globes - New Construction module, including addressing the Federal Government’s Guiding Principles.  The principles resulted from an Executive Order and require compliance by federal buildings within specific timeframes to meet the principles and energy and water reduction goals.  Meeting these principles is necessary, as compliance is tied to the funding of future projects.  Therefore, the update to Green Globes assists Federal clients in meeting the required Executive Order.

In addition, the Green Globes electronic platform provides an opportunity to evaluate a building project as it changes throughout the design process.  The electronic survey is based upon a series of questions that when complete, generates a report of recommendations to improve the sustainable features of a given project.  This is a way to self-evaluate a project prior to going through the third party assessment process and allows for incremental improvement, prior to assessment if desired.  The third party assessment process provides not only an opportunity for certification, but additional recommendations for improvement that are specific to the building project.

Green Globes - Continual Improvement for Existing Buildings (CIEB) includes a similar electronic survey, but focuses on the operations and maintenance of an existing facility.   This electronic tool also provides immediate feedback when responses to the answered survey questions are provided.  Similar to New Construction, recommendations specific to a facility will also be provided during and after the third party assessment process.

The Green Building Initiative has also developed a Green Globes-CIEB for Healthcare based upon 21 pilot assessments of VA hospitals.  This tool is provided to address the unique operational and complex facility aspects of healthcare settings.  The VA continued to utilize this tool to assess a substantial number of facilities within their 170+ hospital network.  This is applicable to not only public healthcare facilities, but also the private sector.  As systems are evaluating reduction of operational costs coupled with reduction of risks and adverse events, the Green Globes - CIEB for Healthcare is a valuable tool for supporting healthcare facilities striving to be patient-centered, operationally viable, and sustainable.

How do Vinyl Windows Fit into LEED V.4?


How do Vinyl Windows Fit into LEED V.4?

Jane Rohde - May 2013

In using green building rating systems, whether it is LEED® v.4 or the newly updated Green Globes for New Construction, it is important to understand that products themselves are not rated by these systems.  The criteria for green building rating systems is based on providing a designed building system solution that meets a certain sustainable intent.  Therefore, each vinyl product category can be evaluated as potentially contributing to a building system, such as the building envelope, site infrastructure, and interior finish system.  The sustainable intents seeking to be met by a building system include energy and water savings, evaluation of sites and infrastructure for sustainable placement and systems, adherence to indoor environmental quality strategies, environmental impacts of material and resource selections, and reduction of a building’s emissions and effluents.

Vinyl exterior windows are part of the envelope of a building, which is evaluated as a building system that directly impacts energy performance and infiltration.  The selection of a window profile combined with thermal breaks, types of glazing, and appropriate sealing are all key in creating an energy efficient building.  This would be considered a direct application of a product to a building system that supports a sustainable intent.  Indirectly, there are other systems being designed that are possible by the inclusion of window systems to obtain credits and meet the intent of sustainable credits, such as daylighting and views.

The following list outlines the applicable LEED v.4 credits that utilize windows as a part of a building system in a direct manner:

EA Prerequisite:  Fundamental Commissioning and Verification: Complete commissioning process activities for mechanical, electrical, plumbing and renewable energy systems and assemblies.  Commissioning is a requirement within the rating system for exterior building envelope; which means that the windows specified are part of that envelope, contributing toward the system that is evaluated and verified from an energy perspective.

MR Credit:  Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Environmental Product Declarations (EPD)

  • Option 1:  Completing an EPD (Type III would be worth more points) based upon life cycle criteria.  In an effort to provide transparency of product ingredients, Environmental Product Declarations have been deemed an appropriate vehicle for identifying the ingredients (feedstocks) used to manufacture a product.  However, only providing a list of the contents in a product without completing a comparison of products for their appropriate application does not necessarily result in the most sustainable choice.  Therefore, the completion of a Type III EPD that is based on ISO Standards 14040, 14044, 14025 and 21930 or EN 15804, utilizes additional criteria that evaluates durability and building service life, which are critical in making specification decisions regarding products.  EPDs use recognized Product Category Rules so that products are evaluated based on the same criteria.  There are two classifications of Type III EPDs:  Industry Wide EPDs, which are generic to a product type, and Product Specific Declarations, which are manufacturer-specific for a family of products.  Type III EPDs require conformance to the ISO Standards as well as minimally include cradle to gate scope.
  • Option 2:  Multi-attribute Optimization is very weak, because it doesn’t have consistent weighing of impacts for alternative to using USGBC approved program that includes certifications that verify impact reduction below industry average in three of 6 life cycle impacts.  However, the Extended Producer Responsibility is something that could be reviewed and completed.   Regardless of either alternative within Option 2, there is a source location criteria that must be met.  This results in a site and project specific credit based upon the manufacturing location as it relates to the project site.

MR Credit:  Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Sourcing of Raw Materials.  The intent is to reward project teams for selecting products verified to have been extracted or sourced in a responsible manner.

  • Option 1:  Complete a public report from raw material suppliers.  Specific criteria has to be met, but it is fairly vague in terms of compliance requirements for the report.   Additional criteria requires 3rd party verified corporate sustainability reports (CSR) with frameworks provided as part of requirements.  For windows, this would require raw materials for all components.
  • Option 2:  Addresses Leadership Extraction Practices as a single attribute requirement that also has a source location criteria that must be met.  This results in a site and project specific credit based upon the manufacturing location as it relates to the project site.

MR Credit:  Building Product Disclosure and Optimization – Material Ingredients is intended to encourage the use of products and materials for which life cycle information is available and to reward project teams for selecting products with inventoried chemical ingredients to minimize the use and generation of harmful substances.

  • Option 1:  Chemical inventory of a minimum of 20 permanently installed products are required for compliance.  Manufacturer Inventory (1000 ppm) would have to publish a complete list of ingredients identified by name and Chemical Abstract Service Registration Number (CASRN).  Provides an out for proprietary ingredients, but still have to disclose role, mount and associated hazards.
    • Other Compliance Paths within Option 1:  Health Product Declaration (HPD), which is has a template available on-line for utilization.  However, the HPD is depending upon designers to fully understand chemistry and compounds, and when something is a risk/hazard and/or needs to be labeled based upon a threshold.  From a manufacturing side, there is a dedicated group working on a Product Transparency Declaration (PTD) that can assist specifiers to better understand risk and product information to make a better educated decisions. Cradle to Cradle is listed as an acceptable alternative certification, but it starts with de-selection criteria and doesn’t evaluate products from a life cycle or identified risk based upon threshold basis.  The last is the catch-all grouping of “USGBC approved programs” that does not include any specific criteria.  The goal would be for the PTD to be available as a USGBC approved program, when vetting is completed.
    • Option 2:  Green Screen.  The Green Screen tool is still in draft format, but in early evaluation of the tool, it would be worth window manufacturers reviewing to see how vinyl windows fare using the tool.  Additional credit is provided for source location, but is not a must for the compliance path for Option 2.

The following list outlines the applicable LEED v.4 credits that utilize windows as a part of a building system in an indirect manner:

EA Credit:  Optimize Energy Performance:  Option 2:  Prescriptive Compliance utilizing Advanced Energy Design Guide addresses interior lighting, including daylighting.  In completing energy performance assessments for the design of a building, the energy used for interior lighting has to be evaluated, taking into consideration the amount of daylight.  This is indirectly applicable to the types of windows that are utilized that provide daylight within a space.

MR Credit:  Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction
Healthcare Only:  For all options in this credit, building materials demolished to create courtyards to increase daylighting may be counted as retained in calculations, provided the new courtyards meet the requirements of EQ Credits Daylight and Quality Views.  Therefore the use of windows and exterior doors into a courtyard contributes positively to the amount of daylight within a healthcare setting.

MR Credit:  Construction and Demolition Waste Management:  The intent is to reduce construction and demolition waste disposal in landfills and incineration facilities by recovering, reusing, and recycling materials.  Indirectly, if window products or components are recyclable, this would be an added benefit toward future work and construction waste management.  This is also a good part of a manufacturer’s sustainable story, demonstrating how the future disposal phase of a product has been evaluated through a product’s life cycle.

EQ Prerequisite:  Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance Requirements & Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Strategies would be indirect applications for windows as potential providers of natural ventilation, which is part of both of these credits.  The intent is to contribute to the comfort and well-being of building occupants by establishing minimum standards for indoor air quality (IAQ) and improving IAQ, while also providing occupants with personal control of space.  The use of natural ventilation is highly reliant on climate, as well as occupancy type and humidity control.

EQ Credit:  Low-Emitting Interiors intended to reduce concentrations of chemical contaminants that can damage air quality, human health, productivity, and the environment.   This credit covers VOCs (adhesives and sealants).  As this credit is applicable to fenestration systems for the exterior of buildings, all windows are sealed for infiltration and evaluated for the provision of weather stripping.  Although these products are often manufactured by a different company, they are part of the successful installation of windows.  So this EQ Credit indirectly applies to windows as a part of an overall exterior envelope.

EQ Credit:  Daylight intended to connect building occupants with the outdoors, reinforce circadian rhythms, while reducing the use of electrical lighting by introducing daylight into the space.  Windows, doors and skylights are the primary source for allowing daylight into spaces, so indirectly as part of the envelope, windows, doors and skylights provide a means to fulfill the intent of the credit for access to daylight.

EQ Credit:  Quality Views intended to give building occupants a connection to the natural outdoor environment by providing quality views.  Similar to accessing daylight, quality views are essentially accessed through windows and doors; whereas the actual view is dictated by the overall exterior design; i.e. adjacent courtyard, attractive buildings, garden spaces, park settings, and green roof strategies.  The terminology of “quality” is not completely defined, but the intention is to provide access to nature and interesting surroundings versus a blank brick wall.


LEED v.4 provides opportunities for the utilization of vinyl windows that both directly and indirectly support building systems that achieve credits throughout the green building rating system.  The examples provided above are referenced to provide a framework for strategic thinking - to see how a manufacturer’s products can be used to support sustainability, while providing marketing and educational outreach opportunities for manufacturer representatives and sales forces.

Green Globes Keeps Pace with Green Marketplace


Green Globes Keeps Pace with Green Marketplace

Jane Rohde - Mar 2013

The Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes rating system has recently made the news in a couple of different ways.  In the constantly changing sustainability marketplace it’s important to understand the different tools available to product manufacturers, builders and design professionals and ways those tools are evolving to meet new demands.

Most recently, the U.S. General Services Administration, the agency responsible to managing the federal government’s real estate, evaluated and accepted Green Globes-New Construction (GG-NC) as one of two green-building rating systems deemed acceptable for federal construction projects.  In addition, the GG-NC has undergone a major update that includes the evaluation of each sustainable category: project management, site, energy, water, materials and resources, emissions and other impacts, and indoor environment.  A technical manual has also been developed and is available on the Green Building Initiative website.

Green Globes Electronic Tool & Relationship to ANSI/GBI 01-2010 Standard 

In April, 2010, the Green Building Initiative completed the ANSI/GBI 01-2010 Standard: Green Building Assessment Protocol for Commercial Buildings. This was the first consensus-based standard for green buildings.  The robust document was completed by a committed team of stakeholders and reviewed favorably by GSA as meeting the necessary sustainability requirements that closely align with the Guiding Principles established for sustainability by Executive Order.  The standard was heavily referenced and used to inform the updated Green Globes – NC electronic tool completed in 2013.

In addition to utilizing the ANSI standard, additional updates were completed for the Green Globes – NC electronic survey tool.   For example, the evaluation of energy paths for compliance and the completion of multiple attribute standards for interior products, such as the availability of NSF International sustainability assessment standards for flooring, furnishings, fabric, and wallcovering.  Also included in the revised tool are UL Environment sustainability certifications for gypsum board, doors, and general lighting, Environmental Product Declarations (both industry wide and product family specific), and product life cycle assessments.  It is necessary to continue to evaluate and provide revised tools and information for GG-NC to keep pace with the updated sustainable tools and standards that are referenced.  

Although the ANSI/GBI 01-2010 Standard is referenced, the electronic survey tool is a series of questions that require responses from the user.  The survey is presented in a questionnaire format that provides immediate feedback based upon the response, including recommendations for improvement.  This allows the user to make improvements and/or adjustments prior to completing third party assessment, which may save valuable time and money.  The Green Globes – NC is not an ANSI standard, but rather informed by the standard.  The ANSI/GBI 01-2010 standard is anticipated to be reviewed and updated within a 5 year window (2015), and at the time of update and review will have the opportunity to be informed by work completed for the Green Globes – NC tool.  The updated, approved standard will then be reviewed and used to complete future updates to the Green Globes – NC tool.  A technical committee for the Green Globes suite of electronic survey tools is an ongoing work group available to Green Building Initiative for review and input.  The ANSI Standard committee is set up specifically to work on the consensus based standard and has chairs for sub-committee work and separate meetings and conference calls.  Although there may be some shared membership in both the technical committee and the ANSI committee, these are two separate initiatives.

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