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A new player comes onto ‘green’ construction scene

The longtime standard for constructing energy-efficient buildings — LEED certification — is no longer the only option in the “green”-construction business.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s certification has long been championed as evidence that a building has passed rigorous energy-efficiency tests and environmental reviews. But the lesser-known Green Globes certification has emerged as a less costly and more flexible way to prove that a building makes the most of available efficiencies.

Valencia College in Orlando, Fla., has several buildings certified as LEED (short for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”), but it shifted to the Green Globes certification for its new $21.7 million Lake Nona campus.

“I would say the Green Globes is definitely a more flexible system. You work directly with an assessor, so if you have questions, then you can pick up the phone and get answers. You don’t have to wait for a month for a response,” said Johnnie Lohrum of Schenkel Shultz Architecture. Lohrum worked on Valencia’s new building, which won three Green Globes, comparable to earning a high-level LEED certificate.

Lohrum has experience with both LEED and Green Globe certifications. “They are striving to get your business,” he said of Green Globe. “Their biggest benefit is common sense, to be honest with you.”

Certifications are attractive to developers and building owners because they can generate tax breaks and better position the property in the sales and leasing markets. For almost 15 years, the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program has defined environmentally sound construction standards. More than 7,000 projects in about 30 countries have used it.

Green Globes, meanwhile, has been emerging in Canada since 1996. The environmental assessment, education and rating system is promoted in the United States by the Green Building Initiative, a nonprofit based in Portland, Ore. In the U.S., Green Globes has worked with the federal government to evaluate Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and is also used by Whole Foods Inc.

The certification process costs about half what the LEED process does, Valencia College officials found. In 2008, LEED registration cost about $900 to $3,000 and the certification cost about $1,875 to $20,000. A Green Globes self-assessment cost $500, and the certification runs from $3,000 to $6,000.

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