Top 12 Green Building Rating Systems

By Libby Dunne
Sustainability Analyst
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)


LEED logo grayscaleLEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building certification used in the United States. Managed by the U.S. Green Building Council, this building rating system is completed by on-site or third-party verification. Many building types can apply for this certification program, including new construction, existing buildings, homes, and communities. LEED has four certification levels including, certified, silver, gold, and platinum. LEED has nine areas of focus, including location and transportation, sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, material and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation, regional priority, and integrative processes. The LEED certification program aims to have buildings use their resources more efficiently and create a safe environment for all its occupants throughout the building’s life cycle. As of 2019, 80,000 projects were registered, with 32,500 projects having completed the certification process. Top users of LEED certification include Intel Corp., Colgate-Palmotive, Mars Inc., and Method Southside Soapbox Factory. 


WELL AP LogoWELL is a building certification program managed by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). WELL focuses mostly on building design attributes that impact occupant health and well-being. WELL evaluates buildings on 11 concepts: air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind, community, and innovation. This green building system features a few preconditions or prerequisites to completing a WELL certification. Like LEED, WELL can be used for a wide variety of building and building spaces. As of 2019, 3865 projects were registered, and 232 had earned their WELL certification. Top users of WELL include Wells Fargo, EY, Deloitte, Lenovo, and Fandango. 


fitwel logo in colorLike WELL, Fitwel focuses on the health and wellbeing of the building occupants as well as the surrounding community. However, FitWel does not have any prerequisites for completing this green building certification program. Like the previously mentioned programs, FitWel can also be used in a variety of building types and spaces. FitWel focuses on location, building access, outdoor spaces, entrances, stairs, indoor environment, workspaces, shared spaces, water supply, cafeterias and prepared food areas, vending machines and snack bars, and emergency procedures. As of 2019, 840 were registered, and 240 had completed their FitWel certification. Top users of FitWel include Skanska Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc., and the Tower Companies.

Green Globes

Green Globes color logoGreen Globes is a building rating system used in the US and Canada. Green Globes is structured so that it can be done as a self-assessment in-house with the project manager and design team. It uses a questionnaire that is aimed at helping the user make changes to complete the certification. Like FitWel, there are no prerequisites to complete this certification. Like LEED, Green Globes has four levels of certification. Green Globes can be used in new construction, existing buildings, and commercial interiors. This certification program focuses on energy usage, water, waste management, emissions, indoor environment, and environmental management.


BREEAM logo in colorBREEM, or the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, is the oldest green building rating system. Created in 1990, it has since certified projects in over 50 countries, has over 560,000 certified projects, and over 2 million registered. This green building rating system is measured across 9 categories: management, health and well-being, transport, water, materials, land use and ecology, and pollution. BREEAM is aimed at making buildings more sustainable, as well as improving building performance and efficiency. Many other green building certification programs, including Green Globes, were inspired by the ideas and innovations of BREEAM. Top users of BREEAM include Futurebuild and Overbury.


logo for DGNBDGNB, a green building certification program created by the German Sustainable Building Council, focuses on promoting sustainable building practices across Europe. DGNB uses a holistic approach with an emphasis on performance. This green building rating system has three levels of certification, platinum, gold, and silver. For this certification program, buildings are evaluated on ecological quality, socio-cultural and function quality, technical quality, and process quality. As of December 2018, over 4800 buildings have eared a DGNB certification.

Green Star

Green Star logoGreen Star is an international sustainability reporting and rating system, that is popular particularly in Australia and South Africa. All Green Star categories include an innovation category that rewards projects for creating and utilizing new approaches to sustainability. Like the other certification programs on this list, Green Star can be used in a variety of building types and is assessed in categories such as indoor environmental air quality, energy, transportation, water, materials, land use and ecology, and emissions. The main goal of Green Star is to guide project teams to make conscious decisions regarding energy usage and material selection. As of 2019, over 1450 projects had completed the Green Star certification.

BCA Green Mark Scheme color logoBCA Green Mark Scheme

BCA (Building and Construction Authority) Green Mark Scheme is a green certification program that focuses on the development of sustainable buildings in Singapore. This certification program focuses on innovation and governance to create a community of care and a more sustainable environment. BCA Green Mark Scheme has 5 key attributes: energy efficiency, water efficiency, environmental protection, indoor environmental quality, and innovation features. Since its launch in January of 2005, BCA Green Mark Scheme has certified over 1700 buildings.


HKGBC BEAM Plus logoBEAM PLUS is a certification program recognized by the Hong Kong Business Environment Council that focuses on incorporating sustainability into planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of a building. BEAM PLUS has five focuses for assessment: site, material, water and energy use, indoor environmental quality, and innovation. The BEAM PLUS certification program has a goal of educating the community about sustainability and sustainable practices and has intentions to extend BEAM PLUS beyond Hong Kong.


Casbee logotypeCASBEE, or Comprehensive Assessment System for Build Energy Environment Efficiency, was launched in 2015 and can be used for both new construction and existing buildings throughout Japan. Starting in 2005, earning a CASBEE certification became mandatory in 24 Japanese municipalities. CASBEE moved internationally in 2014 when a building in Tianjin, China earned their CASBEE certification. This program focuses on energy and resource efficiency, and local and indoor environments. CASBEE was designed to reduce the life cycle of resource use, as well as improve quality of life for building occupants and the surrounding community.


color logo for GORDGORD, or Gulf Organization for Research and Development, aims to encourage sustainable economic development and environmental leadership through sustainable building design. GORD is the first performance based green building certification program in the Middle East and North Africa. This certification has two stages: (1) obtain the design and build certificate following design phase and, (2) pursue the conformance design audit. Since its launch in 2007, over 100 million square feet of building space have received GORD certification.


MILJOBYGGNAD_logoMiljöbyggnad, or Environmental Building in English, is a green building certification program created by the Sweden Green Building Council in 2010. Including both new construction and existing building pathways, buildings can earn gold, silver, or bronze certification levels. Interesting, since water usage is not a threatened resource in Sweden, there is no section regarding water efficiency. However, this program focuses on indoor environmental quality, energy use, and material use. Miljöbyggnad uses principles from LEED and BREEAM to develop its certification attributes. Thus far, over 1000 buildings have received Miljöbyggnad certification.




3.) Bernardi, Elena, et al. “An analysis of the most adopted rating systems for assessing the environmental impact of buildings.” Sustainability 9.7 (2017): 1226.






















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