Collaborators, not competitors - the case for dual certification in China
Hello from China.
I have spent the last couple of weeks traveling all across Asia with my USGBC colleagues, finding inspiration at every stop. Throughout the trip, I've had time to reflect on where green building is today and where it is headed in the future.
As the green building movement has matured we have witnessed a shift in both market trends and the language we use to talk about our physical environment. In its earliest years, green building was synonymous with resource efficiency, yet today the focus has expanded, pivoting towards an emphasis on the impact a space has on its occupants. High performance buildings have evolved into entities that don't just conserve energy and reduce emissions, they are also devoid of harmful chemicals and air pollutants whose effects are detrimental to the people who live, learn, work and play in these spaces.
LEED has mirrored this shift, evidenced by LEED v4's greater scrutiny of the materials that are incorporated into every aspect of our built environment. These new measures not only work to keep harmful things out of our buildings, but, thanks to LEED's international success, they provide us with a shared vocabulary that enables comparisons of the “health” of buildings on a global level, from Canada to India, Australia to Brazil.
I am fundamentally proud of the progress LEED has made in this regard, but I do not see LEED as a tool that operates in a vacuum. In China, where it is estimated that fifty percent of all new construction will occur by 2015, many are pursuing Green Building Label or Three Star certification for their buildings. This is encouraging to see, as it demonstrates a serious effort to address grave environmental and health concerns in the country. Yet I urge project teams to take this commitment one step further, pursuing LEED certification in addition to these other systems. All too often, green rating systems are seen as being in competition with one another, or as mutually exclusive endeavors. This is not the case.
At the heart of LEED is an emphasis on integrated process; project teams are composed of members whose roles have previously been considered in isolation of one another – architects, lighting specialists, facilities management teams, etc. By bringing these different entities to the same table, an integrated process enables greater collaboration and holistic, big picture thinking. The end result is a building whose systems work together fluidly and cohesively, optimizing performance from every angle.
Dual certification for buildings follows a parallel line of thought. While rating systems like Three Star address aspects of the built environment that are of particular concern to China's population, pairing this certification with LEED situates the project within a well-supported global movement twenty years in the making. These systems work to complement each other, yielding even healthier, better performing buildings than might not have been possible if only one type of certification was pursued.
At USGBC, our goal is to create the safest, best buildings possible for the benefit of the entire planet. In pursuit of this dream it is essential to remember that sustainability and green building are not zero sum games with winners and losers—healthy buildings are a win for us all. I commend the efforts of those in China who are working to make a positive impact on their environment through Three Star certification, but I also invite them to take it to the next level, adding LEED to their repertoire of strategies for enacting real and long-lasting positive change in our built world.
To learn more about how LEED is being used in China, take a look at our new report, LEED in Motion: Greater China