Green Globes offers a practical and objective approach to resource evaluation and materials selection during new construction and major renovation of commercial buildings. Internationally, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is the most widely accepted method for materials selection, largely due to its research-based approach in evaluating environmental impacts. In contrast to the LCA method is the use of exclusionary or “de-selection” lists driven by non-systematic or single attribute approaches to materials selection—approaches that could result in less sustainable selections. Green Globes provides two paths for product selection in its New Construction environmental assessment program: the LCA method and a multiple attribute approach.
For the LCA “Performance Path,” each product type is evaluated and benchmarked against five major indicator criteria: Embodied Energy, Global Warming Potential, and Effects on Land, Air and Water. For the Multiple Attribute “Prescriptive Path,” products can be evaluated using three approaches: 1) Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), 2) third-party certifications based upon multiple attribute standards developed through a consensus-based process by an approved standards development organization, and/or 3) third-party certified life cycle product assessments based upon ISO 14040 and 14044 Standards.
Through life cycle assessment with the easy-to-navigate Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings (Version 4.2 or later), Green Globes encourages design teams to compare alternate design scenarios and building assembly choices that can result in more sustainable designs. The online Impact Estimator was developed by the Athena Institute in collaboration with Morrison-Hershfield and supported by sponsors and collaborators including the Green Building Initiative (GBI). Although the list of construction materials for a typical commercial building project encompasses a large number of items, the Impact Estimator provides access to advanced life cycle inventory data without requiring advanced LCA skills. The goal is to easily incorporate environmental information while evaluating options for the building assembly (core, shell, and envelope) in the early phases of project design. The Athena Impact Estimator can model over 1200 structural and envelope assembly combinations, allowing for efficient and effective comparisons of various design options.
Most green building standards, codes, and rating systems utilize single attributes—such as recycled content, bio-based content, or VOC emissions—as the only means of sustainable product selection. However, this process does not necessarily yield the most sustainable solution for a particular application. Therefore, the GBI has provided a multiple attribute Prescriptive Path for product selections of interior fit-outs and building assemblies as an alternative to LCA. This option is particularly important for the Interior Fit-out, where proprietary product ingredients make LCA a more complicated option. The Prescriptive Path provides three alternatives that can be used to compare and select products:
Visit the links below to learn more about the Athena Impact Estimator and other third-party peer-reviewed LCA Tools—such as GaBi, SimaPro, and CMLCA—and additional links on Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), NSF International sustainability standards, UL Environment sustainable certifications, and sustainable forestry certifications.