News Brief

A Short History of GBCI and Its Roster of Rating Systems

No longer just the USGBC spinoff that supports LEED certification, Green Business Certification, Inc. has a hand in a long and growing list of green certifications.

Image courtesy of GBCI
GBCI started life as the Green Building Certification Institute, a nonprofit sister organization to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Created in 2008, GBCI’s first responsibility was to administer everything involved in the LEED credentials, from writing exams to defining continuing education requirements.

In 2009 GBCI took over LEED certification from USGBC (see USGBC to Outsource LEED Certification), while USGBC retained ownership of the LEED rating system standards and responsibility for their development. In both cases, GBCI acts as a third-party certifier, independent from USGBC as the standard developer.

In 2015 GBCI became Green Business Certification, Inc. Announcing the change, Rick Fedrizzi, then CEO of GBCI, said, “GBCI’s name change is a true reflection of our direction and vision for the organization, which is to extend its core competencies of certification and credentialing services to organizations that want to advance green business and sustainability practices. Third-party validation has become a highly regarded value across the globe and GBCI is well-positioned to fulfill that need.”

In keeping with that vision, GBCI has invested in a stable of green certifications that it either owns or provides certification services for in partnership with other organizations:

  • LEED (for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) was launched in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), with LEED certification managed since 2009 by GBCI.
  • WELL Building Standard: GBCI provides certification in partnership with the International Well Building Institute (IWBI).
  • GRESB: GBCI acquired the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), a system that scores real estate portfolios, in 2014.
  • The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), was previously owned and operated as a partnership between the University of Texas–Austin, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), and the United States Botanic Garden. The groups became embroiled in a trademark dispute, during which GBCI stepped in to provide project certification. That led to full acquisition, which has settled those past feuds.
  • PEER, or Performance Excellence in Energy Renewal, is administered by GBCI. PEER is “a comprehensive, consumer-centric, data-driven system for evaluating power system performance.”
  • Created by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, EDGE is a quick-start sustainable design tool meant for developing countries. GBCI is a global certification provider for EDGE and the exclusive certification provider for EDGE projects in India.
  • Parksmart (formerly known as Green Garage Certification), was created by the International Parking Institute and other groups, and is administered by GBCI. Parksmart is “the world’s only rating system that defines, measures, and recognizes high-performing, sustainable garages.”
  • Zero Waste Facility Certification and Zero Waste Business Associate programs were created by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC). GBCI recently assumed responsibility for the ongoing management and evolution of both programs.
  • The Investor Confidence Project (ICP) was announced in October 2016 as a joint project of GBCI and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The groups aim for ICP to be the “premier global underwriting standard for energy efficiency projects.”

Expect this roster of programs to grow. Rumors have pointed to products and materials certification as a high priority. Asked to confirm them, Mahesh Ramanujam, CEO of both USGBC and GBCI, said, “We are still exploring our options and are very interested in key partnerships or acquisitions.”

Ramanujam also told BuildingGreen that in addition to products, GBCI is strongly interested in a water-related program, as well as infrastructure. GRESB Infrastructure was announced in 2015 and completed its first assessment in 2016. GBCI is also rolling out LEED for Cities, which, says Ramanujam, “will leverage arc to deliver a score and benchmarking” at the district scale. LEED for Cities is expected to draw on multiple programs to take LEED beyond buildings.

As the programs owned and administered by GBCI have piled up, observers, including BuildingGreen, have asked what differentiates GBCI and USGBC. Ramanujam told BuildingGreen to expect that over time, and with board approval, USGBC will settle in as the standard-owner, while GBCI will be the certifier. He said the mixing of their roles was part of the acquisition process. (Also see New Tech Startup, arc, to Support USGBC, GBCI with Data, which discusses the separate “core competencies” of GBCI, USGBC, and their new startup, arc.)

Published December 5, 2016

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