Standards and rating systems have been at the heart of the green building movement at least since U.S. energy standards for buildings (like ASHRAE 90.1) started ratcheting up following the 1970s energy crisis.
If you care about health and sustainability, you can now rely on dozens of ratings and standards for buildings as well as things in and around them, including:
Lab protocols for chemical emissions from finishes and furniture
Testing methods for durability of paints, textiles, and many other products
Standards for energy use, ventilation, thermal comfort, and more
Rating systems for schools, healthcare facilities, parking garages, landscapes, and healthy spaces
When used in combination, incentives and regulations can be a powerful force for encouraging green buildings. Incentives can be complicated to navigate, but are often well worth the effort. Regulations, on the other hand, can be slow to change, but can raise the baseline for building performance.
Recent changes in the financial industry are providing new opportunities for financing green buildings. However, lenders and investors have different approaches to documenting the benefits of green, which affect how they use rating systems and other metrics. To navigate effectively in the financial world, green designers and builders need to understand the territory.
With several announcements at the 2006 Greenbuild conference in Denver, the U.S. Green Building Council signaled that it would use its LEED Rating System to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by tightening LEED requirements and by increasing the number of buildings designed to LEED standards.