Planet Plenty by Weef Kichards

This article was written by Phil Clark who blogs about green building and development in the UK at Zerochampion.  Make sure to come back after visiting his site …

Will there ever be one green building standard to rule them all?  It’s an interesting question given the explosion of new ones that are emerging around the globe: in the past month news has reached us over here of a new standard planned by the recently German Sustainable Building Council (this was discovered by Building Sustainability columnist and U.S. expert Jerry Yudelson, a reference of which is in this article) and of a new guide for eco-friendly projects in New Zealand.

The answer to the question until now has always pointed to the negative.  Different countries around the world are subject to distinct cultures, histories, and environmental conditions that mean that such standards must by their very nature be distinct and unique.  And the fact that there are so many separate ones emerging strengthens this logic.  Yet I believe there is a strong case to counter that.  Here’s three reasons why I think the evolution from many to few standards is inevitable:

It’s already happening.
To a degree that is.  The two dominant standards in the world –- the USGBC’s LEED certificate and our BREEAM standard — are beginning to export themselves.  LEED is now being used in the United Arab Emirates and India.  And BREEAM is set to become a standard for particular building types across Europe. It’s clearly logical for countries considering implementing such standards to piggy-back on ones that already exist.

The world is getting smaller.
The past month’s dramatic economic crisis only goes to show how closely interlinked the economies of the world have become.  As globalization continues there will be greater demands from clients for consistent standards.  How much better for a multi-national building owner to be able to assess all its estate according to one standard?

Consistent metrics are necessary.
For us to both assess the performance of buildings and prove the value and profit of building green, a consistent approach beyond regional boundaries would be ideal.  One basic standard would ensure that process would be a consistent one.

These are three reasons why I think such a move could happen, but I fully understand that there are many barriers to a smooth progress for multiple standards to one above all.

One Possible Approach:
What one could envisage is a basic set of standards or measurements emerging that are used by all countries, who then add aspects particular to their territories on top.  I understand some discussions have been held amongst different green building councils across the globe looking at such a method, which would be similar to the ISO standards for environmental management.

And in some senses such a process is already happening, albeit in an ad hoc way.  A member of the Emirates Green Building Council told a conference last week that they want to go “beyond LEED” in the standards for their region, indicating that they would need to adapt LEED for the specific needs of their environment.

I think such a trend would be incredibly positive for the movement. 

It would display a culture of collaboration and open communication that is necessary for spreading the environmental world for our industries.  A green blogger over here, Martin Brown, told an event I attended last week that sustainability had to be “open source” in construction, i.e. break out of the tradition of the industry to hoard or hide information.  Creating an open global standard would the perfect next step in spreading and mainstreaming sustainability in the built environmentWhat do you think?

Photo credit to Weef Kichard and make sure to catch more analysis from Phil Clark at Zerochampion.