December 2013

Volume 22, Number 12

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Article Contents

Green Globes Board Member Quits Over ANSI Claims

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A disgruntled technical committee member suggests the new Green Globes tool has not gone through the consensus process, a claim GBI rebuts.

By Paula Melton

ANSI Standard and Green Globes Covers

GBI-covers.jpg

Although the ANSI standard developed by GBI and the group's Green Globes tool were supposed to be aligned after the new release in June, a side-by-side comparison suggests they don't match up as well as their covers might suggest.

Images: GBI

Skirmishes over the validity of major green building rating systems continue, even as the federal government recognizes Green Globes as on par with LEED. A board member of the Green Building Initiative (GBI), the group behind Green Globes, has quit over frustrations that Green Globes isn’t meeting its potential. Harvey Bryan, Ph.D., FAIA, a professor at Arizona State University, has alleged that the newest version of the Green Globes tool contains questionable energy-performance goals and does not align with the associated ANSI standard, GBI/ANSI 01-2010 (see “Green Globes May Be an ANSI Standard At Last”), despite the ANSI process being used as a selling point for the tool.

“I fear that there were not enough eyes reviewing the new protocol to give it a proper technical review, which will challenge its credibility moving forward,” wrote the former board member and former technical committee member of GBI in a resignation letter he shared with EBN. “Erin [Shaffer], Ward [Hubbell], and I have spent considerable time in Washington informing all those who would listen of the merits of an ANSI-approved green rating system, and now we have failed to deliver one.”

GBI has dismissed Bryan’s claims.

You say consensus, I say contentious

Green Globes’ status as an ANSI standard is not a mere technicality.

GBI has argued since its inception that Green Globes is better suited than LEED for federal government use specifically because of the group’s ANSI standard, and it claimed recently that it was finally bringing its online tool into alignment with the ANSI-approved document.

Along with industry groups like the American Chemistry Council, GBI has also long claimed that LEED does not follow a “true consensus process” because it is not an ANSI standard; timber and vinyl industry groups have even appealed the recent LEED v4 vote on the grounds that the process didn’t achieve consensus by resolving their objections, as Stuart Kaplow has reported at the Green Building Law Blog.

As Erin Shaffer, vice president for federal outreach at GBI, has told BuildingGreen, “We’re the only organization that has put one of our tools through the ANSI process—a transparent, open, public process.” (GBI’s standard is the only one at least in part because ANSI’s “Essential Requirements” include non-duplication of existing standards, so the U.S. Green Building Council would face an uphill battle if it wished to create a competing ANSI standard for LEED.)

Departures from the standard

Bryan’s concerns about divergences between the ANSI standard and the new version of the Green Globes tool released in June 2013 primarily involve energy and materials. For energy, he told EBN, “They added two more paths” for compliance, which, along with other modifications, “changed the point structure significantly.”

EBN reviewed both the ANSI standard and the freely available Green Globes Technical Manual and found that energy compliance paths and point allocations differ radically, with benchmarks from tools like Energy Star Target Finder and the ASHRAE Building Energy Quotient offering large numbers of points (see table). Also new: there are no minimum point thresholds—meaning that, in theory, a building could achieve Green Globes certification without achieving a single point for modeled energy performance. That’s highly unlikely, but the ANSI standard requires a minimum of 100 points in the energy-performance category.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of gaming involved, based on the way they added the two energy paths,” Bryan lamented. “The point structure was very delicately constructed through negotiations, and the technical committee just changed it all.”

Comparing Energy Performance in GBI/ANSI and Green Globes

green-globes-energy.jpg

A side-by-side comparison of the GBI/ANSI standard with the recently released Green Globes for New Construction Technical Manual reveals significant differences in how energy performance is demonstrated. The new tool no longer has a prescriptive energy path, and benchmarking systems not vetted through the ANSI process could help projects achieve more than 100 points.

He also pointed to the addition of environmental product declarations (EPDs) in the new tool—a reporting format that was not widely available in 2010, when the standard was first developed, but which has been gaining ground after being included in LEED v4. While he doesn’t necessarily object to all the additions, Bryan explains, the rating system can no longer claim to be consensus-based since key elements haven’t gone through public review. “Obviously, the technical committee did not quite understand that,” he said. “You have to dot the i’s and make sure you go through the proper protocols.” He told EBN he’d argued for waiting until the 2015 ANSI renewal process had begun to make major technical changes.

“Nothing untoward”

Despite Bryan’s complaints, Shaffer is adamant that the current Green Globes tool upholds the spirit of the original ANSI standard. “Green Globes has always had energy, water, and life-cycle assessment as key components of its tool,” she explains, “because those are the factors most impactful on operating costs.”

She adds, “If you purchase Green Globes, you will see there are four pathways for energy. Two have always been hallmarks of Green Globes.” The carbon-based path, which remains part of the new tool—ANSI/GBA 01-2010 Energy Performance Building CO2e—is itself an ANSI standard developed by GBI, she points out. “There is nothing untoward, nothing hidden there.”

Shaffer did not agree with the idea that changes to energy compliance paths created a conflict, and, although the group has been careful in the past not to identify the Green Globes tool as an ANSI standard, a recent press release supplants that practice, referring to the standard as “ANSI/GBI 01-2010, also known as Green Globes for New Construction.”

Mountain or molehill?

A source familiar with both the Green Globes tool and the ANSI standard (who requested anonymity in order to protect ties with various parties) told EBN Bryan’s complaint was “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

The source went on to argue that the new version of Green Globes released in June 2013 is in fact more closely aligned with the ANSI standard than the tool has ever been before. Although the two are “not precisely the same” due to energy performance pathways having a different approach, the source continued, they are largely the same, and any slight differences will be reconciled when the ANSI standard is updated in 2015 (a process that is beginning now). Bryan’s letter has done nothing but confuse people, the source suggests. “When I looked at it myself, I just shrugged my shoulders.”

The federal government appears to agree, at least for now. “The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act directs federal agencies to use voluntary consensus standards to carry out their missions,” explains Kevin Kampschroer, director of federal high-performance green buildings at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). That agency’s recent review of rating systems included both the GBI/ANSI standard and the online Green Globes tool—though it didn’t compare the two—he says. A report prepared by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as part of the review “concluded that Green Globes and LEED are voluntary, consensus-based standards,” Kampschroer says, making that a settled issue for the foreseeable future. “As certification systems are updated by their system owners, GSA will evaluate the newer versions against federal green building requirements just as we did for this latest review.”

Might ANSI intervene?

ANSI itself could ultimately decide how important the differences are between the Green Globes tool and the ANSI standard, but only if it receives a complaint.

EBN asked Anne Caldas, ANSI’s senior director of procedures and standards administration, what might happen if an ANSI standards developer claimed that something was an ANSI standard if it was not.

Cautioning that her response was not specific to any existing standard or developer, Caldas wrote in an email, “If an ANSI-accredited standards developer (ASD) labels a document as an American National Standard (ANS) or promotes it as such when it has not been approved as an ANS, and this information is brought to ANSI’s attention, we will review the facts and take appropriate action, such as requiring that any offending written material be revised or withdrawn.”

“They had their own agenda”

In his interview with EBN, Bryan elaborated on his view of Green Globes—which originated in Canada and pre-dates GBI—and his former hopes that it would help bring green building “into the mainstream marketplace with a low price point.” He contends that hasn’t happened.

“Probably the GBI model was a mistake because they had their own agenda, which at one time was very wood-oriented,” Bryan claims. “They wanted to develop something that was counter to the wood protocols in LEED.” Now the board is “dominated” by the plastics industry, he adds. “GBI has not been the best vehicle to bring this forward.”

Comments (1)

1 Surprise, surprise! posted by Peggy White on 10/31/2013 at 10:06 pm

Is this a trick, or a treat? ;o)

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December 2, 2013