Last Friday, the U.S. General Services Administration announced that it has issued its recommendation on the federal government’s use of third party green building certification systems.

In its recommendation to the Department of Energy, GSA recommended both the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes 2010 and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED 2009 as the third party certification systems that the federal government will use.

This recommendation, if accepted, portends a green building world (which has always been dominated by LEED) turned upside down. 

Section 436 of Energy Independence and Security Act requires the Director of GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings to evaluate green building certification systems every 5 years to identify a system and certification level that will be most likely to encourage a comprehensive and environmentally sound approach to certification of green Federal buildings. EISA requires the GSA Administrator to provide his recommendation to the Secretary of Energy, who then consults with the Secretary of Defense and the GSA Administrator, to identify the system appropriate for use in the Federal sector to certify green buildings.

GSA first evaluated certification systems in 2006 focusing on new construction. Based on this 2006 review, GSA recommended LEED and today the Federal sector uses LEED. GSA’s most recent evaluation of green building certification systems focused on certification systems for new construction, major renovations, and existing buildings. That Green Building Certification System evaluation can be found at

 “We’ve found two tools that allow us to measure how federal buildings of all kinds can best save energy, improve overall performance, and cut down utility costs,” said Kevin Kampschroer, Director of GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings.  

GSA recommended the Green Globes 2010 and LEED 2009 as the third party certification systems that the Federal government can use to gauge performance in its construction and renovation projects. Additionally, under the recommendation, GSA indicates it will conduct more regular reviews in order to keep up with the latest green building tools that the market has to offer. Such is significant given that the newly released versions of both Green Globes and LEED were not evaluated and are not recommended.

Agencies can use one of the two certification systems for new construction and one for existing buildings, recognizing that the Federal building portfolio ranges from office buildings, to laboratories, to hospitals, to airplane hangars.

Federal construction and modernization projects must also adhere to the government’s own green building requirements, including the Guiding Principles as mandated by Executive Order 13514. No one of the certification systems reviewed addresses all of the Guiding Principles. However, the latest version of Green Globes now includes the ability to certify new construction for compliance with the Guiding Principles. LEED v4 does not have such a feature, but USGBC has been working on a “crosswalk” to address the Guiding Principles.

While the final Federal policy has yet to be determined, there can be no dispute that this shift by GSA is a victory for Green Globes. But LEED has all but certainly won the bigger battle because allowing Federal agencies to choose between the two rating systems will take the wind out of the sails of the coterie that want to ban LEED from government projects.

Be aware that the GSA recommendation as not available at the time this post was prepared. This post is based upon information released from GSA and interviews with key policy making officials.