Last month the U.S. Green Building Council announced that its certification body, the Green Business Certification Inc. will now administer the Green Garage Certification Program with its acquisition of the Green Parking Council.

In spite of the speculation over whether Uber means more car miles or less and what impact Zipcar and other car sharing programs will have, off street parking will still be required. Green Garage Certification will go a long way toward resolving the debate of whether off street parking can be sustainable.

Certifying green parking garages is a big deal if only because USGBC used to LEED certify parking garages and then, allowing those that saw a sustainable parking garage as oxymoronic to win out, it didn’t.  Today parking garages for cars and trucks may not pursue LEED certification. More specifically,  as of a LEED Interpretation issued on May 9, 2011, “buildings that dedicate more than 75% of floor area all square footage, to the storage and circulation of cars and/or trucks are ineligible for LEED.” This interpretation has fueled the debate, including because many saw it as disadvantaging urban projects that must provide structured parking in favor of green field development with surface parking. Additionally, the interpretation has been problematic when local laws or organizational policies require all building to be LEED certified (e.g., green bond funding for a parking garage).

So, it is positive that the Green Parking Council, an affiliate of the International Parking Institute, was the latest not for profit business acquired by GBCI.

The Green Parking Council provides “leadership and oversight for the green conversion of parking facilities to sustainable, environmentally responsible assets.” The Green Garage Certification program launched in June, 2014 is the parking industry equivalent of LEED certification.

The program was designed with the vision that “parking can be a ‘greener’ good, service, and real estate class.”  And facilities that adopt and promulgate the program can be more profitable and provide a higher level of service, advancing the industry as a whole.  The program seeks to provide and recognize best practices in the parking industry, including “to benchmark success as well as potential, measuring impacts to people, planet, and profit, so we can learn to create greater return on investment and raise the bar on garage performance.”

The program applies not only to new and proposed structures, but also to existing structures. Points are assigned to specific measures based on environmental impact. A total of 248 points are available, with Green Garage Certification achieved for new structures achieving at least 110 points with a minimum of 20 points in each of the Management, Programming, and Technology and Structure Design categories. New garages achieving 110 to 134 certification points are recognized at the Bronze Level, those demonstrating between 135 and 159 points earn the Silver distinction, and exemplary performers reaching at least 160 points are recognized as Gold Certified Garages.

Existing garages seeking certification must achieve at least 90 points with a minimum of 15 points in each of the categories.

Program details are contained within the Green Garage Certification Standard, a 195 page book available for purchase.

Applicants for Green Garage Certification are not required to use a program assessor, but there are trained assessors available.

Green Garage Certification is not LEED certification, but it is a very good thing. It might be even better if as part of this acquisition USGBC reopened the debate over the sustainable merits of structured parking and changing LEED so that parking garages may be included in the gross floor area of a LEED project building.