Green Building Certifications, Rating Systems, & Labels

Third-party certification is a great way to add credibility to any green building.

The process of achieving certification also adds a layer of accountability and integrity for the building project team. While a space can certainly be green and high-performing if it is not certified, there are several tangible benefits that accompany certification that cannot be as easily attained without it.

Benefits include:

  • Higher rental or resale value
  • Higher occupant & tenant satisfaction
  • Higher worker productivity & pride of place
  • Lower operating costs
  • Local and national recognition opportunities

Third-party certification is not the only way to achieve a healthy and high performance space, but it is certainly one of the most efficient ways to guarantee you get one.

Every project, team, and budget will consider a variety of different delivery and verification methods for their high-performance place; however, anyone working on a green building project should review the following certification options, benefits, requirements, considerations, and costs:

energy star

ENERGY STAR for Buildings

ENERGY STAR was originally developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a voluntary labeling program to promote energy-efficient products and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

LEED Certification

LEED: Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design

Established in 1998, Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) has transformed the way we think about how our buildings and communities are designed, constructed, maintained and operated across the globe.

Living Building Challenge

Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is a philosophy, advocacy platform, and certification program that promotes a very high building standard linked to net zero energy, net zero water, beauty, and more.

well building

WELL Building Standard

The WELL Building Standard focuses on the health and wellness impacts that buildings have on occupants.  Areas of concentration are air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.

Passive House Certification

Passive House

The Passivhaus standard was developed in Germany in the early 1990s and focuses on an airtight building envelope, efficient systems, thermal bridge avoidance, and fresh filtered air.

Net Zero Energy Building

NZEB: Net Zero Energy Building

Net Zero Energy means that a building produces as much energy on site as it uses. The Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) certification is also petal achievement under the holistic Living Building Challenge; both are administered by The International Living Future Institute (ILFI).

boma - 11 stanwix

BOMA 360 Performance Program

The BOMA 360 Performance Program awards buildings that meet industry best practices in building management and operations — from by Building Owners and Managers Association International.

Green Globes

Green Globes

The Green Globes system was based on the Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) and has a lower barrier to entry than some of the other programs.



ENERGY STAR certification was first offered for homes in 1995.  Initially focused on windows, air sealing, heating, cooling, and ventication, the ENERGY STAR label has since been updated to apply to more components of the home–including lighting, insulation, and appliances.


HERS: Home Energy Rating System 

The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) is an evaluation of energy efficiency and forecasted energy costs within a home.


National Green Building Standard

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the International Code Council (ICC) partnered to establish a nationally recognized standard definition of green building for homes.


Parksmart is a building certification system specifically designed for parking garages that aims to reduce environmental impact of these structures through improved energy and parking efficiencies as well an encouraging alternative transportation and making effort to become an asset to the community.

Zero Tool

Architecture 2030 developed the Zero Tool for building sector professionals, 2030 Challenge and 2030 Commitment adopters, 2030 District Network Members, and policymakers. The Zero Tool is used to compare a building’s design or an existing building’s fossil fuel energy use intensity with similar building types.