Common Green Building Certification Systems in Construction

Thanks to green building certification systems, even our basic building standards are constantly evolving. Today, general building code standards are more robust, and would be equivalent to what may have been a base level green certified building 20 years ago. This ensures the entire industry progresses, while those with the available resources can go above and beyond to incorporate the stricter initiatives necessary for today’s green building certification systems.

Green building certification systems are a set of rating systems and tools used to assess a building or construction project’s sustainability and environmental impact. The goal of these systems is to improve the overall quality of the buildings while also integrating a life cycle approach in design and construction.

McCownGordon helps clients reach for and achieve a variety of green building certification systems. Read on to learn about the most common systems available to us today.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifies more 2.2 million square feet of construction space each day. LEED certifications provide independent verification of the building’s green features. The incentive of this leads to the design, construction, operations, and maintenance of resource-efficient, high-performing, healthy, and cost-effective buildings. Through LEED projects, companies divert more than 80 million tons of waste from landfills and directly contribute tens of billions of dollars into the US GDP.

From the early years of LEED certification, McCownGordon has been a leader in the industry, having completed more than 30 LEED-certified buildings.

Check out one of our LEED Platinum projects

Green Globes®

Green Globes certification is a sustainable building rating system that evaluates the environmental performance of commercial and multi-family buildings. Administered by the Green Building Initiative (GBI), Green Globes assesses various aspects of building design, construction, and operation, focusing on energy efficiency, water conservation, materials selection, indoor environmental quality, and site sustainability. The certification process involves a comprehensive assessment, allowing for flexibility in implementation based on project-specific goals and constraints. In 2022, GBI certified more than 300 buildings across 68.2 million square feet of space.

Benefits of Green Globes certification include reduced environmental impact, lower operating costs through improved energy and water efficiency, enhanced occupant comfort and health, and recognition for sustainable building practices. Additionally, Green Globes certification provides guidance for ongoing building performance monitoring and improvement, ensuring long-term sustainability and resilience. Green Globes uses an assessment process intended to mimic the design and construction schedule for new construction. This assessment process helps facilitate a seamless certification and meshes well with McCownGordon’s approach of integrating our sustainability experts as early as possible into the design phase. Through early integration, we prevent time-consuming and costly project changes.


WELL certification is a comprehensive framework designed to prioritize human health and well-being in the built environment. Developed by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), it encompasses seven core categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. By addressing various aspects of building design, construction, and operation, WELL certification aims to create spaces that promote occupant health and productivity. Currently, WELL is being implemented in over 40,000 locations in more than 124 countries, encompassing over 4.7 billion square feet of real estate around the world.

Benefits of WELL certification include improved indoor air quality, access to clean water and nutritious food options, optimized lighting for circadian rhythms, opportunities for physical activity and ergonomic design, as well as strategies to reduce stress and enhance mental well-being.


The Fitwel certification system, administered by the Center for Active Design, is a leading global health and wellness certification program for buildings and communities. Fitwel promotes health and well-being by providing evidence-based design and operational strategies that optimize the built environment for occupants. Buildings that achieve Fitwel certification are designed and operated to support physical activity, promote healthy eating, improve indoor air quality, and enhance mental well-being. Fitwel-certified spaces often feature amenities such as walking paths, fitness facilities, healthy food options, and access to natural light and green spaces. Fitwel is currently being implemented in more than 23 million buildings and positively impacting 154 million occupants.

Fitwel certification benefits include increased productivity and satisfaction among occupants, reduced absenteeism, improved retention rates, and enhanced marketability in the competitive real estate market. Fitwell is expanding quickly thanks to communities and individuals who are interested in creating public and private spaces that offer a healthy quality of life.

Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is a rigorous sustainability certification program that goes beyond LEED certification in its requirements. It aims to promote the creation of regenerative buildings that give back more to the environment than they take. LBC certification is granted to buildings that meet a set of stringent criteria across seven performance areas: place, water, energy, health & happiness, materials, equity, and beauty. One of the core principles of LBC is the creation of buildings that operate as self-sufficient, ecological entities, generating their own energy, capturing and treating their own water, and using non-toxic, locally sourced materials. LBC currently has more than 800 certified or registered projects across 55 million square feet of space.

Not only do LBC-certified buildings significantly reduce their environmental impact by minimizing energy and water consumption, but they also prioritize human health and well-being through features like abundant daylight, optimal indoor air quality, and access to nature.

Energy Star

The Energy Star certification program is a widely recognized symbol of energy efficiency and environmental stewardship for buildings and products. Developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Energy Star certification signifies that a building meets strict energy performance standards, resulting in reduced energy consumption, lower utility bills, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings that earn the Energy Star label typically use 35% less energy and generate 35% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than average buildings. Last year, the Energy Star program helped organizations avoid $14 billion in energy costs, 230 billion kWh of electricity, and 170 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

The benefits of achieving Energy Star certification extend beyond energy savings. Certified buildings often provide improved comfort and indoor air quality for occupants. Energy Star certification not only demonstrates a commitment to environmental responsibility but also offers tangible financial and operational benefits for building owners and occupants alike.


The Parksmart certification program, developed by the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), focuses on sustainable parking structures and facilities. Parksmart certification recognizes parking facilities that are designed, built, and operated with sustainability in mind, promoting practices that reduce environmental impact, enhance performance, and improve the overall user experience. Parksmart-certified facilities implement strategies such as efficient lighting, stormwater management, alternative transportation options, and innovative technologies to minimize energy consumption, reduce emissions, and optimize space utilization. Since 2021, over 150 projects have been registered or certified with Parksmart.

By achieving Parksmart certification, parking facilities demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, contributing to a healthier environment and community. Additionally, Parksmart-certified facilities often experience benefits such as lower operating costs and improved customer satisfaction. Parksmart certification offers a comprehensive framework for parking facilities to integrate sustainability into their operations, leading to long-term environmental, social, and economic benefits

Whether your goal is to provide a measurable level of carbon footprint reduction, achieve a rigorous sustainability certification, or simply limit your environmental impact, the McCownGordon team can help you achieve your environmental, social, and governance goals.