BREEAM, Fitwel, or GRESB? How to Choose the Right Green or ESG Certificate?
How to choose the right green business certification? How to navigate through them? Follow our overview of the most used sustainable certifications assessing office buildings and workplace.
Responsible real estate companies are looking for ways to improve their environmental impact. Ecology or green and ESG certifications are valuable tools when assessing the sustainability of any office building or tenant space and behavior.
To help you navigate the flood of certificates available on the commercial real estate market, we've selected nine of them. What do they have in common? First, they prove that a company is committed to a cleaner and greener future. Second, we have the most experience in obtaining these certificates for our clients or with our sustainability partners.
Note: Certifications below are ordered randomly, not according to their market share or importance.
BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) claims to be the world’s leading science-based suite of validation and certification systems for a sustainable built environment. The BREEAM ratings range from Acceptable (In-Use scheme only) to Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent to Outstanding.
Certification is conducted by an independent, third-party licensed Assessor. BREEAM is the world’s first green building rating system, developed by BRE in 1990. Today, it is the most widely used program with over 2,200,000 registered projects and over 560,000 certified assets.
Certification authority: BRE (Building Research Establishment) Group
Recertifying: Required every 3 years or earlier if there are significant changes to the building’s performance
Like BREEAM, this certification boasts that it's “the most widely used green building rating system.” It was launched in 2000. To achieve LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a project earns points by adhering to prerequisites and credits that address carbon, energy, water, waste, transportation, materials, health and indoor environmental quality.
Projects go through a verification and review process by GBCI (The Green Business Certification Inc.) and are awarded points that correspond to a level of LEED certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum (80+ points).
Certification authority: The Green Business Certification Inc. founded in 2008 with the support of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)
The WELL certification was designed to demonstrate your commitment to well-being by earning the highest pinnacle of health achievement across 10 categories: Air quality, water management, visual lighting design, thermal performance, or waste management. Projects receive a plaque indicative of one of four levels of certification: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
WELL was launched in 2014, and later in 2018, it was updated to what is now presented as WELL v2. The certificate is divided into two categories – one assessing tenant spaces (Owner-occupied), second is for core and shell buildings (WELL Core). In 2020, they expanded the portfolio to include WELL Health-Safety Rating to address a post-COVID-19 environment.
Certification authority: International WELL Building Institute
This program was originally created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and U.S. General Services Administration. Fitwel's mission is expressed as “a healthier future where all buildings and communities are enhanced to strengthen health and well-being.”
It provides two types of certifications: 1) New Construction – divided further into two subgroups: Design Certification (prior to occupancy) and Built Certification (post-occupancy). 2) Existing Building. If the project is certified, the rating is from 1 (minimum) to 3 stars (maximum).
P.S. Don't mess Fitwel with Fitwell – with double “L”, an Italian shoemaker.
Certification authority: The Center for Active Design
GRESB is not the name of the certificate, but rather an independent organization providing validated ESG performance data and peer benchmarks. In 2021, more than 1,500 property companies, REITs, funds, and developers participated in the GRESB Real Estate Assessment.
After submitting all required documents, you'll gain a clear picture of your ESG performance, how it compares against peers and what you can do to improve. The GRESB Score is an overall measure of ESG performance – represented as a percentage (100 percent maximum). Your GRESB Score gives you quantitative insight into your ESG performance in absolute terms, over time and against your peers.
Certification authority: GRESB (based in Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Your monthly dose of PropTech news and company updates
Based on their self-presentation, WiredScore assesses, certifies, and improves digital connectivity and smart technology in homes and offices on a global scale. It's relevant for occupied properties or for ones under development as well.
The WiredScore scorecard measures five key aspects of the building’s digital capabilities, ranging from its ability to adapt to future technology, to the overall quality of the user experience. Including aspects such as 5G readiness or wi-fi strength. The ranking goes from Certified - Silver - Gold - to Platinum.
Certification authority: WiredScore, founded in 2013 in NYC
SmartScore is the latest certification, launched in April 2021, by WiredScore. It identifies and certifies the world's best-in-class smart buildings that deliver an expectational user experience, drive cost efficiency, meet high standards of sustainability, and are fully future-proof.
The global standard of certification provides clarity on what constitutes a smart building, guidance on how to achieve the status, and proof of the value it adds to your asset. It measures two sections: User functionality, and technological foundation. There are 4 levels of ranking: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
Certification authority: WiredScore (company founded in 2013, SmartScore launched in 2021)
B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.
This certification offers a holistic approach, not exclusively focused on a single social or environmental issue of the company. It evaluates various parameters in the areas of social and environmental performance, legal commitment, and transparency.
Interested in which companies were recognized as the top-performing B Corps creating great impact through their businesses? See the Best For The World 2022 List HERE.
Certification authority: B Lab (nonprofit organization), founded in 2006
GBB’s certification process is entirely online and initiative based, so a company will receive points for each and every activity it has completed. Its EcoAssessment and EcoPlanner tools include over 400 green initiatives and EcoPlans to consider and choose from. Initiatives are organized by the business area they impact, such as building, cafeteria, transportation, or office materials,
By completing green initiatives in online tools, GBB Members earn their green status ranking Aware - Gold - Platinum (complete enough initiatives to reach 400 EcoPoints).
Above we've listed only the most frequently used certifications to provide you with an overview of what's available on the market. You can certainly find plenty of other sustainable programs like Energy Star, GreenGuard, or for example Green Star which is only available for premises located in Australia.
Good job! You made it to the end of our overview of the most widely recognized green building rating and certification programs. If you want to know more about how PropTech solutions can help you receive one of these certifications, get in touch with our ESG and sustainability specialists!