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LEED? BREEAM? What’s the Difference?

Lots of schemes, one green building industry – the practical breakdown of which schemes are which

Schemes are the first part of this series, explaining what they are and why they matter. To fully understand the in-depth study of the green building industry, be sure to read the Introduction to the series.

What are schemes?

LEED, the Living Building Challenge (LBC), and BREEAM are considered green building rating schemes – scoring methods used to grade sustainable building projects. Schemes function as green building standards, a points system that uses different certifications to “score” projects. The schemes score construction, infrastructure, and community projects based on certified products and materials used. By recognizing certain certifications for specific credits within the schemes/standards, certified products contribute to points and the portfolio of credits met (points achieved) in the standard help demonstrate the level of sustainability for that particular building project.

For example, Clarus™ glassboards carry three different certifications that contribute to different credits in various schemes. Thus, when an architect, designer, contractor or building owner specifies Clarus glassboards on a project, the glassboards will contribute to credits in LEED, LBC etc.

While the different green building schemes share some values and accept some of the same certifications, the credits in each scheme are tailored to the overall focus of that standard. For instance, BREEAM recognizes EPDs but does not have a credit pathway for HPDs.

Schemes vary in relevance and preference based on many factors such as region, building type, and owner preference. They also vary in content based on the overarching values of the organization that owns the standard: USGBC for LEED, International Living Future Institute for LBC and BRE or Building Research Institute for BREEAM. While all of these schemes are meant to promote green building, LEED, LBC, BREEAM, compete somewhat to be the most respected building scheme with the most square feet of certified real estate. LEED is the most widely used scheme, while BREEAM is the oldest standard and more popular in Europe than LEED.

Schemes vs. Schemes

If Clarus’ certifications contribute to LEED, LBC, and BREEAM certification, how do these different green building schemes differ?

LEED certifies projects based on the life cycle of the construction project, along with the environmental impact of individual products that are included in the project.

BREEAM cares more about the practices that go on behind the scenes in manufacturing – employee treatment, emissions during production, and overall sustainable manufacturing processes.

While LEED is heavily geared towards individual product certifications, BREEAM takes more of a corporate approach to sustainability. LEED certifies buildings for using sustainable finished products, while BREEAM audits the companies included in the product supply chain and ensures responsible production – as opposed to responsible finished products.

The Living Building Challenge cares about both responsible manufacturing and sustainable finished products – requiring companies to institute company-wide initiatives to make the manufacturing process more sustainable over time.

So, though our certifications allow our glassboards to be included in many different schemes, each scheme is geared towards different aspects of green building.