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LEED? Declare? One’s a Scheme and One’s a Certification…

The how-to’s of green building + infographics for the visual learner in all of us.

In the last part of this blog series, we talked about different schemes – like LEED, BREEAM, and Living Building Challenge. Today, we’ll uncover which certifications fall under which schemes and provide you with an infographic to help make sense of it all!

What are certifications?

Individual certifications contribute points to an overall scheme. For example, if a building project is being scored for LEED, the Clarus™ EPD, Declare, and Indoor Advantage certifications would allow our glassboards to contribute to points in the LEED building’s scoring. However, if a building project is pursuing the BREEAM scheme, only Clarus’ EPD would contribute points to the building’s score because the rating scheme values different certifications.

Certifications apply to individual products or raw materials that go into projects. These certifications can contribute points to many different schemes, such as LEED, BREEAM, WELL, LBC, and many others not included here. Often, products and materials specified on green building projects are selected because of environmental certification(s) that contribute points to the scheme.

Schemes vs. Certifications

Since both green building projects and individual products/materials get “certified,” it can get confusing. Entire projects are certified under building schemes, such as LEED, BREEAM, and LBC; while individual products are certified under labels and environmental certifications.

For example, John is the head contractor on a construction project. He is trying to get his building project certified under the LEED scheme. Many people have asked him which “LEED certified products” he’s including in the project, but this is incorrect phrasing – products are never LEED certified, only projects are. Products simply have individual certifications that contribute points to the overall scoring of LEED projects.

Another example – if Jane were trying to get her glassboards “LEED certified,” this would also be incorrect phrasing. Jane would simply get her products tested under individual certifications, such as EPD, IAQ, and Declare, so that her glassboards contribute to credits in the LEED standard to be more attractive for inclusion in LEED projects.

Projects are certified under schemes. Products receive individual certifications in order to contribute points to projects’ scores within a green building rating system or scheme.

Who decides which certifications matter?

Each scheme is developed and managed by a different operating organization. For example, LEED is a scheme of the US Green Building Council (USGBC); Living Building Challenge (LBC) is managed by the International Living Future Institute; and BREEAM by the Building Research Establishment (BRE).

Each organization develops its scheme to account and allocate points for different credits. So, each organization decides what their scheme will value and which certifications qualify to contribute to their scheme. For example, let’s say that each category in LEED is a bucket – LEED has a bucket for low-emitting material credits, another bucket for material ingredient disclosure certifications, another bucket for environmental product declarations, and many other “buckets” or credit categories.

Each scheme has different buckets for different types of sustainability that adhere to its standard. While one scheme might have a bucket for air quality, another scheme will have a bucket for a product’s lifecycle. Certifications fill different “buckets” and when buckets are filled, projects earn points for the building’s scheme score.