The wide world of green building and certification schemes

In a world full of different green building ratings schemes and ecolabels, it can be a challenge to understand how they all interact and relate to each other. Each country may have multiple different green building ratings schemes, with multiple competing (or complementary) ecolabel programmes that may or may not have a direct relationship with the relevant green building industry. And once you start crossing international borders, the complexity increases.

The predominant green building ratings scheme in Australia is the Green Star system, run by the Green Building Council of Australia. Buildings are scored against a range of criteria to ensure they have been built with a low environmental impact, are being operated sustainably, and provide a healthy indoor space for their occupants. Ecolabel programmes, such as Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) and Global GreenTag, feed directly into this system, since supplying a third-party certified product for a project will automatically contribute towards certain points within the ratings system. Put simply, certification makes it easier for architects to specify products, and for manufacturers to get their products into projects.

Not all ecolabel schemes around the world contribute directly towards the green building ratings schemes in their respective countries. This can make specifying products internationally a headache for architects and manufacturers alike.

One system which aims to make the process more streamlined is the Global Ecolabelling Network’s Internationally Coordinated Ecolabelling System, or GENICES. This consists of a peer review process of GEN member environmental labelling organisations which results in a degree of mutual recognition between them. For example, if a chair has been certified under Sweden’s Nordic Swan ecolabel (recognised by GENICES), and the manufacturer seeks certification for that same product under a different GENICES-recognised ecolabel, they would only need to be assessed on criteria that differ between the two relevant standards.

This can make it easier for architects to specify products for international projects, subject to the peculiarities of that particular country’s green building scheme. It also makes it easier for manufacturers to get their products into projects outside of their country of origin.

GECA is the only Australian ecolabel with GENICES recognition. For a full list of GENICES members around the world, visit the Global Ecolabelling Network website.