Green Building Certification Programs

Building and site certification systems provide owners, prospective buyers, lessees, and occupants with guidelines for the design, construction and operation of green buildings and a methodology for evaluating overall building performance. These programs vary in their areas of environmental and health focus, applicable building type, and assessment approach.

Why certify a building or landscape? Green building, energy efficiency, and sustainable landscape certifications provide assurance that a builder has instituted measures to increase the performance of a building. All of the certification systems listed below require third-party verification. As green building becomes more common as a marketing pitch, such verification provides peace of mind that an owner, buyer or tenant is getting what they paid for. In addition, rating systems act as a useful guide for architects and builders to identify measures to help improve building performance. By doing the legwork to identify best practices, rating systems help simplify the research and development process for building professionals. 

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a green building rating system developed and maintained by the nonprofit US Green Building Council. Buildings are certified through an affiliate organization, the Green Building Certification Institute. LEED includes rating systems to certify new homes, multifamily and commercial buildings, tenant improvements, and even neighborhood developments, as well as existing buildings. LEED is the rating system used by the City for most municipal projects.  

Capital GREEN Toolkit

Capital GREEN is Seattle's customized program for City-owned buildings, covering small new construction and remodeling projects and tenant improvements-municipal projects otherwise not required to seek LEED certification. The toolkit is publically available and can be used to identify environmentally responsible strategies that can be incorporated into a range of project types . 

Living Building Challenge
Developed by the Pacific Northwest-based International Living Future Institute, the Living Building Challenge (LBC) establishes a series of ambitious project performance imperatives in seven categories, called Petals.  Requirements include net-zero energy and water and avoidance of "Red List" substances. All building types are eligible. Full LBC certification, "Living Status," requires meeting all of the LBC imperatives, but projects may alternatively seek "Petal" Recognition, for complying with requirements in three of the LBC's categories or they may seek Net Zero Energy Building Energy Certification by focusing primarily on the energy category.

Built Green
Built Green is an environmentally friendly, nonprofit, residential building program of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, developed in partnership with King County, Snohomish County, and other agencies in Washington State. Built Green certification is available to single family remodels, single family new construction, and multifamily buildings. 

Evergreen Sustainable Development Standard

Required of all affordable housing projects receiving Washington State Housing Trust Fund monies, the Evergreen standard combines mandatory actions with minimum points from a menu of additional options. The actions address the classic green building categories:  location/site, energy, water, materials, and health, as well as operations and maintenance issues.

Passive House
A building energy efficiency standard originating in Germany and actively used in much of Europe, the Passive House standard sets stringent energy use requirements with a primary focus on building a well-insulated and tight envelope. A building's energy use intensity is modeled via proprietary software from the Passive House Institute. 

Energy Star
A program of the US Department of Energy, ENERGY STAR is perhaps best known for energy standards for appliances. Energy Star also proffers certifications for new and existing buildings.  New commercial construction can earn a design label for estimated energy use; existing buildings receive ENERGY STAR ratings for actual monitored energy use. 

Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes
The Northwest Homes program recognizes that our regional energy codes are typically more stringent than national codes. Single family and multifamily Northwest ENERGY STAR labels are available for homes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana designed to meet criteria 15% more efficient than a typical home built to state codes.  

Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES)
The SITES program establishes performance criteria for sustainable landscape and site design. Developed by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the US Botanic Garden SITES, is a credit-based system that encourages projects to pursue benchmarks in of the areas of water, soil and vegetation, materials selection, and human health and wellbeing. It is applied to sites with and without buildings, including parks, transportation rights-of-way, and campuses.

Salmon Safe
Salmon Safe is a certification program for residential developments, farms and other agricultural projects, corporate and institutional campuses, parks, golf courses and other sites. Founded by the Pacific Rivers Council, Salmon Safe certifications were created with the aim of minimizing the impacts of human development on aquatic life, and on our native salmon species in particular, Salmon Safe pays particular attention to determining existing conditions and retaining significant stream buffers to mitigate the impacts of development.