Built Environment “Goldilocks” – Finding the right sustainability certifications for your project

Built Environment “Goldilocks”

Finding the right sustainability certifications for your project

By Allison Hudock


Folks may be familiar with LEED, the world’s most widely used green building rating system, but they may not know that it’s not the only one. We’re here to bring attention to the multitude of sustainability certifications that are available so project teams can determine which is the best fit for your project.

Each project has its own objectives, whether that be health and wellness, innovation in green building, or real estate portfolio value. One size doesn’t fit all, but the beauty is that there are many to choose from and some might suit your project just right.

The Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR) and Basis of Design (BOD) may dictate the direction of a project’s sustainability goals. Other times, the rating system discussion takes place in collaboration with a sustainability consultant and/or architect to advise the client on what certification options will best suit the needs of the project to achieve the Owner’s desired outcome.

Below, we’ve grouped the most common building certification programs certifications into several categories.


The following certification systems are most commonly chosen by Verdical Group’s clients due to their wide applicability and recognizability within the wider community. ILFI Living Building Challenge is the most ambitious and stringent of the certifications in this section.

International Rating Systems
The following UK and Canada -based programs are less commonly used in the USA.

The Envision Rating System was developed by and is managed by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure based in Washington, DC (USA). This program is tailored to promote sustainable, resilient, and equitable public and private civil engineering projects around the world such as bridges, community solar, utility infrastructure, and flood barriers for coastal resiliency. Envision asks, “Are we doing the project right?” and “Are we doing the right project?”

As a nationwide leader in promoting sustainable development, California has created the CALGreen standard, a code requirement that is mandated by the State of California. California Assembly Bill 802, which is also known as the Energy Benchmark and applies to commercial properties over 50,000 square feet and residential properties with 17 or more units, requires building owners to benchmark their energy usage. In Los Angeles, the Existing Buildings Energy & Water Efficiency (EBEWE) Disclosure program also requires building owners to benchmark and disclose their building’s energy and water usage annually.

Specialty Certifications

These certifications demonstrate a project’s commitment to energy, waste reduction, and/or promotion of social equity in the built environment.


Residential projects have their own rating systems to specifically address their unique attributes. For example, Perlita Passive House is a 2,000-square-foot single family residential project located in Atwater Village in Los Angeles, CA. In addition to achieving Living Building Challenge Energy, Beauty, and Health Petal Certifications, the project was the nation’s third Passive House and produces more energy annually than is consumed.

What’s Next?

Are you an Architect or Contractor working on a project with sustainability goals and don’t know where to start? You’re in the right place! This is what we do at Verdical Group: We manage green building certifications and code compliance, from beginning design, to energy modeling, down to the last commissioning visit. We can help to evaluate the right rating system(s) for your project; we have experience and expertise in services including LEED, WELL, Fitwel, ActiveScore, ESG development, CALGreen, energy modeling, daylight modeling, net zero consulting, life cycle assessments (LCAs), green events, PV analysis, commissioning, and sustainability training. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your project goals!