Know your BREEAMs from your LEEDS? Flummoxed by ISOs and Green Stars? Try Building Sustainability's new directory of global green standards


What’s the best method for measuring the sustainability of our building or design? That depends on who you ask and where you are. While the UK uses BREEAM, American accreditation goes by the acronym LEED and Australia has Green Stars.

Can these disparate accreditation methods survive in our global economy, though? Or, will one eventually usurp the rest as the predominant and ultimately only globally recognised green building assessment method?

Ché Wall, founder of the Australian Green Building Council and past chair of the World Green Building Council, believes that there may come a time when one brand will be globally recognised. “The secret to successful environmental assessment is localisation,” he says. “Different regions face different challenges, and, while multi-nationals want to have one recognised assessment method, we cannot dismiss the different requirements of, say, the Middle East and Northern Europe.”

Below is a list of some of the green measurement methods used around the world:


The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) has been used, mostly in the UK, for over a decade now. It assesses the environmental performance of both new and existing buildings in several categories and is regarded by the UK’s construction and property sectors as the measure of best practice in environmental design and management.

Though the principles of BREEAM are applicable to many types of construction, the program originated to cater to offices, homes, industrial and retail units.


The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System in 1995. LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings.

The growth of the LEED certification program reaches far beyond the U.S, with projects being registered and built as far afield as Sri Lanka, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain. Canada is the first country outside the U.S. to license the use of LEED.


LEED-INDIA gives building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings' performance. LEED-INDIA promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: Sustainable site development, Water savings, Energy efficiency, Materials selection and Indoor environmental quality.

Green Star

Launched in 2002, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has already created Green Star rating tools for commercial building design, as built, existing and building management.

The two prerequisites for a Green Star building are that it has a base building energy performance of 4 stars based on the Australian building Greenhouse Rating (ABGR) program and that its site not be on land of high ecological or social value. Unlike other assessment tools, credits are given a weight based on the location of the project to reflect the different needs and ecologies of the States of Australia.

The certification process is similar to that of LEED but it also incorporates elements of the BREEAM accreditation criteria. Some 70% of commercial buildings built or being built in Australia since 2002 are Green Star rated.


The Hong Kong Building Environmental Assessment Method (HK-BEAM), established in 1996, is a voluntary assessment tool based on BREEAM. Initially, the system looked at environmental issues under global, local and indoor impacts in two versions, one for new buildings and another for existing buildings. In 1999 the system was edited for offices and a new assessment tool was created for high-rise buildings.

HK-BEAM complements current regulations, such as Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines (KHPSG) and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Ordinance which address land use, construction and building operation.

Protocollo ITACA

The federal association of the Italian regions and autonomous provinces formed Innovation and Transparency of the Contracts and Environmental Compatibility (ITACA) to define green building and serve as an assessment standard. In October 2003, the first version of Protocollo ITACA was released and has been adopted by some regions. Since the first release, two simplified versions were released in 2004 with scientific certainty, public interest and simplicity in mind.


Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environmental Efficiency (CASBEE) is a standard followed in Japan, which uses building environmental efficiency (BEE) as a basis for assessment by dividing the building environmental quality and performance by the building environmental loads.

Singapore Green Plan 2012

The Singapore Green Plan 2012 was formed in 2002 and updated in 2006. Singapore’s devotion to a “zero landfill” goal, protection of biodiversity, energy efficiency for clean air, water conservation, improved public health, community partnership, international collaboration, and innovation for sustainability works to support the Green Plan.

The government has encourages companies to seek ISO 14001 Certification as participants in the Green Plan.

Taiwan’s Architecture and Building Research Institute (ABRI)

Taiwan’s ABRI has proposed a “Green Building and Living Environmental Technology Plan” and “Green Building Promotion Program.” The focus of these two initiatives is on ecological environmental technology, construction waste reduction, building energy conservation, natural resource usage, indoor environmental quality control, and green building demonstrative projects. The Green Building Evaluation and Labelling System is developed for tropical and subtropical regions. The goal is to begin with a green building and move concentrically to green community, green city, and finally, green country.

France HQE

HQE - high environmental quality - approach focuses on criteria for reducing consumption of natural resources and discharge of pollutants, as well as for enhancing the comfort and the health conditions of buildings. It concerns especially the design and the construction phases both of refurbishment projects and of new building projects.

ISO 14001

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sets international measurement standards for a wide variety of fields including date and time format, engineering and technology methods, quantities and units, and management systems. It is under management systems that the ISO 14001 family of environmental standards falls.

The product and service level includes using environmental declarations and claims, conducting life cycle assessments and addressing environmental aspects in products and product standards.