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Green Certification Programs Tell The World Your Building Is Sustainable. Using Wood Can Help

Lubber Run Community Center

As the world continues to search for new ways to reduce the impact humans make on the environment, a spotlight has been placed on the construction industry. Buildings generate nearly 40% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, and as a result, developers, architects and building owners have been working overtime to go beyond basic sustainability measures to create true green spaces. 

One way that commercial industry professionals can make their buildings more sustainable is to use wood as a structural material in their projects. Architects can incorporate sustainable features into their designs through their choice of building materials.

Wood building products and components fit well within many sustainable building scenarios while also adding other benefits such as natural warmth and beauty. Wood is a versatile, durable building material that can be used in almost any building application. It is renewable and sustainable, and wood products typically require less energy to produce than other building materials. Green building standards also recognize wood’s contribution to improved energy performance over time.

As they grow, trees release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When trees are harvested and manufactured into wood products, like dimensional or appearance lumber or mass timber, those products continue to store carbon. Research shows that every ton of wood used in place of an alternative building material potentially avoids 2.1 tons of carbon, or 7.7 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, being released into the air. Wood products comprise 47% of the industrial raw material manufactured in the U.S. but make up only 4% of the energy needed for building construction

When builders choose to specify renewable construction materials like wood, not only are they reducing their building’s impact on the environment, they are also increasing the opportunity to receive industry recognition for their commitment to going green.

In the past few years, a number of green building ratings systems have been developed at national and local government levels. When buildings are awarded one of these ratings, it not only proves to regulators that the building is meeting energy efficiency goals and standards but also communicates to potential tenants that their home or office is aligned with their own personal sustainability goals. There are many green building certification systems. Here is a breakdown of three key certification systems and how using wood can help buildings qualify. 

Green Globes 

Green Globes is a building assessment and certification program from the Green Building Initiative. Under Green Globes, buildings are given a score of up to 1,000 points based on criteria that include efforts to conserve energy and reduce water consumption and whether buildings used sustainable materials in the construction process. Once a building has received its score, it is awarded one, two, three or four Green Globes. 

Building teams that choose wood may be more likely to receive a higher Green Globes score due to wood’s energy and acoustic properties, renewability and the economic value that it can provide — not only to a project but to the community that is responsible for the harvesting and manufacturing of the wood products used in construction. 


Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, from the U.S. Green Building Council is the world’s best-known green building rating system. LEED assigns buildings points based on the number of design choices that reduce a building’s impact on the environment. These choices can range from specifying sustainable building materials to implementing a plan for collecting recyclables or constructing a water conservation system. The benefits of LEED go beyond reduced water and energy usage, affecting the health and prosperity of entire communities. LEED-certified projects can also save money for families, businesses and taxpayers, in addition to reducing carbon and creating a healthier environment in which people can thrive.

In the LEED system, buildings are awarded points that help them qualify for different levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. The latest version of this system, LEED v4.1, places an emphasis on considering the environmental impact of building structural materials. According to the materials and resources chapter of LEED v4.1, buildings can earn LEED points by using wood because of its positive environmental attributes. Building teams can earn additional points if the wood used is manufactured or harvested within a 500-mile radius of the project.

National Green Building Standard

The National Green Building Standard is a certification program focused on residential projects from the American National Standards Institute. Similar to LEED and Green Globes, the NGBS is a point-based system that offers four levels of certification — Bronze, Silver, Gold and Emerald. 

Builders can earn NGBS points by using wood and recyclable building materials. Using wood can earn buildings points in several categories, including resource efficiency, energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality. There are a number of manufactured wood products on the market that have been NGBS-certified.  

The environmental advantages of using wood products are recognized by each certification system. Earning a green building certification communicates that a building is not only attractive and functional but was built with the future of the environment in mind. 

This feature was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Think Wood. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content. 

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