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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Rice

Which Greenbuilding Rating System is Best for Your Project?

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Written by Rebecca Rice, Senior Consultant, LEED AP BD&C, WELL AP

In recent months, there has been a steady uptick in the number of clients asking us for help in selecting a greenbuilding rating system that best fits their project scope and sustainability goals. We LOVE talking greenbuilding rating systems, so here is a quick and dirty comparison of three rating systems we’re seeing with a lot of traction industry-wide.

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)

If you’ve been in the design and construction industry, even for a short time, chances are you know LEED. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED certification was launched in 1993 and is now in version 4 with a beta version 4.1 recently released. LEED focuses on the impact a building has in relation to energy sustainability and carbon reduction. A points-based rating system where the energy credits comprise thirty percent of all available points, and water efficiency and sustainable materials comprise another twenty two percent, LEED helps building owners understand how their building impacts the environment. There are twelve preconditions that must be met across five of the seven major credit categories and Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI) is the third-party certifying body who reviews documentation and awards the certification. LEED certified buildings realize energy and water savings, as well as operational cost savings over time.


Not an acronym, WELL stands for the WELL Building Standard and was launched by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) in 2014 after a six-year expert peer review process that included scientists, practitioners, and medical professionals from around the world. WELL is the first standard to focus exclusively on optimizing buildings to benefit peoples’ health and aids building owners in understanding exactly how their building impacts human beings. WELL is a framework to comprehensively address the wellbeing of building occupants in areas with distinct health intents, including Air and Water quality, Nourishment, Light Quality, Movement, Thermal Comfort, Acoustics, Materials, Mind, and Community. Just like LEED, WELL requires preconditions to be met, but preconditions span all 10 concept categories. WELL is a points-based system and also uses GBCI as the certifying body. The major difference in achieving WELL is that it prioritizes accountability through a data-driven performance review and on-site environmental assessment (think air, water, lighting and acoustic measurements plus visual inspections for proper handwashing supplies, entryway systems, and other parameters). WELL is pushing the design and construction industry towards using buildings as a means to preventative healthcare.

The WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations & Management (HSR)

The newcomer here is IWBI’s WELL Health-Safety Rating developed in 2020 in response to the Covid-19 global pandemic. To achieve this rating, building owners must focus on the adoption of policies and procedures to facilitate a healthy and safe workplace or facility. Like WELL, HSR is an evidence-based, third party verified rating system, but there are no preconditions required and only 15 of the 22 features must be achieved to earn the seal. Available features focus on implementation of facilities management and maintenance protocols designed to reduce the risk of infectious disease transmission and other health emergencies. No onsite assessment is required, and the building must be recertified every year pending ongoing air and water quality test results.

Figure 1. Greenbuilding Rating System Comparison

We are seeing these rating systems frequently being pursued together to provide an all-inclusive framework to rating both a building’s environmental and human impact. To learn more reach out to

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