Rating System Resources

What does it mean to build sustainably?

Sustainability and green building are terms that are often used but not always defined. What does it mean if a building or project is green? In an effort to determine and measure this, different rating systems and standards have formed over the past few decades, along with version updates as new information and technology has developed. Some standards focus on the built environment holistically, while others focus on specific aspects such as equity, energy, health and wellbeing, or the natural spaces around buildings.

Buildings or projects that achieve metrics as outlined in a respective standard are designated as being certified in that standard. WIth most rating systems, individuals can become credentialed to designate their expertise in the system and certification process.  

At Green Building United, we provide education on all these rating systems and standards, and support the value each brings to advancing our vision of a sustainable, healthy, and resilient built environment for all. Below is an overview of standards and certification/credentialing bodies. If you think one is missing from the list, please contact Marjorie Alexander so we can continue to grow our resource library. 

ENERGY STAR Certification

ENERGY STAR Portolfio Manager is a government-backed, online tool used to measure and track building energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

Buildings that track their energy use information in Portfolio Manager and demonstrate high performance relative to peer buildings are eligible for ENERGY STAR Certification. This third-party certified program requires re-certification annually to ensure that buildings are maintaining their high performance over time. 

Learn more about ENERGY STAR Certification.  

Enterprise Green Communities

A proven and powerful nonprofit, Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise) improves communities and people’s lives by making well-designed homes affordable. Enterprise helps developers, investors, builders, and policymakers make the transition to a green future for affordable housing.

Enterprise developed the Green Communities Criteria to bring the improved health, economic, and environmental benefits of sustainable construction practices to low-income families.

Learn more about Enterprise Green Communities. 


Developed by General Services Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fitwel is led and operated by Center for Active Design (CfAD), the preeminent global not-for-profit organization working at the intersection of health and the built environment. 

Fitwel uses research and evaluation to inform project strategies that improve occupant health and wellness. 

Learn more about Fitwel.

LEED v4.1

Released in 2000, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building, community, and home project types, LEED provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings.

LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), whose vision is that buildings and communities will regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within a generation. 

Learn more about LEED.

Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. People from around the world use our regenerative design framework to create spaces that, like a flower, give more than they take.

LBC is managed by International Living Future Institute (ILFI), a nonprofit working to build an ecologically minded, restorative world for all people. In addition to LBC, there are several other programs, including the Living Community Challenge and Living Product Challenge. 

Learn more about the Living Building Challenge.

Passive House Institute 

Founded in 1996, Passive House Institute (PHI) is an independent research institute that has played an especially crucial role in the development of the Passive House concept. Buildings that meet Passive House can reduce energy use for heating and cooling by about 90 percent as compared to an average existing building and by about 75 percent when compared to an average new building.

PHI is the only internationally recognized, performance-based energy standard in construction.

Learn more about Passive House Institute. 

Passive House Institute US, Inc.

Passive House Institute US, Inc. (PHIUS) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization committed to making high-performance passive building the mainstream market standard. PHIUS released the PHIUS+ 2015 Passive Building Standard in March of 2015, the only passive building standard on the market based upon climate-specific comfort and performance criteria, and the only passive building standard that requires onsite QA/QC for certification. 

Learn more about Passive House Institute US, Inc.


Administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), SITES is a sustainability-focused framework that ushers landscape architects, engineers, and others toward practices that protect ecosystems and enhance the mosaic of benefits they continuously provide our communities, such as climate regulation, carbon storage and flood mitigation. SITES is the culmination of years of research and development by leading professionals in the fields of soil, water, vegetation, materials, and human health.

Learn more about SITES.


Launched in October 2014 after six years of research and development, the WELL Building Standard is the premier standard for buildings, interior spaces, and communities seeking to implement, validate, and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness.

The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) delivers the WELL Building Standard and is leading the global movement to transform our buildings and communities in ways that help people thrive.

Learn more about WELL.

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Zero Energy

Zero energy is recognized worldwide as one of the highest aspirations in energy performance in the built environment. Zero Energy Certification allows projects to demonstrate that the building is truly operating as claimed, harnessing energy from the sun, wind or earth to produce net annual energy demand. Through a third-party audit of actual performance data, Zero Energy certified projects are proven to be highly efficient buildings that rely only on clean energy, without onsite combustion of fossil fuels. Learn more about how your project can pursue Zero Energy Certification to take credible climate action, celebrate a significant accomplishment, and be a beacon of inspiration in the marketplace.

Learn more about Zero Energy Certification.

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