Facilities Toolbox: Sustainability Tools
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Can sustainability be measured?

Yes, it can, at least in buildings and developments. In fact, along with other Federal agencies, the Forest Service is required to not only measure but also report on the sustainability of its 602 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) “covered facilities” each year. These buildings are evaluated using the Forest Service Building Sustainability Assessment form (link available only to FS and BLM employees) and the evaluations are summarized in the Sustainable Building Tracking Workbook (link available only to FS and BLM employees).

Several organizations and government entities also measure and evaluate sustainability, and each does it a little differently. Each of these measuring approaches evaluates methods, materials, and practices that are incorporated into a building or development. If a building or development has enough sustainable factors, it is considered sustainable. Different rating systems place emphasis on different factors.

The Forest Service Handbook 7309.11 chapter 70 requires all new Forest Service district offices, supervisor's offices, visitor centers, research facilities, and climate-controlled warehouses containing 10,000 or more gross square feet to be registered and certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system at the Silver certification level, the Green Globes rating system at the two green globes level, or another comparable third party certification system.

Photo of a large green, tan, and brown building.

The Savannah River Forestry Sciences Laboratory
building is LEED certified at the silver level. 
The window shutters (propped open in the photo)
significantly reduce the heat load and air
conditioning costs at this location in South
Carolina.  The "missiles" on top of the building
are fume hood vents.

Campus: Carrol H. Warner Savannah River Research
Campus Unit: Forest Watershed Science Research
Work Unit
Station: Southern Research Station

LEED is the best-known sustainability rating system in the United States. It is a voluntary, consensus-based standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED ratings can be obtained at four different levels, depending on the number of sustainability features incorporated into the project. Certified is the minimum level of LEED certification. Silver and gold are intermediate ratings, and platinum is the highest rating. More information on LEED is available on the What do I need to know about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)? page.

Green Globes is another system to measure and certify sustainability. Although it is available in the United States, it is used more commonly in Canada. It relies on an online auditing tool that assesses and rates buildings against best practices and standards. More information on Green Globes is available on the What do I need to know about Green Globes page.

Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is an international method of assessing building sustainability that is based in the United Kingdom and is seldom used in the United States.

EnergyStar, a joint program of the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), awards the EnergyStar label to products and systems that meet established energy efficiency requirements. It doesn't evaluate overall sustainability. EnergyStar evaluates the energy performance of:

The Energy Star program also assists homeowners, businesses, institutions, and Government agencies with energy management strategies.

In addition to these national and international programs, a number of state and local governments and organizations have developed sustainability rating systems to help contractors and building owners achieve sustainable development. These include:

Software that can help design professionals evaluate the benefits of sustainable materials and systems include: