Overhead view of a patch of grass with an illustation of home and various green building components surrounding it

As sustainability becomes a vital issue in every industry, green homes are gaining popularity among buyers and renters. A green building certification can prove that a structure has been built and operates using sustainable materials and minimal waste.

This article will explain what the various green home certifications mean and show you some additional ones, giving you a better idea of all the possibilities for green building certification.

So, let’s get started!

The Best Green Building Certifications

LEED, BREEAM, and Energy Star are the most popular green building certifications. They offer ratings based on scores that reflect the performance of your building in terms of sustainability. Other certifications include Living Building, WELL Building, Passive House, and Fitwel Standard.

Now that you’ve seen the list of the most-recognized certifications let’s break each down further.

1.) LEED

The U.S. Green Building Council issues LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which certifies that a specific project fulfills certain conditions to be considered a green building.

You can apply for a LEED certification for your home based on criteria such as:

  • Water efficiency
  • Energy consumption
  • Use of sustainable materials and natural resources
  • Overall carbon footprint

Each green building criteria you fulfill gives you points. Depending on your points, you can be awarded Gold, Silver, Platinum, or Certified.

To apply for LEED certification, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the LEED certification level you want and the appropriate LEED rating system.
  2. Pay a certification and a registration fee and then submit the necessary data.
  3. Wait for the Green Building Certification Institute to review your application and respond with a rating in 20 to 25 days.


The BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is a green building certification that assesses how a structure has been built and operates. It applies to new constructions and buildings in use or being refurbished.

The rating system is based on stars, from one to six, given to a building’s environmental performance. Depending on the number, the performance of your building can be considered Outstanding, Excellent, and more.

To get a BREEAM green building certification for your home, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Choose a suitable BREEAM scheme for your home.
  2. Find a qualified BREEAM assessor.
  3. Conduct a pre-assessment of your house.
  4. Register your building for a BREEAM assessment.
  5. Get your certification.

3.) Energy Star

Even if you are new to the concept of green buildings, you may have heard of this certification. The Energy Star rating is not only for electrical appliances or home components but also for buildings. This government-issued certification focuses primarily on energy efficiency, using standards based on the International Energy Conservation Code of 2009.

A rectangular version of the Energy Star logo
Courtesy of Energy Star

To obtain an Energy Star accreditation, you must secure a score of 75 out of 100. You provide information about the size, location, and other aspects of your building, which is translated into energy consumption by an algorithm. This consumption is then compared to similar structures to determine a rating.

4.) Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge, issued by the International Living Future Institute, is another green building certification that encourages innovation in green building practices. The main idea behind this accreditation is that you should prove that your home generates more energy than it uses.

The International Living Future Institute will assess your home in seven different categories to receive certification, including: 

  • Materials
  • Place
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Health
  • Beauty
  • Equity

This assessment will be completed over one year. By the end of it, you’ll get your certification, provided your home is up to the standards of the International Living Future Institute.

5.) WELL Building Standard

You’ll find a somewhat different approach to green building standards in the WELL Building Standard certification issued by the International WELL Building Institute. This particular green building certification focuses more on the impact of a building on its users than the building itself.

This certification assesses sustainability using ten core categories: 

Courtesy of WELL Building Standard

Based on how a building performs in these categories, it can get a Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification. A WELL Building certification for your home indicates that it actively helps improve aspects of your life.

6.) The DGNB Standard

The DGNB System green building certification evaluates how a building performs in several aspects besides the environment.

These sustainability areas include:

  • Ecology
  • Economy
  • Sociocultural issues

The Sustainable Construction Council of Germany issues this standard, but it’s internationally applicable.

The DNGB Standard is well-known as one of the most comprehensive and highly advanced accreditations, assessing all aspects of a building and their impact on the general environment and human life.

7.) GreenGuard

A GreenGuard Gold certification label transposed to the left of a a plant's branch and leaves
Courtesy of Ardex

GreenGuard is another certification issued by the Greenguard Environmental Institute. This particular certification focuses on indoor air quality more than anything else, aiming to reduce indoor emissions, eliminate toxic mold, and more.

There are two different types of certifications:

  • GreenGuard Certification
  • GreenGuard Gold Certification

To get a GreenGuard specification, you must undergo an intensive application process that can last a few months.

8.) National Green Building Standard

The National Green Building Standard certification is issued by the National Association of Home Builders.

It means that a building performs satisfyingly in six main aspects, including:

  • Resource efficiency
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy efficiency
  • Site design
  • Building operation and maintenance
  • Indoor environmental quality

Note: This certification is only valid for residential homes. Your building will undergo verifications and reviews, and you will receive a score, which determines what kind of certification you’ll receive, from Bronze to Emerald.

To apply for the National Green Building Standard certification:

  1. Hire a verifier
  2. Register your project
  3. Pay a certification fee 
  4. Provide all the necessary documentation
  5. Wait for inspections
  6. Sign a final report provided by the verifier
  7. Wait for the final report to be reviewed for you to get the certification

9.) Fitwel Standard

The Fitwel logo
Courtesy of Fitwel

Fitwel is a green building certification issued by the Center for Active Design. It has a particular focus on the impact of a building on the health of its inhabitants. By applying for this green building certification, you undergo evaluations of your building based on several health impact categories that should be considered for a healthy structure, and you get a score.

A few of these categories include:

  • Water supply
  • Indoor environment
  • Building access

Besides the evaluation, you also receive essential strategies to help you avoid health risks in your home. Applying these strategies allows you to reevaluate your house and see how it improves over time. You can receive a one to three-star green building certification based on the score you get.

Follow these steps to apply:

  1. Create an account at the Fitwel Portal.
  2. Register for a project.
  3. Choose your project type and then follow the steps to evaluate your building.
  4. After evaluation, plead all the documentation needed to prove that your project is eligible for a Fitwel certification.
  5. Wait for the Fitwel team to review it—this process can take up to 12 weeks.

10.) Passive House

Issued by the Passivhaus Institute, Passive House is another green building certification that guarantees a building is energy-efficient and provides health and comfort to its occupants.

Courtesy of Passive House Institute

The main requirement to receive this certification is to use 80% less energy than the average. Interestingly, Passivhaus is German for passive house, meaning a home heated by passive means.

Unlike the other green building certifications you’ve seen so far, there are no tiers to Passive House—you either fulfill the conditions or you don’t receive certification.

You need to take these steps to receive a Passive House certification:

  1. Contact a Certified Passive House professional, such as a designer or a consultant.
  2. Choose the best way to move forward to achieve the goals needed for the certification.
  3. Use the Energy Model to help you design your building.
  4. Make corrections or updates to the plan as it starts and you apply it.
  5. Finalize the documents and submit them for certification.

11.) Active House

The Active House certification, issued by the International Active House Alliance, aims to design the so-called Active Houses. 

Its three guiding principles are:

  • Comfort
  • Energy
  • Environment

Follow these steps to start the certification process:

  1. Register and create an account to become a House Alliance member.
  2. Access all the specifications required for an Active House certification.
  3. Upload your project on the website as needed.

12.) Green Globes

Last is Green Globes, which you can obtain from the Green Building Initiative. This green building certification is used primarily in North America but is expanding internationally. Green Globes focuses on changes made to buildings to make them more efficient and comfortable while keeping in mind their impact on the climate.

A Green Globes certification includes assistance from in-house experts who will work with you to make your building as green and healthy as possible. You can receive a Green Globes rating of between one to four, with four globes indicating your building has optimal energy efficiency and occupant wellness while reducing environmental impacts.

You can apply for a Green Globes certification if you have a new construction project or an existing home. 

To get the certificate:

  1. Create an account at the Green Building Initiative website and purchase an assessment quote.
  2. Complete the Green Globes evaluation online.
  3. Collaborate with one of the experts who will conduct an assessment.
  4. Wait to receive the final report and your Green Globes certification.


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