What are they? BREEAM vs LEED vs DGNB - Green building certification

Green Building Certification Systems are the collection of rating methods and tools to evaluate the performance of a building or a construction project. There are currently more than 100 building certification schemes in use worldwide, and the three most often used models for building certification are DGNB (Germany), LEED (USA), and BREEAM (UK).


What is BREEAM?


BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is considered to be the top science-based package of validation and certification programmes for environmentally friendly built environments. Since 1990, BREEAM standards, that have received third-party certification, have assisted in enhancing asset performance at every step, from design through construction to use and repair. Millions of buildings are registered worldwide to strive toward BREEAM's comprehensive strategy for achieving ESG, health, and net zero goals. It is owned by BRE, a profit-for-purpose company with a history in building science and research spanning more than a century.

The process of getting certified by BREEAM (source: BRE)
The process of getting certified by BREEAM (source: BRE)

BREEAM includes 9 categories:

  • Energy: building operational energy and CO2 emissions

  • Management: management policy, commissioning, site management and procurement

  • Health and Wellbeing: indoor and external issues (noise, light, air, quality, etc.)

  • Materials: environmental impacts of building materials

  • Transport: transport-related CO2 and location-related factors

  • Water: building consumption and efficiency

  • Waste: construction and operational waste management

  • Pollution: water and air pollution

  • Land Use & Ecology: site and building footprint and ecological value and conservation.

The rating of BREEAM (source: BRE)
The rating of BREEAM (source: BRE)

BREEAM has an overarching contribution to the SDGs that are part of the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development“, which was adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. For further information about the specific standards by BREEAM, please visit: Building Standards, Communities Standard, Infrastructure Standard and Shelter and Settlement Sustainability Tool.

"Together, buildings and construction are responsible for 39% of all carbon emissions in the world. Much like COVID-19, climate change is a global challenge that affects us all. It’s agreed, we must build back better." — BREEAM

What is LEED?


LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), an internationally renowned green building certification programme designed by the U.S. Green Building Council, offers third-party confirmation that a certain building or complex was planned and built with the following considerations in mind:

  • Regional Priority

  • Design Innovation

  • Education and Awareness

  • Location and Transportation

  • Sustainable Sites

  • Energy

  • Materials and Resources

  • Indoor Environmental Quality

  • Operations and Maintenance Costs

Based on the degree of sustainable methods implemented, which can range from the most basic sustainable design to a framework using the least amount of energy feasible, buildings and dwellings are given up to 110 points. There are four levels of LEED certification, and the greater the level, the more points were earned.

A total of 35% of LEED credits are connected to climate change, 20% have a direct influence on human health, 15% have an impact on water resources, 10% have an impact on biodiversity, 10% have an impact on the green economy, 5% have an impact on community, and 5% have an impact on natural resources. Most of the LEED credits in LEED v4.1 are connected to operational and embodied carbon.


What is DGNB?


DGNB was originally made available on the market in 2009 and has since undergone constant development. As a result, it is now not only regarded as the most cutting-edge in the world but also the Global Benchmark for Sustainability. There are several certification system options available for buildings, districts, and interiors. It aids everyone involved in building in implementing a comprehensive and sustainable quality as a planning and optimisation tool.

DGNB quality throughout the entire life cycle (source: DGNB)
DGNB quality throughout the entire life cycle (source: DGNB)

The DGNB System differs from other certification programmes on the market because it is built on three fundamental paradigms:

  • Life cycle assessment

  • Holistic

  • Performance orientation

The whole project life cycle is regularly considered during the certification process, and rather than focusing on specific metrics, the total performance of a project is assessed. The three primary sustainability domains of ecological, economy, and sociocultural issues—which are equally weighted in the evaluation—are the foundation of the DGNB System. The DGNB System takes a comprehensive approach to evaluating the location as well as the technical and procedural quality. Criteria for certification can be used to assess how well these traits work. These can be used for new structures, old buildings, renovations, and buildings that are already in operation. They are uniquely adapted to various sorts of use.

The rating system of DGNB (source: DGNB)
The rating system of DGNB (source: DGNB)

Green buildings in Vietnam?


LOTUS is the first green building criteria system developed specifically for the construction market in Vietnam, voluntarily developed by the Vietnam Green Building Council (VGBC) - a non-profit project from the Green Cities Fund (California, USA). In Vietnam, VGBC has established Vietnam Green Building Social Enterprise Co., Ltd. to conduct assessment - certification of LOTUS project and related training programs.


Similar to the structure of international green building certification systems, LOTUS has a structure of mandatory criteria (Prerequisites) and voluntary criteria (optional credits), divided into groups of criteria (Categories). LOTUS NC v3 currently has 6 main groups (Energy, Water, Materials & Resources, Health & Amenities, Place & Ecology, Management) and 1 Bonus category (recognising innovative solutions or projects) superior performance). As the name suggests, the project needs to meet the requirements of the Prerequisites in order to be considered for evaluation of the voluntary criteria. Each voluntary criterion is usually set above the minimum standards or applicable mandatory standards. The project will be awarded points (points) when meeting the requirements of a voluntary criterion. The total number of project points achieved will determine the certification level of the project.

Categories of LOTUS (VGBC)
Categories of LOTUS (VGBC)

The minimum level of LOTUS NC certification (LOTUS Certified) is set at 40% of the total points (excluding 8 bonus points). This value shows that the building has met the minimum requirements to be considered a green building. Subsequent certification levels correspond to levels of 55% (LOTUS Silver), 65% (LOTUS Gold) and 75% (LOTUS Platinum) of the total score.


By 2020, Vietnam had 34 certified LOTUS projects (37 projects in progress) and 93 certified LEED projects (145 projects in progress).


More information on green buildings in Vietnam: Vietnam Green Building Update

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