LEED, CHPS, Green Globes What’s the Difference?

by Tim Bennett, Kincaid Bimler, Sarah Newstrom, Reid Poling, and Jake Summers
Denver Summer Interns 2017

Schools are the bastion of learning and the cornerstone of society. We send our children to them to become the leaders of tomorrow. Sure, great teachers are the core of any great institution, however, what if the actual building itself played a role in the development of our young people? If we want our students to have high performance, shouldn’t the buildings they learn in be expected to do the same?

Many schools have different methods of evaluating the success of their students. In Denver and the communities of Colorado, for example, the BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) is a grant funding program that evaluates school building performance. Through the help of LEED, Green Globes and CHPS rating program options, BEST evaluates schools based on calculations of sustainability, efficiency and health maximization.  As a special assignment, our Denver interns researched and evaluated each of these programs and provided recommendations for schools looking for help.


LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Green Globes, and CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools) are three of the major rating systems that are used for new construction and renovations of schools. All three systems have similar goals and general standards for earning credentials. However, the three systems do vary in their point systems, prerequisite criteria, and timelines for the process. In this blog, we will examine the difference and similarities between each program and recommend which ratings systems are best for certain projects.


All three standards have similar overarching goals, which include the following:

  • Encourage the stakeholders involved in the construction or renovation of a school to consider how to integrate the school into its surrounding environment
  • Make the school more energy efficient
  • Maximize the health & performance of students/staff
  • Minimize waste

In fact, many of the categories for the point systems are similar to one another. For example, all of them have a category relating to water, indoor environmental quality, energy, and site.

The cost of each certification process varies from one another.

  • LEED charges a flat registration fee with an additional fee per square foot.
  • Green Globes has a registration fee, a fee for services of the assessor, and a fee for the assessment review by GBI. Green Globes also typically takes less time than LEED certification does, which can make the average project cost less.
  • CHPS membership is free to school districts and individual schools, and provides discounts throughout the process of earning certification. There are additional fees based on the size of the project for design, construction, and performance review. More information regarding the associated fees for each rating system can be found on their websites.


LEED has 9 categories with 110 total points. Green Globes has 7 categories with 1000 total points. CHPS has 7 categories with 250 total points. The breakdown per program with the associated category weights are shown in the figure below:

LEED puts emphasis on “Energy & Atmosphere” as it makes up 28% of the total points with relatively large weights on “Indoor Environmental Quality” (14%) and “Location & Transportation” (14%) as well. LEED has some additional points specific to schools, which give additional weight to “Location & Transportation,” “Sustainable Sites,” and “Water Efficiency,” while reducing the amount of points in “Energy & Atmosphere.”

Green Globes has an emphasis on “Energy” as it makes up 38% of the total points with “Indoor Environment” (20%) being the next category.

In CHPS, 33% of their points go toward “Indoor Environmental Quality,” with the second largest category being “Energy” (25%). One important thing to note in this table is the associated weight with the category “Site.”

Green Globes allocates 12% of their points to the location of the construction while CHPS allocates 10% to similar criteria. LEED has 14% of their points allocated to “Location & Transportation” and another 11% for “Sustainable Sites” which reward projects integrated into urban settings with close proximity to public transportation. The other two systems have similar criteria as well, but LEED has the largest percentage of points allocated to the site and its location.

The amount or percentage of total points awarded to a project determines if that project gets certified, and to what extent. Depending on how many points the school earns in each category, they are able to earn different levels of certification from each program, with the exception of CHPS, which either certifies the building or not. The table below outlines these different levels of certification, where applicable. In Colorado, the Building Excellence Schools Today (BEST) Program requires the following level of certification: LEED – Gold, Green Globes – 3 globes, and CHPS – Verified Leader. These goals are also noted:


One of the most important differences between the programs is how the post-design points differ from the design-only points. CHPS awards a large percentage of points depending on how the school performs after it is built. However, Green Globes and LEED award most points based on the building’s design, with some points for commissioning and other post-construction performance. Green Globes differs from LEED by verifying all potential points after construction, where LEED only verifies some points, such as commissioning, either during or after construction. The table below indicates the number of points dedicated to each.

All Green Globes points are dependent on a site assessment conducted after construction. 29 of the points are for commissioning and training done during/after construction. All other points are based on design, with potential to be denied based on actual construction. LEED has a review stage where certain points are reviewed and awarded after construction.


The prerequisites vary for each as rating system as well. The only initial requirements for Green Globes are that the building must not have been occupied for over 18 months and must be over 400 square feet. LEED and CHPS have more stringent prerequisites that must be met in order to even be considered for certification.

LEED has requirements for fundamental commissioning, recycling, and minimum energy performance, among several others, and the prerequisites for CHPS vary by state.

When the building is finally occupied and the design review is complete, it is determined whether a school is going to be certified. Each rating system has a relatively quick turnaround time that they strive to achieve once a project is submitted. The timeline for this can be seen in the table below.

This research reveals that certain types of projects align better with specific rating systems.

These findings indicate that LEED is most suited for school projects in urban environments because of its emphasis on environmental integration, site location, and ease of access. It is also important to note that LEED is the most used and recognized rating system of the three, so there are many existing designs that meet this program’s requirements.

LEED has over 3,000 schools certified, while only 53 schools in the U.S. have at least one Green Globe. CHPS currently has certified 300 completed schools with 300 more schools in the process of seeking approval.

Green Globes is best suited for projects that do not meet the LEED or CHPS criteria since it does not have minimum requirements for each category. Green Globes differs from LEED in that it has the option to declare that certain requirements are not applicable to your specific project and forgo the requirements. Therefore, if some aspect of a school does not meet certain portions of the standard, the project is not penalized. This approach is different than requirements of LEED and CHPS. Green Globes is also well suited for projects with a major emphasis on energy since it makes up the largest portion of the points.

CHPS is well suited for projects that want have aggressive energy optimization and indoor environmental quality goals. CHPS standard also has a strong focus on post occupancy performance in these same categories. So, if your school has been designed for low energy consumption, and great indoor environmental quality, this may be the best standard to certify under.

These programs have many different factors that are incorporated into their scoring system as well as varying timelines for each program. This makes it hard to generalize which kind of project would be best suited for each program; therefore, each school should be analyzed individually to target key needs and goals before deciding which rating system would be best.

At M.E. GROUP, we are experienced at working with each of these rating systems on our school projects. Our trained team of experts are very happy to guide our clients through the labyrinth of which certification program is right for them.

Editor’s Note: Thank you very much to our interns who help assemble this blog. Best of luck to you all as you go back to school. We look forward to tracking your progress and success. It was great having you with us this summer.