By Steve Rizer
Can the new nationwide version of the Earth Advantage Commercial (EAC) green building certification program carve out a significant niche in a marketplace dominated by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system? Time will tell, but a spokesperson for the nonprofit Earth Advantage Institute (EAI), which launched EAC Version 2.0 last month, informed ConstructionPro Week that the program “is seeing initial uptake in the Pacific Northwest and West Coast, with interest coming from the East Coast and Midwest already, as well.”
EAC addresses various space use types in commercial buildings under 100,000 square feet. The green building rating system addresses sustainability via five categories: energy; water; health; materials; and land. The system offers three levels of certification: Silver; Gold; and Platinum.
Measures in each category address specific sustainability targets. Certification levels are cumulative. To achieve any level of certification, all requirements in all categories at that level mush be accomplished, plus all requirements in preceding levels. Additional measures are required in each category at each level of certification. To achieve any level of certification, program participants must accomplish the requirements of each required measure and document compliance in conjunction with field inspections. The fee per project for certification is $5,000, with $2,500 due at the time of enrollment and $2,500 due at the time of submission for final certification.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, EAC functioned as a utility-run certification program for energy-efficient and green buildings. Prior to EAI becoming a nonprofit in 2005, the first EAC program was a subsidiary of Portland General Electric and was responsible for certifying more than 50 buildings. In 2008, EAI revised the EAC system to specifically address the small commercial market in order to address what EAI termed “a major gap in green building certification uptake,” and piloted the system in Oregon.
In 2010, EAI began piloting a retooled commercial certification concept in collaboration with Energy Trust of Oregon. Ten new buildings were involved in testing program requirements and viability. Late last year, EAI determined that the success of the pilot projects warranted a full national launch of the program this year. Last August, 12 representatives from eight architectural, engineering, and green-building consulting firms completed a two-day Project Trustee training and credentialing exam to become part of EAC’s Preferred Partner network. The Preferred Partner network is a new “rapid deployment” delivery mechanism for EAC certification that initially will be concentrated in the Pacific Northwest and the west coast.
Smaller buildings (less than 50,000 square feet) make up the vast majority of commercial buildings in the U.S. but tend to be excluded from uptake of certified green building rating systems due to various barriers, according to EAI.
A spokesperson for USGBC declined to comment on EAI’s assertion that there is a need for a more affordable, less-complex option in the marketplace for certifying commercial buildings of less than 100,000 square feet as green.