There are five different publications that establish guidelines for sustainable building development that are examined in this report: (1) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (“LEED”); (2) CalGreen; (3) the International Green Construction Code (“IGCC”); (4) ASHRAE Standard 189.1 (“Standard 189.1”); and (5) The San Francisco's Green Building Ordinance (“SFGBO”).

Having multiple publications can cause confusion among building developers, architects, engineers, building consultants, or various jurisdictions on what publication to follow, use, or reference in building development projects.

This article will provide various parties involved in building development a thorough understanding of each publication and the similarities or differences between them, which will ultimately assist in identifying areas for all publications to improve.

Specifically, this article demonstrates that the Material and Energy sections for all the publications must advance beyond the current requirements. Also, the comparison validates that CalGreen's Tier 2 is similar to LEED's local ordinances, like the SFGBO. This may mean two things: (1) LEED will need to advance its gold or platinum certification requirements, or potentially become less relevant; or (2) local ordinances should reference or adopt CalGreen Tier 2 so that there is common language between local and state regulations. This article identifies that LEED has the most stringent guidelines under the Building Site section out of all the publications. Likewise, the IGCC and Standard 189.1 have provisions under the Water Use section, that goes beyond other publications. Additionally, similar language between LEED and Standard 189.1 was found, which was unsurprising as both publications are authored by the USGBC.

This was a collaborative effort that could not have been completed without the guidance of Arup that we are very appreciative of. Thanks to Christine Lee, Marshall Hilton, and Cole Roberts from Arup for their continuous direction, time, and influence on this project. Also, thank you to Mattia Murawski, Esq. for his time proofreading and editing the drafts.

Author notes


Ph.D. Student, Stanford University, Civil and Environmental Engineering, [email protected], 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA, 94305, [email protected].


Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, [email protected], 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA, 94305.