Green Rating Systems


Green rating systems quantify sustainability in the built environment. These rating systems, or frameworks, help us define what a sustainable project in the built environment is – from how it is conceptualized to how it is designed and ultimately constructed and operated. 

Why use a green rating system?

  1. Make better decisions for longer-term, more sustainable projects in the built environment.
  2. Benchmark and showcase sustainable achievements.

What green rating systems are available?

LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) is a rating system devised by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to evaluate the environmental performance of a building and encourage market transformation toward sustainable design. The system is credit-based, allowing projects to earn points for environmentally beneficial strategies taken during construction and use of a building. LEED was launched to develop a “consensus-based, market-driven rating system to accelerate the development and implementation of green building practices.”

Envision – developed and managed by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, provides a consistent, consensus-based framework for assessing sustainability, resiliency, and equity in civil infrastructure. Fundamentally, Envision supports higher performance through better choices in infrastructure development.

Green Roads – The Greenroads® Rating System measures and manages sustainability on transportation projects. The Rating System is the core publication used in the Greenroads Project Rating Program, which challenges project teams to go above and beyond minimum environmental, social, and economic performance measures and evaluates projects through independent, expert, third-party review

Green Globes – Green Globes is an online assessment protocol, rating system, and guidance for green building design, operation, and management. It is interactive, flexible, and affordable and provides market recognition of a building’s environmental attributes through third-party assessment.

BREEAM’s third-party certified standards have helped improve asset performance at every stage, from design through construction, to use and refurbishment.

Living Building ChallengeThe International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge is a compliance-based program that measures the performance of operational projects. Performance is measured across categories: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity, and beauty.

How does cement/concrete contribute to more sustainable projects?

With green rating systems establishing the context and outlining the parameters for what defines a sustainable project, cement and concrete contribute to sustainable outcomes in a variety of ways:

  • Pervious concrete paving and paver systems are used as best-management practices for more sustainable stormwater management;
  • The light color of traditional concrete contributes to a reduction in urban heat island impacts;
  • Cement can be used as a solidification and stabilization medium for contaminated soils on brownfield redevelopment;
  • Insulated concrete wall systems minimize or eliminate air infiltration and provide thermal mass; 
  • Concrete is very durable, lasting much longer than most building materials in similar conditions.
  • Building reuse, use of recycled content and regionally available materials are supported by concrete applications.

Cement and concrete can enhance outcomes and sustainability achievements defined by a range of green rating systems, with concrete as a sustainable choice of construction materials.

Cement Manufacturers’ Role in Green Rating Systems

The Importance of EPDs

Regardless of the rating system, a first step to demonstrating cement’s contributions to sustainability starts with the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). Many rating systems may require EPDs for the most commonly used materials as documentation to confirm sustainability achievements.


While the green rating systems discussed above aim to showcase sustainability achievements in the latter parts of the value chain, cement manufacturers can demonstrate their contributions, particularly with respect to energy efficiency, through ENERGY STAR. This certification, administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. The blue ENERGY STAR label provides simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions. PCA member-company plants regularly receive the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) distinguished ENERGY STAR certification. The designation is awarded to manufacturing plants in the top 25 percent of energy efficiency in the industrial sector.