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Increasingly, building green is a global concern–though defining sustainable building may vary by country. A case in point is the AMB Kasugai Distribution Center in Nagoya Japan, which just received class “S” CASBEE rating–the highest rating of certification by the Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environmental Efficiency (CASBEE)–the first logistic facility in Japan to do so.

While CASBEE certification was not required for the 986,000-square-foot, multi-story project, it does demonstrate the growing awareness of “green” building around Japan and worldwide, says Aaron G. Binkley, director of sustainability programs of San Francisco-based AMB Property Corp., the project’s developer and a builder of industrial facilities in the United States, Asia and Europe. Japan recently adopted a Revised Energy Saving Act, which calls for effective use of energy and other resources in transportation and related activities.

“There is an increasing level of sophistication,” Binkley says. “In addition, we also are seeing more stringent regulation on a global level. To exceed their various standards helps the development process.”

But regulations will vary globally as well. CASBEE S is the equivalent of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification in the United States, but achieving the highest level of sustainability differs slightly in the two countries, both in philosophy and process.

LEED is the older designation, beginning with the establishment of the not-for-profit US Green Building Council in 1994, and the release of the first rating system in 1998. In Japan, on the other hand, a joint industrial/government/academic project was initiated with the support of the Housing Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) in 2001. This led to the creation of the Japan GreenBuild Council (JaGBC)/Japan Sustainable Building Consortium (JSBC)–which created the CASBEE system.

Today, LEED certification is available for new construction, existing buildings–operations and maintenance–commercial interiors, core and shell, schools, retail, healthcare, homes and neighborhood development–in pilot. CASBEE certification is available for New Construction, Existing Building, Renovation, Heat Island, Urban Development, Urban Area plus Buildings and detailed home.

Potential CASBEE-certified buildings are assessed by both their environmental efficiency and their impact on the overall environment. The ranking assigns separate scores for Q (Quality: environmental quality) and L (Load: building environmental load) and ultimately gives an assessment of Building Environmental Efficiency (BEE) based on those results.

“That approach is employed because ‘higher marks for improving load reduction quality’ is easier to understand than ‘higher marks for load reduction’ as an assessment system, just as ‘improvements in quality and performance earn higher marks,’” the manual says.

Each of these areas are broken down into greater detail, and ranked in order, from Excellent (S), Very Good (A), Good (B+), Fairly Poor (B-) and Poor (C), according to the CASBEE For New Construction 2008 Technical Manual.

“They rank the internal view, then the external view to calculate the final certification,” Binkley says. “They do look holistically at the entire project.”

That boded well for the Kasugai project. Design features include the preservation of natural habitat by balancing high-density vertical development with protected forested areas, as well as efficient building systems that reduce energy use and operating costs. The preservation of the forest has been a major benefit for the building’s users.

“This has a tremendous affect on the health of office workers,” Binkley says. It also allowed AMB to situate some benches and other outdoor amenities unusual for industrial buildings. “We tried to build a beautiful building, one that would fit naturally in its surroundings.”

The design also allows interaction with its surroundings, with pathways created to allow workers to visit religious relics on site. The move contributed to the CASBEE rating, but would not help toward LEED certification in the United States, AMB notes.

The process of obtaining CASBEE certification differs from LEED also. LEED certification starts at the beginning of the design process, with review and comments taking place throughout the design and construction of a project. Though CASBEE’s latest version for New Construction ranking uses pre-design tools, certification consists more of site visits after the building is completed. “These verify the building is operating as it’s supposed to,” Binkley explains.

AMB has a history of sustainable building, including receiving the first Silver LEED certification in the southeast US with its AMB Morgan Business Center in Savannah, GA, and at other projects around the world. The key is to blend corporate sustainability standards with differing regional needs and regulations.

“In Europe, recycling is a centralized function so, quite frankly, that is out of our hands,” Binkley says. “We use our best practical guidelines and are looking at that in all of our markets.

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