Green buildings for sustainable built environment in Sri Lanka GREENSL? or LEED?

Prof. Ranjith Dissanayake
Head, Dept. of Civil Engineering, University of Peradeniya
Ex. Vice President, Green Building Council of Sri Lanka

Introduction Green building is an in integrative effort to transform the way the built environments are designed, constructed and operated. This concept should be applied from individual infrastructure to entire communities. The scope of green building reaches from the earliest stages of planning to beyond the end of a structure’s life. It runs up and down in manufacturing and supplying chain. It encompasses the production and fate of every substance that goes into or out of a green project. Therefore, scope of green building requires an interdisciplinary approach.

In this article, we are aiming to provide our strategies for achieving those valuable and much needed greener goals and GREENSL Rating System for built environment which is developed by the Green Building Council of Sri Lanka (GBCSL) and compared LEED Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design which is developed by United State Green Building council (USGBC).

The ultimate objectives of these ratings are to achieve a goal of ecological quality and energy conservation, ethical standards and social equity, economic performance and compatibility, contextual and aesthetic impact and transferability. The main objective of developing GREENSL is to consider our own requirements through the local research outputs.

GREENSL Rating System for built environment

Using GREENSL Rating System for built environment transforms the design, construction, and operation of built environments and shift practice towards higher performance, lower environmental impact, and ultimately leads to regenerative designs. The section that follows, describes the certification approach used by the Sri Lanka Green Building Council and its GREENSL Rating System for built environment. GREENSL is a tool that helps to create a high-performance, more sustainable built environment by providing a framework for design, construction, and evaluation. It is up to green building professionals to use this tool as part of an integrated planning and design process to achieve real results on the ground. Green building requires integrated approach, but in practice it depends on new strategies in the various aspects of design and construction. Accordingly, the heart of this rating is an introduction to the eight categories used in GREENSL namely, Management (MN), Sustainable sites(SS), Water efficiency(WE),Energy & atmosphere (EA), Material & Resources (MR),Indoor environment quality (EQ),Innovation & design process (ID) and Social & cultural awareness(SC).

Each chapter reviews the basic concepts and strategies associated with each credit category, while recognizing all intimately link relationships and consider together the effective integrative processes.

Why green building is important

Green building is important because of the conventional buildings, land use of the people, the environment, and our shared natural resources. The cumulative impact of the design, construction, and operation of built environment has profound implications for human health, the environment, and the economy. For example, with conventional development practices,

  • Clearing of land for development often destroys wildlife habitat;
  • Extracting, manufacturing and transporting materials contribute to the pollution of water and air, the release of toxic chemicals, and the emission of greenhouse gases;
  • Building operations require large inputs of energy and water and generate substantial waste streams; and
  • Building-related transportation, such as commuting and services, contributes to a wide range of impacts associated with vehicle use energy consumption, and harmful environmental effects. 

In general, buildings account for a high proportion of resource use and waste generation, as follows:

  • 15% of potable water consumption;
  • 30% of waste output;
  • 40% of carbon dioxide emissions;
  • 40% of raw materials use;
  • 50% of energy use; and
  • 70% of electricity consumption.
These values are varied depending on country, life styles of the citizens and economical level.

Modifying the conventional way in which homes, schools, offices, shopping centers, hospitals, and cities are designed can have a beneficial effect on the environment. Green building practices can minimize human use of natural resources while generating economic benefits that include lower operational costs and higher human productivity. Green buildings are efficient and comfortable, and they contain the amenities needed for a better quality of life, including improved health. Many of the elements of green building are not new or even unique. For example, Energy efficiency, Smart growth, Water conservation, and Indoor air quality have been the main focus on various programs and incentives, both governmental and market driven. What distinguishes green building is its focus on all of these issues in an effort to contribute solutions to pressing health, environmental, and economic challenges through the location, design, construction, and operation of buildings.

The trend in Sri Lanka towards green building practices has quickened recently, contributing to a market transformation in the supply of building products, and services and in the demand for skilled professionals.

Procedure of getting GREENSL

The rating system of the GBCSL consists four categories. The categories are determined based on the marks (points) that are obtained by the project. The total points available are 100. The four rating categories and required points to obtain a rating are as follows.

  • Platinum – 70 points or above
  • Gold – 60~69 points
  • Silver – 50~59 points
  • YES Certified – 40-49 points
GreenSL Accredited Projects With the industrial revolution, the built environment in Sri Lanka is believed to have accelerated impacts inimical to the environment. The consequences of these environmental damages sometimes caused severe disruptions. Therefore the environmental consciousness among communities has been gradually increased. Thus Sri Lanka has become home to many green buildings than before. The GreenSL Accredited Projects have been given in the table below.

GBCSL Green Building Criteria

LEED Criteria

There are eight Green criteria considered by the GBCSL for evaluating a project as mentioned below. As the Green Consultant, we will give our best proposals throughout the project for obtaining maximum points with due considerations on safety, quality, time and cost aspects.

As the GBCSL, we will guide industry on how the essential requirements are achieved. Also, we will give all necessary advises, assistance for preparing time targets, methods, related documents and evidences etc.

Integrative Approach

The concept of an integrative approach is a new paradigm that emphasizes connections and communication among professionals throughout the life of a project. It involves bringing building owners, operators, architects, planners, engineers, and contractors together and working through an integrative process of allowing building teams to cross traditional barriers and develop innovative solutions. The term integrative design is most often applied to a new construction design process; however, the concept of integrative design is applicable to any phase in the life cycle of a building or land-use project.

The building design process begins when the basic programmatic needs and requirements for the project are determined. Schematic design follows, as the basic scheme that will be used to meet the project goals in development. During design development, the scheme is further refined into a design, and each component of that design is fleshed out. Finally, construction documents are prepared to translate the design into something that can be built.

In a conventional design process, the architect, the engineers (civil, mechanical, electrical, structural), the landscape architect, the construction contractors, and all others work relatively independently on their individual scopes of work, handing off work products to other professionals along the way. This separation of the disciplines and generally linear design process can limit opportunities for integration and synergy, particularly with construction contractors and other specialists who traditionally become engaged only towards the end of the process.

In contrast, in an integrative design process, all the disciplines come together at the beginning to discuss the project goals and requirements. A clear statement of sustainability and performance goals guides this team to find new approaches to the project. As the project progresses through the design phases, each element of the design is reviewed to verify whether it meets the original goals and intent of the owner. In this way, the project team engages in a more integrative approach that allows for deeper integration and collaborative problem solving.

In an integrative process, the property owner, designers, construction contractors, and other project team members establish a mutual understanding of the project’s goals, priorities, and budget as early as possible. Input from the major stakeholders and members of the design team is essential before schematic design begins, particularly since many of the decisions associated with environmental impacts are made early in the design process, starting with the location of the project. 

GBCSL Associate Professional 

In order to promote greener concept as well as to apply the integrative design process in Sri Lanka, we need to train professionals. The Associate Professional Training Course conducted by the Green Building Council of Sri Lanka (GBCSL) is designed to train property industry professionals to perform as Green Professionals who could lead the transformation of construction industry in Sri Lanka with Green building practices to ensure the future wellbeing of our Planet. For more information GBCSL secretariat can be contacted through srilankagbc[at]gmail[dot]com or 0112579130 or visiting Green Building Council Sri Lanka, “Vidya mandiraya”, No: 120/ 10(Part),Wijerama Mawatha, Colombo 07. 

GBCSL has been training professionals such as architects, engineers (civil, mechanical, electrical, and structural), landscape architect town planers, Quantity surveyors, facility managers, academics, environmentalist, the construction contractors, project managers, executives and other relevant professionals. They are trained together. The training program covers all areas such as Management, Sustainable sites, Water efficiency, Energy & atmosphere, Material & resources, Indoor environment quality, Innovation & design process and Social & cultural awareness normally in four days. Then they are grouped to form an integrated team of professionals such as Architects, Engineers (civil, mechanical, electrical, and structural), Landscape Architects, Construction Contractors, Project Managers and other relevant professionals depending on the availability. These groups are assigned to design projects and they will have to use the integrative design processes and the projects will be presented and evaluated. The participants in this training course are required to sit for an examination conducted by the accreditation board of the GBCSL. Duration of the examination will be two hours. Those who are successful at the examination will be awarded with the certification of ‘Associated Professional of the GBCSL’ (GSLAP).

There are three levels:
  • GREENSL Green Associate 
  • GREENSL Accredited Professional 
  • GREENSL Fellow

Time frame of Obtaining Green Rating 

Obtaining a Green rating is not a task limited to several days or weeks. It must start at the preliminary design stage of the project and continue up to the commissioning stage. Thereare procedures to follow during site selection, initial planning on construction such as erosion control, site cleaning procedure, reusing topsoil, existing habitat protection, development of footprint reduction, and assisting the architect and engineers on designing the structure in such a way that the structure will use maximum daylight and natural ventilation etc. During the design stage, the design team should achieve the Green targets related to sustainable site development, water and energy efficient design concepts including obtaining proper atmospheric conditions, indoor environment qualities and we will focus on selection of environmentally friendly material etc. Quality monitoring and submitting progress reports to GBCSL throughout the construction stage should be done. GBCSLwill take part in site visits, inspections, discussions and meetings.

Finally, verification of the commissioning plan, the onsite commissioning and building tuning procedure etc should be done at the completion stage. Re-commissioning should be done after 12 months.


Both GBCSL and USGBC are members of WGBC (World Green Building Council) and both have similar objectives in their respective countries. Therefore, GREENSL and LEED are similar rating developed by respective council but GREENSL is much more relevant to Sri Lankan context as it has been developed considering our own requirements and through the local research outputs. GBCSL would like to request all building which are rated other than GREENSL to go for a re certification.

GREENSL Rating system is a more appropriate tool for evaluating built environment than LEED in Sri Lanka. With consideration of social atmosphere and environmental impacts in Sri Lanka, GBCSL provides better approaches for Sri Lanka than LEED as the process is much in line with Sri Lankan needs. 


GREENSL Rating System for Built Environment which is developed by the Green Building Council of Sri Lanka (GBCSL), 2015 January LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design which is developed by United State Green Building Council (USGBC), 2011.

Adopted from SLEN Magazine. 
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