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SERF Aims to Make Green Building Certification Simple

June 5, 2012 | 2 comments

Established less than two years ago, the SERF (Society for Environmentally Responsible Facilities) certification program aims to make green building recognition as easy as possible. Based on a self-scoring system, SERF wants to move away from using third-party consultants like commissioning agents and energy simulation consultants for documentation (although all SERF documentation is verified by a licensed architect or engineer before certification is granted).

SERF was created after one of founder Joseph Maguire’s tenants wanted the building he leased from Maguire to be LEED certified. In favor of LEED’s goals (but not the associated costs), Maguire set out to find a comparable certification match … and couldn’t find one. So he decided to create his own. SERF’s certification costs, depending on the size of the building, range from $4,000 to $12,000.

Although SERF supports the U.S. Green Building Council’s commitment to sustainability, its certification program is drastically different from LEED. It makes use of a dynamic scoring system that takes the limitations and impracticalities of existing buildings into consideration when it comes to implementing certain green elements in. (A good example: buildings close to highways or interstates aren’t docked for not installing onsite bike racks.)

It also separates evaluation criteria based upon building type. For example, healthcare facilities receive points for mercury elimination programs and Infection Control Risk Assessments. Separate documentation and checklists exist for office, multi-family, retail, manufacturing and distribution, hospitals, and institutional facilities.

Right now, there are 51 buildings with SERF certification. So far, the buildings are located in Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia; the building types range from banks and offices to YMCAs, baseball stadiums, and fast-food restaurants.

SERF’s 22 green evaluation areas focus on topics similar to LEED’s, such as lighting, HVAC, water use, appliances, pest management, green power, recycling, landscaping, green cleaning, and air quality. Each of those evaluation areas is split up into subcategories, and that’s where points are assigned. For example, under the Appliances category, separate points are earned for purchasing ENERGY STAR computers, purchasing ENERGY STAR kitchen appliances, and donating or recycling old computer hardware.

The other differentiating factor with SERF is that, after certification is achieved in four to six weeks, the organization helps building owners and facilities managers create profiles and case studies of their building and its SERF certification story. These profiles can then be shared with patients, shareholders, customers, visitors, prospective tenants, building occupants, or whoever wants to see them.

Are you considering SERF certification for your building? Why or why not?


  1. KTM
    June 6, 2012

    SERF certified a $45MM project for us in Texas. They were very helpful in suggesting “green” techniques that increased the value of the project and were not just to become certified. Very good group.

  2. Rick DeKam
    June 6, 2012

    We have had SERF certify two of our multiple-tenant office buildings commonly known as Creekside Commons in Portage, Michigan, after we had become frustrated with the complexity, extended application process and costs associated with LEED certification. Frankly, I couldn’t be happier with the SERF team and their application/approval process.

    Their total process took maybe three weeks and we had the added pleasure of Joe Maguire, the President of SERF, personally visit to our office campus to present us with their certification plaque. I would also note that we now regularly use the case study that they developed now in the marketing of office space within this park.

    I would strongly recommend anyone interested in either developing or retrofitting a commercial property, in an environmentally-sensitive fashion, contact these guys for their guidance and certification standards.

    We will be systematically working with SERF to certify each of our other portfolio properties, as funds and time permit.

    Rick DeKam, CCIM
    Portage, Michigan

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