Seals of Approval

By Lynn Yen 2021-12-28 17:37:54

Meet the global standard bearers of environmental and healthy buildings.

Next time you walk into a serviced apartment, hotel, or mall you may just notice a large plaque or sticker on the entrance door and wonder ‘what is that?' These are certificates from third parties that are earned by meeting standards of energy conservation or health and wellbeing. They are especially important in Shanghai, where environmental health is top of mind with residents needing to drink purified water, and air purifiers are a norm.

Building seals are a property developer’s badge of acheivement. Common ones you can find in Shanghai are the LEED, BREEAM, GBL and WELL certifications. Though the ultimate reward is not pride or prestige, rather it’s the environmental benefits for society and the health security of the people that spend time in these buildings.


China has developed its own home grown Green Building Label, the Chinese national standard for environmentally friendly buildings. This regulation system is also called the 3 Star System, ranging from one star up to three stars. The standardized label was established in 2006 and is organized by the Green Building Council. The requirements for earning the certifications are tailored to specific geographies within China, taking into account the vast array of climates and resources found across the country. The GBL rating system factors in six components, land efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, resource efficiency, environmental quality and operational management.



Another symbol that adorns buildings across the city is the BREEAM stars. BREEAM originated from Britain and stands for the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method. BREEAM ratings are measured up to a maximum of six stars, with full marks earning an Outstanding rating. This all-encompassing evaluation system looks at a building’s energy, health and wellbeing, innovation, land use, materials, management, pollution, transport, waste and water. You can find the BREEAM stars at the Jin Mao Office Tower and Landsea Green Life residential project in Changning District.



The most used and most recognized environmentally friendly building certification in the world is the LEED certification. The popularity of LEED, or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, paved the way for the over 100 different certifications now found worldwide. You will find different colors of LEED awards. The rating system is evaluated on four tiers, from basic LEED Certified, LEED Silver, LEED Gold, to the highest LEED Platinum. In the beginning, the system was mainly known as a shorthand for measuring the energy efficiency of buildings, such as how much electricity is used and how much heat is lost. Now it has evolved to cover much more. Notable buildings you can find with LEED Platinum certification are the Shanghai Tower and the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, which are two among the 677 total LEED projects in Shanghai recorded up to 2020.



Along with the stalwart environmental certifications, new evaluation tools are being introduced as well. A new arrival to the certification world is WELL. Run by the International Well Building Institute, the WELL Health-Safety seal positions itself as a COVID-19 safety seal, taking into consideration our pandemic era concerns like air quality and cleaning, with a focus on people’s health and wellbeing. The categories that WELL evaluates include the standard air and water quality, but they also add in holistic factors such as nourishment through quality food, the amount of natural sunlight, fitness options, comfort in the form of ergonomic chairs, and environmental effects on the mind and mood from factors like sound level. The WELL seal has already caught on in Shanghai at the serviced apartment Central Residences II.

Most brands that issue seals and certifications provide long lists of evaluation areas, which function as global industry standards. Although fulfilling only a portion of the criteria will still earn a seal of approval, the larger benefit is the increased importance of third party verification and accountability. A lot of work went on behind that plaque on the door, so you can breath easy and rest assured the next time you spot one.