Residential Green Buildings Farmington NM
How Does Home Rate
The word on the street is that will be the "tipping point" for green building. Undeniably, green building has turned the corner over the last year or so, and residential green building rating systems are helping to develop the market.
These programs quantify what "green" really means by measuring the sustainability level of a building project such as a home. The programs do this by assigning points to the sustainable construction elements that are designed into a building. Without this quantification, the term "green building"can be a shell of empty promises, and misguided strategies and products that mean nothing.
These programs are designed to be used as guidelines. They force designers and contractors who are putting together the plan for a building to think about sustainability elements they otherwise might not have considered, such as specifying low-emitting materials, providing views or implementing a construction waste program.
Green building rating systems have also become popular because they are so comprehensive in their design, and provide consumer benefits. Certifying your home through one of these programs is like getting a UL listing for your toaster; certification gives you confidence that your home will perform in a way you desire, without compromising your family's safety, health or well-being through exposure to harmful building materials.
A Model Program
One of the most established and comprehensive residential green building programs in the country is offered by the city of Scottsdale, Arizona. This forward-thinking municipality has had its program in place since 1998, and it has influenced the rating programs established in many other cities and regions.
Scottsdale's no-fee program offers two levels of residential certification for homebuilders - entry level and advanced level. The program has evolved over the years into a prescriptive system that is organized by construction categories, such as Site, Building Envelope, Environmental, Electrical, Plumbing and Appliances. Anthony Floyd, the city's green building program manager, believes that organizing the program in this manner is more logical for the way in which residential structures are built.
In the program's early days, there was a single green-building inspector who inspected every home registered under the program, but now every building inspector is equipped to perform green-building inspections. Scottsdale's new Green Building checklist was introduced last September, and requires approximately 50 percent of a home's green building elements to be verified by the city's inspectors, while the other 50 percent are self-certified by the contractor. This type of system makes logical sense, as many green building components are design-related, while others are construction-related. To view Scottsdale's Green Building checklist, visit the city's website at www.scottsdaleaz.gov/greenbuilding .
Fewer than 1 percent of all single-family home permits issued in the city were registered with the program in its first year. Since then, interest in green building has escalated, so that by 2006, 35 percent of all single-family home permits were registered with the program. This success rate illustrates the growing demand for sustainable design and construction.
Other Green Certifiers
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) offers another popular green-certification program that provides voluntary guidelines for green building on a national level, but leaves it up to member homebuilder associations to modify and administer the program at the local level. This program is of the self-certification type and requires only random inspections.
The NAHB guidelines consist of six sections: Lot Preparation and Design, Resource Efficiency, Energy Efficiency, Water Efficiency/ Conservation, Occupancy Comfort and Indoor Environmental Quality, and Operation, Maintenance and Education.
This program is poised to mainstream residential green building because of its simplicity, the sheer number of member associations using it and the market reach they represent. Because the NAHB program is considered to be "guidelines€
only, local programs can vary widely and the results may not be consistent from one locality to another.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has developed a residential green-building rating system called LEED for Homes (LEED-H), which we've written about several times in this magazine. The program has been in a pilot phase since 2005, but the updated pilot version was just released in February 2007. Also a voluntary system, LEED-H is targeting the top 25 percent of all homes built in the U.S., and currently has more than 1,000 buildings registered under the program. Fifty-two of those buildings have completed the certification process and are now certified under the LEED for Homes program.
In an effort to streamline the certification process, the USGBC has selected 12 "providers" throughout the country in key market areas to assist project teams with the implementation of the program. To locate a provider in your area, visit the USGBC's website at www.usgbc.org .
The most comprehensive and detailed of all the rating systems, LEED-H is organized into eight categories: Innovation and Design Process, Location and Linkages, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Awareness and Education. Up to 130 points are available within these categories, providing project teams with many options for certification.
The advantages of this program include independent, third-party certification from the USGBC, nationwide consistency and the most recognized label in green building, "LEED" (an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
You may ask, "Why would a contractor want to participate in a green-building certification program?" One reason is that these green rating systems are associated with quality, so using them is an easy way for contractors to deliver high-quality products and differentiate themselves in the marketplace. In addition, several of these programs can help save considerable time during the permitting process, thanks to the expedited plan review option they offer. Time is money, so the quicker a permit is issued, the sooner a family can move into the home.
From a homeowner's point of view, benefits of green certification include increased resale value for a certified building, which is a substantial financial incentive, as well as the energy and water savings that will add to the homeowner's financial bottom line. A certification prior to building may even help the homeowner qualify for a higher mortgage.
But perhaps most importantly, the non-toxic environment created in a properly designed and built green home will help keep a homeowner's family safe, healthy and comfortable, making the investment well worth the effort and cost.
If you're building a new home in the future, I'd advise you to look further into one of these programs. Just as there's no substitute for quality, there's also no substitute for certification.
Charlie Popeck is the president of Green Ideas Environmental Building Consultants and a contributing editor to Smart HomeOwner. Green Ideas specializes in helping design, construction and facility management teams understand and implement building science and sustainability into their projects. He can be reached at 602-512-0557 or