Green Home Building and Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture is an exciting and important field, with many people reviving traditional methods of building and others creating innovations to established practices. Kelly Hart, webmaster of the popular website, posts text and photos featuring what he discovers from around the world.

My Photo
Location: Crestone, Colorado, United States

Kelly Hart has been involved with green building concepts for much of his life. He has also worked in various fields of communication media, including still photography, cinematography, animation, video production and now website development. Kelly has lived in an earthbag/papercrete home that he built and consults about sustainable building design.

July 21, 2009

Green Guidelines and Certification for your Home

There are several ways for your home to meet guidelines or gain certification for certain standards for "green" qualities. The reasons for doing this vary. It might be that a particular certification will allow the home to qualify for special financing or participate in some desirable program. It might be that the certification will make the home more desirable for resale. Or it might simply be that this will prove that the home meets the high environmental standards of the builder or homeowner. I'll list below the most popular guidelines and certification programs that are available.

By far the most publicized and the most expensive certification program is LEED for homes. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, and is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council. Initially these standards were being applied solely to commercial buildings, but now they have transitioned to residential as well. LEED certification is most commonly sought by builders and contractors as a way to attract clients or qualify for specific programs. It requires a fair amount of detailed analysis and the inspection by a trained inspector. This can cost between $500 and $3000. What is being evaluated is the location and linkages, sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and homeowner awareness.

The National Green Building Standard is a collaborative effort between the International Code Council (ICC) and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). This book provides the "green" practices that can be incorporated into a variety of areas, from new homes to high-rise multifamily buildings, and from remodels and additions to hotels and motels. This standard outlines effective, relevant green practices, including lot design, preparation and development, resource, energy, and water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and operation, maintenance, and building owner education. By defining four threshold levels of Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Emerald, the standard gives builders the means to achieve their sustainability goals – whether they are designing a basic, entry-level green building or aiming for the highest level sustainable "green" building with energy savings of 65 percent or higher.

The Energy Star Qualified Homes certification is administered by the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Dept. of Energy. Similar to the Energy Star rating system for home appliances, this certification is often employed by custom builders as well as production builders to enhance the desirability of their homes. The cost is that of a professional energy audit on the home. What is being checked is effective insulation, high performance windows, tight construction and ducts, efficient heating and cooling equipment, lighting and appliances.

The Green Building Guidelines were written by the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council. These guidelines read more like a textbook that discusses why, how, where and when to implement specific parameters. They deal with community and site planning, renewable energy, the building envelope, energy efficiency, water use, indoor environmental quality, materials, operation and maintenance. There are diagrams, pictures, and other resources, including checklists from some of the other green programs.

Health House guidelines, created by the American Lung Association, is actually a certification program. The objective of this is to assure that new homes do not adversely affect people's health. Specially trained builders pay attention to the site, building enclosure, finishes and furnishings, mechanical equipment, commissioning, construction hygiene, safety and health. The focus is on air quality, but efficiency is also considered.

The bottom line with all of these programs is that the homeowner will end up with a healthier, more energy-efficient, and durable home. And all of us will benefit from a cleaner environment.


Anonymous Laura Taylor said...

Hello Kelly,

After reading your blog, I thought you might be interested in the following event related to green construction codes and the International Code Council. While you are focused on residential projects and information, I thought this information would be of interest even if focused on commercial building:

There is a meeting of the ICC’s sustainability committee tomorrow and Friday in Denver. The public is welcome!


On behalf of the International Code Council

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice, this is very useful blog to know about what is green guidelines and also we get an idea of what is The National Green Building Standard. From this blog we came to know that Green Building Guidelines were written by the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council. very useful.


3:02 AM  
Anonymous gcastillo5665 said...

I'm sort of new the Green home improvement arena, so I just had a quick question: Is there any one of these agencies that is known for having the finest reputation, or are they all doing great jobs?

Thanks for the informational post!

12:10 AM  
Blogger Kelly Hart said...

There is certainly value in all of the programs listed, so you can learn from any of them; they all are trusted within the industry. They do vary in emphasis and cost, so I suggest carefully evaluating how appropriate each might be for your situation.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Angus said...

Check out these great skylight vents that let in sunlight as well as ventilation. They usse no energy except for the sun and wind and work brilliantly. Its really cooling my house down!

10:41 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Hi Angus,

Thanks for the support for the product, we are looking at getting the Seabreezers and SkyVents produced in the US at the moment, so it was great to get your feedback. We have lived for thousands of years using natural ventilation and with proven benefits of daylight the product hasd gained many supporters like you that are cutting back on the AC use.


2:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have been tying ,yes i'm new to the computer to figure out how to get questions and comments to kelly hart , i can't seem to connect, to q&a or email, i'm 55 have studied this sys 35 years ago and many new ideas, but the use of a bag full of whatever to start off a home makes no sense at all the bag will disenigrate, anyway many more ques. for kelly any help for contact, appreciated thanks mark

4:17 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home