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.