Attainable Green Guidelines

I have just returned from the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas this January and for those who didn’t make it, it was great to see the convention so well attended, both by members and exhibitors.

I arrived early to attend several NAHB design and custom home builder committee meetings. Some of the architects were demonstratively vocal on the subject of NAHB’s and AIA’s faltering support for programs in the past and coming year. The organizations have significantly cut back on staff due to the economy and as a result, programs will be impacted.

On the flip side, grassroots efforts are shaping up CRAN’s (Custom Residential Architect’s Network) next annual Symposium in Austin, Oct. 22–25, 2010. This will be in conjunction with Austin’s AIA chapter’s 25th Anniversary Home Tour, always a crowd pleaser. Additionally, substantive presentations and discussions from residential experts are planned. Please show your support to this growing organization which is wholly dedicated to residential architects under the auspices of national AIA.

Back to the convention, some of the most relevant information for me probably was the recently adopted National Green Building Standards set forth by NAHB and ICC. As the new kid on the block, this newest rating system represents the first sustainable green building program specific to residential construction at the national level. Whereas LEED might be described as arduous, costly and arguably more applicable to commercial projects, the new national green standard issued by NAHB is reasonably attainable by all builders and adaptable to all types of residential construction.

It provides four levels of compliance, making it applicable in all markets nationally. The four threshold levels (Bronze, Silver, Gold and Emerald) provide a means to achieve basic, entry-level green building, or achieve the highest level of green building that incorporates energy savings of 60 percent or higher.

The new standard provides the green practices that can be incorporated into new and remodeled homes, both single- and multi-family, as well as hotels, motels and into site development. The green practices include lot design, preparation and development; resource, energy and water efficiency; indoor environmental quality; and operation, maintenance and building owner education. *

The National Green Building Standard is available for review at nahbgreen.org. Here you’ll learn about the major practices required for each level of compliance and the documentation for each. You can prescore your project to establish the specifications needed to achieve a particular green level.

There also is a list of approved third-party verifiers by locale. Work is verified twice during the project; once at rough-in and also at completion. If you’re going to the additional effort to build it greener, follow the rules for certification and get the credit you deserve. Maintaining disciplined and well-documented management systems during construction will save you lots of time and grief when it’s time to verify sustainable practices.

Some pointers to ensure a successful, verifiable green standard project include: Put together an integrated design and construction team for planning and management; educate your tradesmen on the criteria and reasoning for it; standardize a system for feedback from the field to make sure everyone’s on track; qualify any owner-requested changes based on required green practices.

The appeal of this national green rating system is it’s readily available NOW and reasonably achievable for the average Joe. Because it can be implemented incrementally, users can effect positive change without redefining the project’s entire scope or budget.

Benefits of home certification are somewhat obvious, from building a better product to market appeal and increased sales. But it also feels good to join in a worldwide effort of sustainable practices to better the environment now and for the future.

Charlie Ruma, past NAHB president in 1999, was prophetic in his comments when he said, “If you’re not building green in 10 years, you won’t be building.” Green is here to stay and it’s time to get in the game. It’s good for business as well as mother earth.

*Source: National Green Building Standard ICC 700-2008

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