Big Boost for Green

After years of development, the American National Standards Institute has approved the National Green Building Standard. This means the nation’s architects, designers and builders have green standards backed by ANSI — a widely recognized industry source for building standards — for guidance on designing and building green homes. The new standard covers single-family, multi-family, apartment, condo and other types of residential projects, and even addresses remodeling.

Developed through ANSI’s rigorous consensus-based, industry-wide approval process, the National Association of Home Builders worked in cooperation with the International Code Council to get the standard approved. The new standard represents a major step forward for the overall quality of housing in the United States. With ANSI’s backing, designers and builders have the closest thing to universally accepted green building practices to follow.

And with ICC’s involvement, odds are in favor of the National Green Building Standard being adopted as code by local governing bodies, the majority of which already use ICC codes as the foundation for local regulations.

Does this new standard compete with LEED for Homes? Which one should you use? Before deciding which set of guidelines to follow, it’s important to understand that these two programs are not in competition with each other.

The NAHB’s position is to support choices for designers and builders, as long as some form of green practices are followed. It should be noted that a representative of LEED sat on the National Green Building Standard development committee.

Both rating systems have their attractive elements. The LEED program has powerful brand recognition not only within the architecture and construction communities, but with consumers as well; LEED is well known. The National Green Building Standard is backed by the power of ANSI approval and the fact that it complies with the ICC’s set of international codes, including the International Residential Code. Designers and builders are familiar with ICC codes.

While casual observers of green building might view the existence of two prominent green home rating systems as a source of confusion and competition, those who developed the National Green Building Standard will tell you the two systems simply provide designers, builders and consumers with a choice.

After speaking with two builders who recently completed top-rated homes under both programs — one following LEED and the other using the ANSI standard — it’s clear that both programs can coexist. The builder who used what is now the ANSI standard likes it for its low barrier to entry; it costs less than LEED and provides the flexibility to design and build within a light- to dark-green spectrum. The builder who used the LEED system believes the strong recognition of the LEED brand provides a tool for those who want to stand out from the crowd.

Both builders believe the two programs provide similar levels of home performance. So their choices aren’t about one program being better than the other, it’s about their levels of comfort with each program. I believe the only choice is to build green homes, regardless of which program you follow.