There are numerous “shades of green” to build a home, which is often initially daunting and confusing to homeowners. However, there is help available. For those who truly desire a green, energy efficient, healthy and durable home, participating in a green building certification program is currently the best way to guarantee that you have a top-of-the-line green home. While working with an experienced green homebuilder can be extremely beneficial, it is not absolutely necessary, as long as you have a builder who is willing to work with you and within the guidelines of a green building certification program.
Such programs outline criteria against which potential green homes can be checked. Everything from tree preservation to building products to the home's performance on a variety of tests is taken into consideration, and points are awarded for each component that is met. Within each program, there are often several levels of certification that further define how green a home truly is. The following are the most notable programs in the Carolinas:
The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Rating System (commonly known as LEED) is perhaps the most widely recognized standard for building green in the country. Until recently, the USGBC only defined standards for commercial buildings. Now, however, a new LEED for Homes pilot program is currently under development and will publicly launch in 2007. A home can qualify for one of four levels of certification (Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum) based on a points system. The more green the home, the more points it earns.
EarthCraft House™, a well-established residential green home rating system, actually served as the model for the new LEED for Homes program. Developed by the Southface Energy Institute and the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association, EarthCraft educates both homeowners and the residential homebuilding industry on environmentally responsible practices. In the Carolinas EarthCraft is increasingly becoming an industry standard.
In addition to rating the efficiency of individual appliances and products, ENERGY STAR® also affixes its blue star of approval on homes that meet energy efficiency guidelines defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. ENERGY STAR® accreditation signifies at least a 15 percent improvement in energy efficiency over the current energy code, and homes are often rated by ENERGY STAR® in conjunction with other forms of certification. Such homes provide $200 to $400 in annual savings.
Across the country there are numerous regionalized green building certification programs offered by organizations or even communities. One prominent example in the Carolinas is the North Carolina HealthyBuilt Homes Program. NC HealthyBuilt Homes primarily works with small- to medium-sized builders across North Carolina, offering certification similar to the national programs.
The National Association of Home Builders launched a new green building certification program in 2008. The NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines include three levels of certification – Bronze, Silver, and Gold – and The National Green Building Standard™ includes an additional level, Emerald.
A program designed by Masco Contractor Services, a leading insulation contractor and producer of home building products, that treats a home as a “system of systems” that work together. The Environments For Living® Certified Green program includes additional requirements in areas such as indoor air quality and lighting and water efficiency. Every Environments For Living program home is backed by Limited Guarantees for Heating & Cooling Energy Use and Comfort.
As a joint venture between General Electric (GE) and Masco Contractor Services, this program combines an Environments for Living Certified Green classification with additional green features and energy-efficient GE products. ecomagination Homes are designed to achieve at least 20% household energy, indoor water, and household emissions (CO2, SO2, and Nox) savings.
To officially receive one of the above green certifications, homes must first pass inspections by certified inspectors. These inspections typically carry a fee that varies by the program, size of the home, rating level pursued and additional factors. However, this is a valuable assurance for the homeowner that their home is as high-performance as was planned and many builders appreciate the double check.
Many homeowners appreciate these extensive certification programs for the extra quality assurance they provide. "There is a degree of comfort in knowing how stringent the tests were," shares Bob Sadler, as he recalls the EnergyStar certification process for his new home on Dataw Island. Mr. Sadler and his wife, Nan, first discovered Dataw Island by boat, when they stopped to visit friends during a trip down the Eastern Seaboard towards Florida. Now they are choosing to leave Pennsylvania and its cold winters for a more temperate climate in the South Carolina Lowcountry. The superior energy efficiency of their new home, which overlooks two fairways, is an added jewel.
"I was there when they ran the tests," remembers Mr. Sadler, "and watched as they found some things that were a problem and fixed them on the spot. They checked everything from the flue in the chimney to every window." With this accuracy, the Sadler's home will be at least 20-30 percent more efficient than a traditional home its size. For further protection, they opted for upgrades such as 3M™ Window Films that not only offer protection from UV light and solar energy, but also help to protect the window from wind gusts up to 130 mph, which offers a little extra peace of mind in this coastal home.
Many of these suggestions came from the Sadler's builder, Dataw Island Properties, an Energy Star® and EarthCraft-certified builder. For the Sadlers, who were out of state during most of the construction, the ability to trust their builder was of utmost importance. Their beautiful home is a testament to the great teamwork between everyone involved.
Share this article: