How do you define the term in “green” when it comes to a product? Specifically when that product is your home. We do not often think of our homes as products, yet we listen to the statistics from the housing market all the time now on the news. We are also hearing about “green” being the new black. It may seem that this is all coming upon us suddenly, but the green building movement has been around for decades.
With our concerns on global warming, saving money on utility bills, and living a more ecologically friendly life, we are looking at green in a new light, so has the government or other organizations that help define what green should mean. In fact, they have been looking at this for a few years, but this year will seem like there is a flurry of activity around defining green as government, organizations, and businesses release their statements and findings on what being green actually means. The FTC will have a policy in place defining how businesses can use the term green in advertising which will effect all products, and we will have to see how the Obama administration will develop its plan for the green industry economy. We have two major competitors when it comes to stating the standards for what a green home should be: LEED for Homes; and the National Green Building Standard.
The National Green Building Standard received a big boost last week when it officially became a standard, the ANSI 700. ANSI is the American National Standards Institute; an organization that defines how products are made by setting definitions of the process by which they are produced. The National Green Building Standard is the rules developed by the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The advantage that these set of rules has over LEED for Homes is that many communities base their building codes on the codes developed by the ICC in their International Residential Code, and that most builders are members of the NAHB.
LEED for Homes can be a very expensive process, so it is not seen as practical for most builders. Part of this expense is due to the verification process. The National Green Building Standard has its own process using a Green Verifier Program that will rely on independent inspectors (green verifiers) to check on the green claims. You can see how they will be doing this by rating your own home NAHB’s green website. If you scroll down the page, you will find a button that says “Score My Project”. You gain points by meeting the standards. The number of points you garner determines what level of green your home is. The highest is “emerald”, or it will be once everything is in place now that ANSI 700 has been approved.
What does this mean for the homeowner? It means that production home builders can participate in building verifiable green homes. They may not all be “emerald”, but it is a step in making such homes affordable for the average consumer.
What are the concerns with this program? Well, it was developed by builders for builders. Obviously, any industry will wish to find ways to protect itself, while also meeting consumer demand. I believe that the NAHB and the ICC have done a good job at placing in checks and balances to prevent builder’s from making unjustified claims. The green verifier has to be a qualified professional, like a licensed home inspector. This inspector has to maintain his independence to do an effective job. The verification process involves the inspector checking the documents that the builder is gathering for that house, and then he has to go out to the home to document on his own the facts that the builder is claiming. This documentation has to be submitted, and the builders document have to be kept on hand. This process is reviewed to see that everything is in order. Also, the verification is clear cut. Either the builder did the task to earn the points, or he did not. A green verifier cannot award points on the promise that a green measure will be taken.
If you are a home inspector, this may be a way to expand your business opportunities. To become a green verifier, you have to take an appropriate green building course (in Texas, this course can count towards your continuing education credits, when taken at an accredited school). After that, you will have to study the material at the NAHB green website. The first three modules can be looked over as much as you want. The fourth module leads to the test. Once you pass the test (and pay the fee), you have become a green verifier.
Is this green home a benefit to the home buyer? Green home technologies can be more expensive (yet they are coming down in cost, and if they are installed from the beginning, the cost can be further reduced). The homes will cost more than the average home price; there is no way around that fact. The inspection process will add to the builder’s cost too. Many of these expenses will be recouped over the years in energy and water savings. A super insulated house could be heated by the power of a lit candle in theory (no doors or windows could be opened). The fact that this trend is becoming standardized means that more home builders can produce green homes, and they will find the means to reduce the expense, because this will be a great selling point for these style of residence for years to come.
We have to take the first step towards green as a nation, and in my opinion, this is a good development.