Local Green Building Programs

Local Programs Can Be Geared Towards Local Issues

Bird's-Eye View

You can fine-tune the performance of your house based on your climate

Just about every part of the U.S. has been touched in some way by the trend toward green building. Programs have sprouted even in relatively small markets like Omaha, Nebraska (the Green Omaha Coalition). Some of the programs offer building guidelines and certification, not unlike LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. or NGBSNational Green Building Standard Based on the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines and passed through ANSI. This standard can be applied to both new homes, remodeling projects, and additions. . Others are networks that promote green building by offering a guide to products and services.

A small sample of local and regional programs:
AUSTIN ENERGY GREEN BUILDING
EARTHCRAFT HOUSE
BUILD GREEN NEW MEXICO
CALIFORNIA GREEN BUILDER
VERMONT BUILDS GREENER


Dry States

Dry States

Some green rating programs in arid states, like Build Green New Mexico, may weigh water conservation more heavily than other green attributes.


Sunny States

Sunny States

In some states it makes much more sense to invest in PVPhotovoltaics. Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic (PV) cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. or solar thermal equipment than in others. So while many green building rating programs all over the country — in sunny states as well as cloudy states — reward the use of solar equipment, its efficacy varies regionally.


Cold States

Cold States

There are no cold-climate green rating programs that require homes to be superinsulated or to meet PassivhausA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. standards. However, the Vermont Builds Greener program awards 0.25 point for a low HERSIndex or scoring system for energy efficiency established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) that compares a given home to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Reference Home based on the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. A home matching the reference home has a HERS Index of 100. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is. A typical existing home has a HERS Index of 130; a net zero energy home has a HERS Index of 0. Older versions of the HERS index were based on a scale that was largely just the opposite in structure--a HERS rating of 100 represented a net zero energy home, while the reference home had a score of 80. There are issues that complicate converting old to new or new to old scores, but the basic formula is: New HERS index = (100 - Old HERS score) * 5. Index score (between 50 and 79) and 0.50 point for a very low HERS Index score (between 0 and 49).

A few other climate-specific measures that are awarded points under the Vermont Builds Greener program:

  • 2 points for a cold storage room cooled by outside air (e.g., a root cellar).
  • 3 points for a wood-burning appliance used as the primary heat source.


Hot/Humid States

Hot, Humid States

In hot, humid states, some local green building programs reward climate-specific measures that other programs ignore. For example, the Green Home Standards developed by the Florida Green Building Coalition awards points for the following measures:

  • Deciduous trees on the south side of a house
  • Any type of tree on the east and west sides of a house
  • Locating a clothes washer outside of the home's conditioned spaceInsulated, air-sealed part of a building that is actively heated and/or cooled for occupant comfort.
  • No interior vapor barrier
  • Roof slope less than 6:12 (a measure that would make no sense in snow country)
  • Hurricane-proof safe room


IN BOULDER, GREEN BUILDING IS THE LAW

Builders in Boulder, Colorado, must adhere to strict energy-efficiency requirements. These requirements are not part of a green rating system; they are code mandates on the same level as fire safety requirements.

Boulder has a long history of green building, starting with its Energy Options Points in 1980. That eventually became the city’s Green Points program, which requires builders and homeowners to adopt green building practices for all new residential construction, demolition, remodeling and additions.

The city says it is the first municipality in the U.S. to mandate a residential green-building program.

For new construction, the Green Points program requires a maximum HERSIndex or scoring system for energy efficiency established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) that compares a given home to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Reference Home based on the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. A home matching the reference home has a HERS Index of 100. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is. A typical existing home has a HERS Index of 130; a net zero energy home has a HERS Index of 0. Older versions of the HERS index were based on a scale that was largely just the opposite in structure--a HERS rating of 100 represented a net zero energy home, while the reference home had a score of 80. There are issues that complicate converting old to new or new to old scores, but the basic formula is: New HERS index = (100 - Old HERS score) * 5. Index related to house size: 70 for houses up to 3,000 sq. ft., 60 for those from 3,001 to 5,000 sq. ft. and a very tough 35 for anything over 5,000 sq. ft. (The 100-point HERS scale measures energy efficiency to a reference house built to the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code; each 1 point drop in the index represents a 1% increase in energy efficiency).

In addition, builders must win a minimum number of points, which are also based on square footage: 20 points for houses up to 3,000 sq. ft., 40 points up to 5,000 sq. ft. and 60 points for anything larger.

Points are awarded in a number of categories, including:

  • Site development
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water efficiency
  • Material efficient framing and structure
  • Sustainable products
  • Indoor air quality
  • Design process and innovation

A complete description of program requirements can be found here. Incidentally, the city also has adopted a Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a Waste Reduction Master Plan.

Boulder Green Building
Boulder, Colorado
303-441-4900
Web site with information on Boulder's green program

Finding Out About Local Programs

The non-profit Center for ReSource Conservation in Boulder keeps track of products, dealers and green building programs in 32 states (www.greenerbuilding.org). It’s a good place to start.

A list of local green building programs associated with NAHBNational Association of Home Builders, which awards a Model Green Home Certification. can be found here.

ABOUT LOCAL GREEN CERTIFICATIONS

Lesser known, but maybe more relevant

Some of the local and regional green building programs are much older than either of the two best known national brands, LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. and the National Green Building StandardNational Green Building Standard Based on the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines and passed through ANSI. This standard can be applied to both new homes, remodeling projects, and additions. . In Austin, Texas, for instance, green building has been around in some form for more than 20 years.

Given wider publicity, national programs should have better name recognition and a marketing edge among home buyers just moving into the area. But local and regional programs presumably are better tailored to local conditions and may be appealing to home buyers who already live in the area and know the label.

AUSTIN ENERGY GREEN BUILDING

Green building in the Texas capital city got its start more than 20 years ago when the Austin City Council created an Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. program. That later evolved into the city’s Green Building Program, which in 1994 became a charter member of the U.S. Green Building Council. A program for commercial buildings was launched 1995, and in 1998 the program became part of Austin Energy, a municipally owned electric utility.

It’s interesting to note the city requires all municipal buildings to be certified as LEED silver.

Austin’s residential green building program rates single-family houses and duplexes in Austin Energy’s service area. Performance is measured in 11 categories that will sound familiar to students of LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. or NGBSNational Green Building Standard Based on the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines and passed through ANSI. This standard can be applied to both new homes, remodeling projects, and additions. , including:

  • Site selection
  • Home design
  • Construction waste management
  • Building structure and enclosure
  • Thermal and moisture control
  • Plumbing and appliances
  • Mechanical systems
  • Performance testing
  • Electrical
  • Interior construction and finishes
  • Site work and landscaping

Certification is awarded on five levels (one to five stars) depending on the number of points the house wins. Basic certification plus 50 points, for example, wins two stars; basic plus 125 points equals five stars.

Among basic requirements:

  • Maximum permissible values for window solar heat gain coefficient(SHGC) The fraction of solar gain admitted through a window, expressed as a number between 0 and 1. and U-factorMeasure of the heat conducted through a given product or material—the number of British thermal units (Btus) of heat that move through a square foot of the material in one hour for every 1 degree Fahrenheit difference in temperature across the material (Btu/ft2°F hr). U-factor is the inverse of R-value.
  • A minimum of 500 sq. ft. per ton of cooling
  • Minimum R-13 floor insulation over an unconditioned space
  • Exhaust fans over the stove and by a tub or shower
  • Installation of ceiling fans

Builders must submit a Manual J report (a calculation of heating and cooling loads), and the house is subject to rough and final inspections as well as performance testing by a third-party inspector. Inspections and certification are viewed as a city service, and at the moment there are no fees.

The program’s Web site includes a more complete description of certification requirements, which can be found here. Also at the site are local case studies, and details on “Green by Design” workshops that are scheduled four times a year. There’s also a Sustainable Building Sourcebook, a helpful guide to a variety of sustainable building topics, which can be viewed here.

Austin Energy Green Building
512-482-5300
www.austinenergy.com

EARTHCRAFT HOUSE

The Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association, in partnership with Southface, a non-profit environmental education agency, started EarthCraft House in 1999. Since then it has certified 4,000 single-family homes and 1,500 multi-family units. There are six EarthCraft communities in the greater Atlanta area.

The program is geared toward the southeastern U.S. Separate worksheets spell out specific requirements for four different climate zones within the region. Certified houses must meet Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. requirements (at least 15% more energy efficient than a house built to the 2004 International Residential Code), and pass tests that measure air infiltration and duct leakage.

In addition, houses must win at least 150 points on scoring sheets. Select and premium ratings are given to houses that reach 200 and 230 points respectively.

Categories covered by EarthCraft requirements are:

  • Site planning
  • Energy efficient building envelopeExterior components of a house that provide protection from colder (and warmer) outdoor temperatures and precipitation; includes the house foundation, framed exterior walls, roof or ceiling, and insulation, and air sealing materials.
  • Resource efficient design
  • Resource efficient building materials
  • Waste management
  • Indoor air quality
  • Water conservation
  • Homeowner education
  • Builder operations
  • Bonus/innovation points

Worksheets list the points the can be scored for different building or site features. An illustrated explanation of what the line items mean is found in a companion document.

Certification fees vary somewhat around the region. In the metro Atlanta area, it costs a minimum of $1,475 to get a house certified, although $925 of the total is in one-time or annual charges. Fees include membership in EarthCraft ($150), a one-day training course ($175), membership in a local homebuilders’ association ($600 in Atlanta but lower elsewhere), $500 for site inspections and $50 for Energy Star certification.

EarthCraft House
404-872-3549
www.earthcrafthouse.com

BUILD GREEN NEW MEXICO

This program uses NAHBNational Association of Home Builders, which awards a Model Green Home Certification.'s Green Home Building
Guidelines, with a few modifications to suit regional requirements.

Build Green New Mexico was developed by the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico and launched in early 2006 at the National Green Building Conference in Albuquerque.

The program encourages collaboration at the outset of the project between home buyers, builders, architects, and a home energy rater. After the house is built, a completed checklist and supporting documents are submitted for review.

Houses are rated in seven categories:

  • Lot preparation and design
  • Resource efficiency
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water efficiency and conservation
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Operation, maintenance, and homeowner education
  • Global impact

Certifications are awarded on three levels: bronze, silver, and gold. Each level of certification carries a minimum point requirement in each of the seven categories. For bronze certification, the house must score at least 241 points; 328 for silver; and 426 for gold.

Guidelines make several requirements in the area of energy efficiency. Houses must be at least 15% more efficient than a house built to the 2003 energy code, and heating and cooling equipment must be sized according to Manual J calculations. Compliance with the energy section requires third-party verification.

Given the state’s arid climate, the program also offers a number of points for water conservation measures, including efficient plumbing layouts, the use of low-flow showerheads, power-assist and dual-flush toilets, and zoned irrigation systems.

There is a registration fee of $50 per house, plus separate fees for certification and an independent energy review.

Build Green New Mexico
505-344-3294
www.buildgreennm.com

CALIFORNIA GREEN BUILDER

This is one of several state and local programs available to builders in California. Launched in 2005, it was developed by the Building Industry Institute, the research arm of the California Building Industry Association. It claims to have a major share of the state’s green building market.

To win certification, houses must hit performance targets in five areas:

  • Energy conservation
  • Indoor air quality
  • Waste management
  • Water conservation
  • Wood conservation

Houses must exceed California’s Title 24 by 15%, the equivalent of an Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. rating. Site inspections are performed by Home Energy Rating System (HERSIndex or scoring system for energy efficiency established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) that compares a given home to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Reference Home based on the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. A home matching the reference home has a HERS Index of 100. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is. A typical existing home has a HERS Index of 130; a net zero energy home has a HERS Index of 0. Older versions of the HERS index were based on a scale that was largely just the opposite in structure--a HERS rating of 100 represented a net zero energy home, while the reference home had a score of 80. There are issues that complicate converting old to new or new to old scores, but the basic formula is: New HERS index = (100 - Old HERS score) * 5.) raters who have been certified by the California Energy Commission.

According to the program’s Web site, California Green Builder is designed “to achieve verifiable resource savings while minimizing the impact on a builder’s budget.” Certification emphasizes practical energy and resource conservation measures and includes these program requirements:

  • HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building. systems designed by a licensed mechanical engineer
  • Tight ducts
  • Water savings of 20,000 gallons per year
  • Reduced turf in front yard landscaping and weather-based irrigation controls
  • At least 50% of construction waste must be diverted from landfills
  • Wood must be from a certified sustainable source, and engineered wood products must be used
  • Low- or no-VOCVolatile organic compound. An organic compound that evaporates readily into the atmosphere; as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic compounds that volatize and then become involved in photochemical smog production. paints, lacquers, floor underlayment and carpets must be used

Builders pay a $400 application fee plus a $50 certification fee per lot. Required third-party inspections are extra. Unlike the two big national programs, certification is on a pass-fail basis, not a points total.

California Green Builder
866-340-8912
www.cagreenbuilder.org

VERMONT BUILDS GREENER

Until early 2008, Vermont Builds Greener was aligned with the LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. program. But when LEED for Homes went from pilot status to become a full-blown certification program, Vermont decided to go its own way with more regionally oriented requirements.

The program, currently for new construction only, operates under the auspices of an organization called Building for Social Responsibility.

To win certification, builders must fulfill an extensive list of mandatory requirements — there are 94 of them in all — and also accumulate at least 100 additional points.

The categories include:

  • Siting and land use
  • Building design
  • Quality/Durability
  • Energy use
  • Resource impacts
  • Occupant health/indoor air quality
  • Keeping it green (occupant education, operation and maintenance)

A complete list of points and program requirements can be found here.

FURTHER RESOURCES

A list of local green building programs affiliated with NAHB Green.

Build It Green is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote healthy, energy- and resource-efficient building practices in California.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory published a useful guide to local green building programs in August 2002.


Image Credits:

  1. Copyright 2009, International Code Council, Inc., Washington, D.C., 2009 International Energy Conservation Code. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.
  2. Daniel Morrison
  3. National Renewable Energy Lab
  4. Steven C. Spencer, Florida Solar Energy Center
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