Buying a new "green" home has never been easier. In fact, there are several organizations to choose from that provide information and certification services for homebuilders interested in utilizing environmentally sound, energy efficient products and practices.
"Building green" simply means putting together a home with minimal environmental impact and energy-saving features. Here’s a look at three organizations that certify green homes:
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is a Washington D.C. based agency representing 235,000 members.
In February 2008, the NAHB launched the National Green Building Program. The Program is an education, verification and certification initiative for builders located anywhere in the U.S.
A scoring tool at www.nahbgreen.org takes homebuilders through several green categories: water, energy and resource efficiency; lot and site development; indoor environmental quality; global impact and homeowner education. Points are awarded for each category. To get NAHB certified, a builder needs to get a good score on the test and pass a home inspection.
Energy Star is a joint program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy. Launched in 1992, Energy Star is a voluntary labeling initiative. Products and practices deemed energy-efficient are given an Energy Star logo.
To be Energy Star certified, a home must meet strict guidelines set by the EPA. Homes are inspected to see if they have good insulation, high performance windows, tight construction and ducts (no drafts), energy efficient cooling and heating systems and Energy Star appliances, lighting and water heaters. Independent third parties conduct the inspections.
The Energy Star website lists the names of builders who make Energy Star approved homes.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a rating system created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1998. The rating system focuses on six main areas: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation and design process.
The purpose of LEED is to create consistent standards regarding the construction of green buildings across the country. Certification is handled by LEED For Home Providers—local organizations chosen by the USGBC to provide third-party verification.
Homebuilders interested in getting certified must sign up with the LEED For Home Providers group in their area. LEED will provide these builders information on environmentally sound building practices. Once a home is completed, it gets inspected.
If it lives up to LEED standards, it can be marketed and sold as LEED-approved – still a distinguishing characteristic when listing a resale property. If you’re building a home or remodeling an existing one, consider getting it certified by one of the above organizations – a great way to get a sizeable return on your home investment.
For more information:
National Association of Home Builders
U.S. Green Building Council (runs the LEED program)
Energy Star website