News The What, How and Why of Green Certified Homes
building a green certified home
An Expert’s Perspective
Dan Wise was an independent Lindal dealer for over 25 years. He became passionately involved in green building and certification on the local, state and national levels when the National Association of Homebuilders Research Center developed its green building standard.
Dan championed Lindal’s effort to be the first Green Approved building system under the ICC National Green Building Standard and became a vocal supporter of the Lindal-sponsored program for dealers to receive additional professional training and testing to become NAHB Certified Green Professionals.
LCH: What is Green Certification?
DW : Certification is a process that verifies that a newly constructed home meets certain minimum standards in several areas. Those areas include energy efficiency, water consumption, indoor air quality, the efficient use of resources during the construction of the home, and site development that is in tune with the existing site.
Another area that is an important element of a meaningful Green Certification is homeowner education. This largely involves the homeowner receiving operations and maintenance instructions for all the water, HVAC and appliance systems, including local resources to service and repair these systems. Home owners are also instructed in exterior maintenance practices for both the home and surrounding site that maintain the original green practices used to build the home. These must all be provided in a well-organized fashion from the general contractor.
LCH: When should the homeowner decide to pursue Green Certification of their new home?
DW: The decision to become certified must be made early in the design process. The overall siting, solar performance, and the efficient use of materials and the house’s energy efficiency are determined in great part by the homes actual design. Making the decision after ground is broken and/or the plans have been permitted isn’t impossible; it must be done before any drywall is started, since the ability to inspect and verify certain details will affect the overall as-built verification of the house.
The selection of fixtures, appliances, and in essence all of the materials used to build and finish the house also affect the house ‘s green performance, since the use of sustainable material and efficient systems and fixtures is critical to certification. Many of these decisions are made during the design process. The as-built score and how it compares to the required number of points determines whether or not the home will be certified.
LCH: What does the Green Certification process involve and who manages the process?
DW: The certification process begins with the completion of a design report. The design report is a listing of all the specifications that affect the building’s performance. Every item is scored and a certain number of points are required for certification at various levels (Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Emerald). The design report is interactive, so it’s easy to see the impact different products and systems will have on the overall rating.
There is no requirement as to who fills out the designer’s report. In some cases the builder and homeowner will work on the design report together. Ultimately the builder is responsible for making sure the details of the report are carried out correctly. The homeowner’s involvement helps ensure a working knowledge of the process and how their own decisions on systems and finishes will affect the final score.
The actual certification requires verifying that all of the items listed in the design report (and their point scores) were in fact utilized and installed properly in the completed house. An accredited verifier, who inspects the house at various stages, does the inspections and calculates the as-built score.
LCH: Does the homeowner benefit from building a Lindal with regard to Green Certification?
DW: There are a number of ways in which the homeowner benefits from building a Lindal.
One benefit of working with Lindal is the company’s dedication to energy conservation for decades and the fact that the details and materials used to construct Lindals have been continually refined as new constriction standards and materials have been developed. Elements of construction critical to performance, such as windows and doors, are supplied at performance levels that exceed those found in typical new home construction.
Just as every Lindal’s Lifetime Structural Guarantee assures that every Lindal is designed and engineered to meet or exceed the structural requirements of the local codes where the home is to be constructed, Lindal’s Green Approved mark is verification that every Lindal’s Green Coast to Coast specification meets the requirements of that green practice.
One green benefit of building a Lindal is the efficient use of material and reduced waste in the factory and on-site. Wood is a renewable resource and, properly managed, will continue to be for centuries to come.
Lindal’s use of engineered woods, such as laminated beams and engineered floor joists and other similar construction components earn Green Approved points in another area of the standard.
Lindal earns the most green points using one Sir Walter Lindal’s earliest design techniques, the 5’4” building module. Incorporating a design practice that Lindal used starting back in the 1960s now accounts for the green approved mark for seven different green practices.
LCH: Isn’t it difficult for a builder or homeowner to know all of this when completing the design report?
DW: Yes, there is a learning curve that almost all builders go through as they learn the practices and procedures. Lindal anticipated this, and the Lindal Building System was the first building system to apply for and receive the Green Approved designation under the ICC Building Standard.
LCH: Then if the house is designed and specified to qualify for Green Certification, isn’t that sufficient?
DW: I think it makes better sense to have a new home verified and certified. Completing the certification process will provide you the knowledge that your home has met the expectations you set during the design process, and that, properly maintained, you will realize the benefits of that in the form of reduced lifecycle costs.
LCH: Does it cost more to build a green home?
DW: Not necessarily. Properly siting a house to maximize energy efficiency and reduce disturbance to the site may well save you expense. In the last few years, the public has become more aware of the responsibility to build green, and building component producers continue to upgrade their products and introduce new green products at competitive prices. We might be talking a few percentage points, a small initial cost for years of savings.
The verification process and cost varies by location.
LCH: What are the benefits of Green Certification to the homeowner?
DW: The benefits of Green Certification can have some immediate financial benefits in the forms of tax credits and rebates. One additional benefit that can be realized immediately is reduced energy costs.
In certain areas of the country, green home values have increased more than conventional homes of the same size and design. I believe that over time, we’ll see home buyers insisting on buying green, if only to reduce energy costs, giving green homes a real market advantage. Written certification that a home incorporated the acknowledged best practices of the time will be a valuable document.
LCH: Any other benefits to certification?
DW: When your home is Green Certified you have peace of mind. You know that your home was built to exceed current standards. You and your family live in an energy efficient, healthy home that is going to perform well year after year. You are protecting your investment with written verification of your home’s performance. And last but not least, you are safeguarding the environment for future generations.