What is Green Building Certification?

Green buildings are energy conscious and made with sustainably harvested and manufactured materials.  Various systems of green building certification exist in the U.S.  These systems include training for professionals who can perform energy audits, suggest retrofits, certify building, and put green building principles to work when designing new buildings.

LEED 

The U.S. Green Building Council, or USGBC, is a 501 c3 nonprofit committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for the nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.  The USGBC has developed the internationally recognized LEED green building certification system,  providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO 2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”.  LEED provides building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

LEED is flexible enough to apply to all building types – commercial as well as residential. It works throughout the building lifecycle – design and construction, operations and maintenance, tenant fit-out, and significant retrofit. And LEED for Neighborhood Development extends the benefits of LEED beyond the building footprint into the neighborhood it serves.

According to a reports by CoStar, the Leonardo Institute and others, the costs associated with green-building techniques do not significantly increase the cost of construction when compared to non green-building approaches. Points/credits typically vary in cost with some claiming a premium for investment. The majority of points/credits are considered affordable.

GreenPoint Rated 
 
Nevertheless, alternatives to LEED’s complex rating system have arising.  One is GreenPoint Rated, a system developed by Build It Green.  Build It Green is a non-profit membership organization whose mission is to promote healthy, energy- and resource-efficient building practices in California. They work with mainstream stakeholders in the housing industry to accelerate the adoption of green building practices.

Environmentally friendly homes not only save resources and money, they can last longer, be healthier and more comfortable, and hold their value better than similarly priced homes. But how can you tell if your home really is green?
 
GreenPoint Rated removes the guesswork by having a Certified GreenPoint Rater evaluate a home's green features allowing homes to be compared on a level playing field. GreenPoint Rated rewards building professionals and homeowners who create green homes by allowing them to brand their products with a recognizable, trustworthy seal of approval.

Think of GreenPoint Rated as a report card for a home.  There are two versions of the system, one for new construction and one for existing homes, thus the Green Point system can be used to help upgrade the energy efficiency of homes that have already been constructed and occupied.  A GreenPoint Rated home is graded on five categories:
  • resource conservation
  • indoor air quality
  • water conservation
  • community
  • energy efficiency
Green Globes

The Green Building Initiative ("GBI") oversees Green Globes in the United States. GBI is an accredited standards developer under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and has begun the process to establish Green Globes as an official ANSI standard.  When compared to LEED, Green Globes' appeal may be enhanced by the flexibility and affordability the system may provide while simultaneously providing market recognition of a building’s environmental attributes through a recognized third-party verification.

According to a study by the University of Minnesota that compared LEED with Green Globes, the study found that the systems were very similar. LEED was more rigorous, rigid and quantitative whereas Green Globes was also rigorous, but more flexible and primarily focused on energy efficiency as a goal.

ENERGY STAR

ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.

EPA provides an innovative energy performance rating system which businesses have already used for more than 130,000 buildings across the country. EPA also recognizes top performing buildings with the ENERGY STAR.

NAHB Green's National Green Building Standard

In 2007 the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the International Code Council (ICC) partnered to establish a much-needed and nationally-recognizable standard definition of what is meant by "Green Building."

A consensus committee was formed to develop this standard in compliance with the requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The resulting ANSI approved ICC-700-2008 National Green Building Standard, promoted by the nonprofit NAHB Green, defines green building for single and multifamily homes, residential remodeling projects and site development projects while still allowing for the flexibility required for regionally-appropriate best green practices.

Similar to the NAHB Model Green Homebuilding Guidelines, a builder, remodeler or developer must incorporate a minimum number of features in the following areas: energy, water, and resource efficiency, lot and site development, indoor environmental quality, and home owner education. The more points accrued, the higher the score.

The National Green Building Standard is the first residential green building rating system to undergo the full consensus process and receive American National Standards Institute approval. The four threshold levels - Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Emerald - allow builders to achieve entry-level green building, or the highest level of sustainable "green" building incorporating energy savings of 60% or more. Single-family & multi-unit homes, residential remodeling projects, and site developments are all covered in the Standard.