The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building standard, introduced by the U.S. Green Building Council at the turn of the millennium, is widely agreed to have been a smashing success. With over 12,000 certifications in the last twelve years, it seems you can’t turn around these days without running into a building with one of those shiny glass plaques attesting to its LEED status.
But so far, LEED for Homes certifications have lagged far behind those for commercial buildings. Call it the overhead factor, or even the publicity factor: commercial building owners and managers have done the math and come up in favor of LEED, while home builders have held back. What is needed to close that gap in green home certifications, according to Michelle Desiderio — Director of the Green Building Programs at the National Assocciation of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center — is the National Green Building Standard.
This standard for green home building was developed by the NAHB and the International Code Council, starting in 2007. The idea was to establish a standard definition of a green home based on the process that the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) follows to determine the specs for everything from acoustical devices to construction equipment. Following this process meant including a wide range of shareholders — including product manufacturers, environmental nonprofits, the Environmental Protection Agency and home builders — as well as plenty of opportunities for public involvement, comment, and appeal.
The resulting ICC 700 National Green Building Standard (NGBS) is the first and so far only residential green building rating system to gain the approval of ANSI. The standard defines green building for single- and multifamily homes, residential remodeling projects, and site development projects while still allowing for some flex in terms of best green practices at the regional level. The NAHB Research Center serves as the Adopting Entity for the NGBS, and began providing certifications in January 2009.
So far, the NGBS is on track to duplicate and perhaps even exceed LEED’s success in the residential building sector, having racked up around 4,000 certifications in less than three years. But if you live on the West Coast, you may have yet to hear of it. (The standard, so far, has been most heavily adopted in the Northeast and Texas.) To get a sense for just what’s involved with this increasingly popular green home certification, and why it’s needed, we sat down with Desiderio over the course of a phone interview.
EarthTechling (ET): How does NGBS certifcation differ from LEED for Homes?
Michelle Desiderio (MD): The Standard is more rigorous, more flexible, less prescriptive, and more affordable.