NGBS: Setting The Standard For Green Home Certification

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.

NGBS Bronze-cerfitied home

image via NGBS

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.

NGBS Bronze-certified Voyater at Space Center luxury apartments

image via NAHB Research Center

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.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

    • green expert

      lets get this straight rigjht now…. the nahb green research center is a flat out failure and more than a decade late to the burgeoning green residential building industry.energystar,earthcraft,leed,all precede the nahbreen building standard and have adopted and implemented nationally for years…because the nahb green reaserch center failed at their mission.the only reason for the nahb green designation is to lower the cost of verification call it the way it is michele desidaro
      the green expert will no longer tolerate failed biased news releases by a failed industry.the 6 million homes that nahb green menbers constucted over the last 6 yrs will all have to be retrofiited flat out because of the piss poor performance of the nahb green research center.