With “green” being one of the hottest topics, thanks to high fossil fuel prices, there is an over-abundance of “green-washing” in everyday living and products. “Green-washing” is the practice of marketing a product or service with “green, energy efficient or sustainable” terms when those products may not really save energy, be sustainable or do not have any certifications from a reputable source.
For example, in my field real estate, licensees marketing themselves as knowledgable in sustainability and energy efficiency are being sought out. Those of us who obtained certifications through the National Association of Realtors (GREEN™) and EcoBroker™ are qualified to advise and be a resource for buyers and sellers looking for energy efficient homes or ways to lower their utility bills. Unfortunately I have found Brokers “green-washing” their companies with unsubstantiated green marketing claims and even company names like “…Green World Realty…” when not one licensee holds a “green” certification. Bottom line to those interested in working with “green” professionals – look at the national certifications of those making claims.
This same warning applies to any speciality service or product you are considering that makes specific “green” claims. As a Board member, I have been actively participating in updating the Florida Green Building Coalition’s (FGBC) new and retrofit guidelines for those wishing to attain an affordable green certification. These guidelines are a wonderful resource for anyone building or retrofitting a house for greater energy efficiency and better indoor air quality. Since 2001 FGBC has certified more than 3200 homes as well as cities, local governments and commercial buildings.
The next segment of the Green Construction series from the GreenBuildingAdvisor explains several certifications for houses and appliances. Learn more about several of the Federal and national certifications that you should look for when purchasing a “green” product or appliance.
A certified home meets certain construction standards that should translate into increased energy conservation, healthy indoor air and lower operating costs. There is not, however, a single government or private agency that doles out certifications—and that’s where it can get confusing.
One of the oldest rating systems is the U.S. Department of Energy’sEnergy Star program, which recognizes houses (as well as other products) that save energy. An Energy Star house must be at least 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code and 20 percent to 30 percent more efficient than standard construction. Some states have their own energy codes for residential construction.
But “green” goes beyond energy efficiency, so buyers who want a certified green house should be looking for a program with a more holistic approach.
The best known is probably LEED for Homes. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the brainchild of the U.S. Green Building Council. It’s a highly structured rating system in which points are awarded to houses in a number of areas (site selection, the use of recycled materials, and energy and resource conservation, to name a few). LEED relies on independent inspectors, so builders can’t give their own houses a certification. LEED accreditation is also time consuming and expensive, so not all builders think it’s worth their time. It doesn’t necessarily mean their houses aren’t just as good.
The National Association of Home Builders has its own set of green-building guidelines (NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines) that are as broad in scope as those of the LEED program. One big difference is that the builder, rather than third-party inspectors, is responsible for signing off on many of the construction requirements.
The newest big national initiative is the ANSI National Green Building Standard (NGBS). The National Green Building Standard, also known as ICC-700, grew out of NAHB’s earlier Model Green Building Guidelines and was approved in early 2009 by the American National Standards Institute.
These are not the only green-building guidelines that builders and homeowners can turn to, and each program is going to be slightly different. Program guidelines are easily accessible on the Internet. Even if the language can get technical, anyone who spends some time studying program requirements should pick up a general idea of what that particular green designation means.