Home Innovation Insights

Fellowship of the New Year's Resolution

January 3, 2013

I love the New Year. Not New Year’s Eve, since I am almost always asleep when the Times Square ball drops, but the tradition of reflecting on the past year’s accomplishments, pondering goals for the coming year, and ultimately committing to a few bodacious resolutions for the year. Like many, I am rarely 100% successful in keeping my resolutions, but I have learned some important lessons. First, unpleasant resolutions reliably fail.  Will you really be excited about pledging to eat more cauliflower (selected as the Hot Vegetable for 2013)? Second, insipid self-help promises like “always maintain a positive attitude” are impossible to measure and utterly unrealistic. Besides, sometimes you need a little snark.

Instead, make a resolution that gives you the possibility of success and provides some extra joy. Pledge to be better at doing something good in 2013. According to Christine Carter, a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, pledging to do something that brings enjoyment can help you be successful at keeping a resolution in the first place. For home builders and remodelers, resolve that this is the year when you build a green certified home.

Most builders want to build a better home, and there is no question in my mind that a green certified home is a better built home than one that is not. Is a green certified home better because it has fewer impacts on the environment? Yes. But the real difference is that a green certified home is a superior product even if you didn't consider the reduced environmental impact. For one thing, the homes that Home Innovation Labs certifies to the National Green Building Standard (NGBS) have important attributes that many non-NGBS homes do not. Compliance with the building code is a good start, but generally building codes are minimum acceptable standards to protect the occupant’s health, safety, and welfare. Contemporaneous building science, products, and technology offer builders an opportunity to provide a better-built home that goes beyond code for the owner’s comfort and benefit. For builders who want to better their craft, the NGBS offers a blueprint for how to design and construct a home that is more comfortable, has lower operating costs, and offers a healthier living space.

The NGBS offers over 500 ways that builders can improve the quality of the homes they build. Many of these practices are affordable and fairly straightforward to implement and have an immediate and tangible improvement on the quality of construction. Yet lots of homes are being built without benefit of these extra features. Other practices are more complex or expensive — these can be considered a stretch goal for builders to implement now or consider adding to their repertoire for future projects.

I had the opportunity to speak with a builder in Pennsylvania who attained the first Emerald-level NGBS certification. Previously he had never built a green home but was encouraged to consider high-performance techniques by his NAHB 20 Club peers. He confronted the challenge with a competitive spirit, honing his design with the NGBS at his side to provide technical assistance. When he was done he remarked how much better this home was than any other one that he had built before. He said that he believed the new homeowners were really going to get a superior product.

Simply put, the NGBS can help you design and construct a better home for your buyers. And with an NGBS green certified home, a homebuyer has third-party assurance that those important attributes are not just part of the design and construction, but were correctly installed as well. Here are five things that make a difference for buyers of a green certified home:

  1. Tight Envelope. Drafty homes are uncomfortable for occupants. They are also more expensive to operate because all the conditioned air fails to stay inside, while the outside heat and cold freely seep into the house.
  2. Moisture Management. After mastering the art of a tight envelope, a builder needs to ensure that water is expertly managed both inside and outside the home. Construction practices like adequate foundation drainage, properly installed water-resistive and ice barriers, bathroom ventilation, and satisfactory flashing helps to reduce potential mold and moisture problems for the homeowner.
  3. Proper Ventilation. Proper ventilation helps improve indoor air quality. Ventilation can control indoor humidity and airborne contaminants, both of which can either contribute to or act independently as health hazards.
  4. Properly-sized, High-Efficiency Systems. For quality-built homes this is a double-duty necessity. Selecting the right size HVAC system ensures it runs at optimum performance and delivers optimum comfort. Selecting a high-efficiency system gets the homeowner more heat and cooling power for fewer bucks.
  5. Efficient Resource Use. Most people put this into the “good for the environment” bucket. While I agree, even more important to me as a consumer is that the builder uses materials effectively and efficiently and thinks about where he can cut waste. Call me cheap, but I don’t want to pay for more building materials than I need.

Want to best your competition in 2013? Sit down with a copy of the National Green Building Standard and your most recent set of construction plans. Score your home using our nifty Green Scoring Spreadsheet to see how you can build an even better home for your next project. Then find an Accredited Green Verifier who can confirm just how affordable and attainable NGBS certification can be. As always, Home Innovation Labs staff is available to coach you through any difficult spots and help you on your path to certification success. Just contact us and we will make sure your 2013 Green Certification Resolutions become your 2014 Business Success Stories.