After working on green building and sustainability issues for over 25 years, here is what I know for sure. Despite green building experts’ declarations to the contrary, a truly high-performance, green home is not always easy for builders to design and construct, and there are always additional costs involved as compared to building a code-minimum home.
Now, having stated those facts, I can also say with certainty that we can make the process easier and more affordable for builders. In fact, we must seek ways to make it easier and more affordable to convince more builders to build green homes and verify the home’s performance with independent, third-party verification.
Let’s consider the difficulties from the builder’s perspective. Even the simplest single family home is relatively complex. Builders must comply with innumerable regulations and codes, they spec hundreds of products, and employ dozens of subcontractors, in the construction of a typical home. Successful builders know, based on past performance of previously-built homes and presumably feedback from former homebuyers, that whatever they are doing right now in the construction process more-or-less works. Doing something different, especially if it is fundamentally different and unfamiliar, comes with risk. So for the builder who wants to build a better, greener home, where to start?
The National Green Building Standard (NGBS), which was designed specifically for residential construction, was specifically conceived to make green building more accessible to all builders. As an ICC I-Code, the NGBS is written in code language so that the green building practices can be easily understood by everyone involved in the construction process: designers, architects, builders, carpenters, HVAC contractors, insulation installers, plumbers, and electricians. Now everyone can speak the same language to eliminate, or at least reduce, communication and implementation issues. Then the NGBS establishes a minimum performance baseline by mandating those building practices considered critical to a home’s functioning to set a baseline for performance. NGBS-compliant homes and multifamily buildings, for example, must include a weather-resistive barrier to manage moisture. Bathrooms must be vented to the outdoors. Ducts in unconditioned spaces must be insulated to meet a minimum level. Building owners must be provided with a list of the green building attributes included in the building. Once the mandatory practices have been met, the NGBS offers numerous green building practices so that builders can select the practices, products, and technologies that make the most sense for their climate, geography, construction type, and cost constraints.
But still, the NGBS offers a daunting array of optional green building practices totaling over 1,100 points from which builders can choose. So where does a builder start? How does a builder decide what practices are cost-effective? Or even most relevant to home buyers and renters?
One way to make it easier for builders to get started is the NGBS Bronze Cookbook. The concept is simple – allow builders to see the most commonly used practices incorporated in NGBS Green Certified homes. To be clear, the NGBS offers innumerable combinations of green building practices for a home to attain Bronze-level certification. And Home Innovation encourages builders to strategically select the green practices incorporated into projects based on their individual objectives and their specific customers’ desires. But like any good recipe, the Bronze Cookbook provides a great starting point for builders new to NGBS Green Certification.
Home Innovation developed the Bronze Cookbook by reviewing every NGBS Green verification report for all of the homes and multifamily buildings that have attained NGBS Green certification and pre-populating an NGBS Green Scoring Spreadsheet with the most commonly used practices to achieve the Bronze certification level. Given the widespread use of these specific green practices nationally, a new green builder can assume that they represent the most cost-effective green and relevant practices for residential construction. The NGBS Bronze Cookbook is a great way for a builder new to green building to get their first NGBS Green certified home under their belt.
By identifying cost-effective green practices, the NGBS Bronze Cookbook can save builders time and streamline what can otherwise be a complex and extensive decision-making process to identify how to attain green certification. Cost, time (which is equivalent to greater costs), and uncertainty are genuine barriers for many builders in initiating greener construction practices. Third-party verification, required for NGBS Green Certification, is an additional cost for builders to prove compliance, but can also be effectively managed. Through this blog, Home Innovation offers practical advice to builders (specifically, here and here) on how to maximize the value of project verification.
For 50 years Home Innovation’s mission has been to improve the quality, durability, affordability, and performance of homes. We view the NGBS and the NGBS Green Certification program as an opportunity to help the entire residential industry design and construct green, high-performing homes. We want to offer every builder, whether they build one home or 1,000 homes a year, a builder-friendly, credible, and rigorous path to building a certified green home.
Ready to get cooking? Let us know.***