Home Innovation Insights

Michelle Foster
September 13, 2012

5 Things You Don't Know About the National Green Building Standard

Lately it seems like I spend a lot of time setting the record straight. At home or at work, doesn’t matter – I have to stop in my tracks and debunk the myths that surround me. Let’s take this morning. Starting at 6 a.m., there I was fact-checking my household. For my snack-loving toddler, “No, cookies are not a breakfast food – they only come out in the morning to get put in your lunch box.” And for my procrastinating teenager, “The ink in the printer is not self-replenishing.”

Likewise, every day brings a litany of misperceptions and misunderstandings about the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard (NGBS). So today I want to set the record straight on some common “unknowns” about the NGBS so we can move on to the important business of building certified green homes and apartments.

NGBS Facts You Should Know

1.  It is not the NAHB Green Building Standard.

Did NAHB (and ICC) facilitate the development of the NGBS? Yes. Does that mean it is the NAHB Green Building Standard? No. The National Green Building Standard was approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as an American National Standard in January 2009. Approval by ANSI signifies that the procedures used in the development of an American National Standard meet the Institute’s essential requirements for openness, balance, consensus, and due process. Once it was ANSI-approved, the NGBS joined the family of International Codes, published by the International Code Council – hence the ICC 700 designation. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the well-known trade association for the home building industry, has nothing to do with the NGBS certification program. The Home Innovation Research Labs, an accredited third-party certification agency, provides national NGBS certification services to the residential construction industry.

2.  It is the most rigorous national green rating system for residential.

NGBS certification is rigorous and comprehensively green. Like many other green building ratings systems, NGBS has six categories of green practices: Lot Design; Energy Efficiency; Water Efficiency; Indoor Environmental Quality; Resource Efficiency; and Building Operation and Maintenance. Unlike all of the other programs however, NGBS certification requires a building to achieve a minimum number of green practices/points in every category for each level of certification. NGBS-certified homes are verified to be green in all six categories. Want to achieve a higher level of certification? Great! Just make sure the building meets the higher point thresholds for all of the categories, because higher levels of certification demand more green practices in each category. Don’t fall short point-wise; each project’s maximum certification level is judged by its lowest score in any category. NGBS certification promises to deliver an all-around green building.

3.  It is not just for new construction.

This is perhaps the most frustrating misperception I encounter for two reasons. First, the NGBS has a certification path specifically designed to improve the performance of existing buildings. Given the enormous number of older buildings that would benefit tremendously from efficiency improvements, it is truly unfortunate that more people don’t take advantage of this path to green certification. Just think about what we could achieve if the NGBS Green Remodel Path was more widely utilized! We could lower operating expenses for thousands of buildings and greatly reduce our energy and water usage. All of the environmental benefits from all of the new green residential construction would pale in comparison to what we could achieve by retrofitting older residential homes and multifamily buildings in this country. Second, the NGBS Green Remodel Path is simple, rigorous, and can be used by single-family homes or multifamily buildings. Certification requires just three things. Improve the energy efficiency. Improve the water efficiency. And, because energy efficiency improvements may tighten up the building’s envelope, ensure the air quality isn’t impaired through five practices specific to the indoor environment.

4. It can be used to certify mid- and high-rise apartment buildings.

This is one of the most common misperceptions. Just this week I received an email from a colleague who was “assured” by a large national developer that the NGBS was just for single-family homes. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no height limit whatsoever for buildings to be NGBS certified. The NGBS applies to the design and construction of all residential buildings, and the residential portions of mixed-use buildings. The Home Innovation has certified a number of mid- and high-rise buildings and we have many in the planning and design phase.

5.  It is going to change the way you think about green certification.

All residential buildings should aspire to attain green certification. Market-rate apartment communities? Yep. Custom homes? Definitely. Affordable housing communities? Of course. Urban high-rise trophy buildings? Indubitably. The Home Innovation hopes the NGBS will be the program of choice for all residential builders, developers, and remodelers. Our goal is to deliver an affordable certification program that produces high-performance green homes using a rigorous verification protocol. Our green certification fees are low. We don’t charge green program partners for interpretations, technical advice, or even marketing assistance. Most importantly, our staff is knowledgeable, accessible, and here to help.

If you haven't explored the certification options available through the National Green Building Standard, I'd urge you to do so. If you've looked at it before but dismissed it quickly thinking it wouldn't apply to your project, I encourage you to take another look. Now is a great time to rediscover the NGBS as it is nearing the final stages of being updated and the 2012 version will be sent to ANSI for review very soon.

Knowing now what you may not have known before about the National Green Building Standard, how can we help your project get NGBS Green Certified today?


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Michelle Roberts
Saturday, September 15, 2012 12:39 PM
"I lead the Architecture and Multifamily Segments at Owens Corning and my clients love the NGBS as they see it as a differentiator and their clients are demanding safe, healthy, energy efficient housing. I hightly recommend developers to learn more about this nationally recognized program!"