Home Innovation Insights

You know the NGBS applies to homes and apartments. But what about hotels or student housing? Yes!

Cindy Wasser, MBA
July 23, 2014

NGBS Not Just for “Typical” Buyers or Renters

In recent years, we’ve seen increasing awareness and demand for green home design/construction among homebuyers and renters. However, typical buyer/renter consumer demand is not the only driver for residential green certification. While initially attracted to the NGBS (National Green Building Standard) and Home Innovation’s certification program for its rigor, flexibility, and affordability, builders and developers are frequently (and pleasantly) surprised by the wide variety of projects other than traditional home construction to which the NGBS is applicable.

The scope of the NGBS is based on end-use, not height or construction type. The NGBS covers ALL residential construction with units that meet the definition of a dwelling unit – i.e., “a single unit providing complete, independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, cooking, and sanitation.” The NGBS specifically addresses single-family homes, multifamily buildings, land developments, and remodeling projects, but the definition of dwelling units allows for broader use beyond these types of residential construction.

Below are a few “unique” projects that demonstrate how the NGBS has value beyond the traditional home sale or rental.

Military Housing

Balfour Beatty Communities, LLC, a developer and property manager for the multifamily, military, and student housing markets, is currently building NGBS Green Certified homes at Fort Bliss (El Paso, Texas), Fort Eustis (Newport News, Va.), and Fort Carson (near Colorado Springs, Colo.).

As Balfour Beatty will construct and manage the Fort Bliss homes for 50 years, compliance with the NGBS will produce homes that are not only more livable and affordable for military families, but also more durable and less costly for the company to maintain. At Fort Bliss, Balfour Beatty is building 536 NGBS Green Certified townhomes designed to surpass energy efficiency requirements of privatized military housing by over 70 percent. They are accomplishing this level of efficiency by integrating energy-efficient equipment inside the homes and rooftop solar equipment outside. Other sustainable features include double-pane, low-e windows, hybrid electric water heaters, increased envelope sealing and insulation, water-efficient fixtures, and more.

Student Housing

Sustainable housing options are in demand on/near university campuses too, given young adult preferences for an environmentally-conscious lifestyle. Certification to a national standard provides third-party validation of a builders’ sustainability commitments.

Campus Circle Tallahassee Apartments, located adjacent to the Florida State University campus, achieved Bronze-level NGBS Green Certification by integrating sustainable materials and design, demonstrating superior energy and water efficiency, and implementing lot design and indoor environmental quality practices. Campus Circle is located close to mass transit and walkable to many community resources, including parks, grocery stores, campus buildings, and restaurants, allowing students to enjoy car independence.

Supportive Housing/Shelters

NGBS Green Certification is well-suited for low-income and supportive housing (shelters, rehabilitation facilities, etc.) because it is cost-effective and flexible. Various federal and state housing programs provide incentives for green and energy-efficient construction for the energy cost savings and low-maintenance features afforded to residents, and the NGBS is among the national green programs typically included.

In Fort Wayne, Ind., the new NGBS Green Certified 36-unit Courtyard Residence will offer housing and workforce training to young adults who have “aged out” of the foster care system. The 45,000-square foot building achieved Silver certification to the NGBS, and includes a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments, a full commercial kitchen, and various classroom and community rooms. Courtyard residents will have access to counseling, job/life skills courses, and assistance with obtaining high school diplomas/GEDs, parenting education, and other on-site services.

Kevan Biggs, president of Ideal Suburban Homes, which built the facility and will manage it long-term, said that funding was the main motivator for the team to seek NGBS Green Certification. The Courtyard Residence took advantage of a mix of federal, state, and local funding. The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority requires all projects seeking Low-Income Housing Tax Credits be certified to either the NGBS, LEED, or Energy Star, and additional benefits are given to projects that achieve higher certification levels beyond Bronze/Certified.

Rescue Squad Facilities

Facilities for rescue personnel also are eligible for NGBS Green Certification, as they typically include a “residential component”—a large kitchen facility, one or more large sleeping rooms for rescue workers to await emergency calls, and a large living space for training and team-building. Rescue squad facilities typically include less specialized equipment than police and fire stations and often are located in residential neighborhoods. 

When the Lexington Park Volunteer Rescue Squad, located in Lexington Park, Md., was designing a new facility, the team sought to build a “facility for the future,” according to LPVRS President Kenneth Hicks. The squad was replacing its existing facility with a much larger building. As a non-profit that operates independently from local government funding, the squad recognized the importance of green building features to help reduce operating expenses over the facility’s lifetime (expected to be 30-50 years).

The new facility, which is currently registered and in-process for NGBS Green Certification, is being verified as if the building was a single-family home with an exceptionally large garage, according to NGBS Green Verifier Mark Garner. The facility includes four large bay areas for equipment, a residential kitchen, sleeping quarters, and office space.

Both Hicks and Garner believe this facility can serve as a model for other rescue teams and government agencies. We already know of other Southern Maryland fire rescue teams that are currently exploring NGBS Green Certification as a result of this project. 


Hotel companies view green certification as a way to demonstrate their commitment to corporate sustainability. Hotels are eligible for NGBS Green Certification provided they offer amenities beyond just a bed(s) and bathroom. Hotel chains that are designed for families and/or business travelers sometimes have amenities that make the units more like an apartment than just a sleeping room. To be certified, each unit must have at a minimum a refrigerator; a microwave, range or cooktop; one or more beds; and a separate living area.

Are you looking to have an “atypical” construction project NGBS Green Certified? Get in touch early in the process to discuss the certification requirements and explore all the possibilities.

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