Home Innovation Insights

Why is it important your green home is certified to a national standard? To be sure it's truly green!

Michelle Foster
September 26, 2014

Significance of a National Standard for Green Homes

Home building is a quirky industry. Homes are typically site-built, as opposed to factory-built, which requires builders to contend with variable weather and site conditions. A home’s location (hopefully) plays a critical role in the design and construction of the home – a house designed for Miami’s oppressive heat and humidity will be quite different from a home constructed for Denver’s dry climate.  Further, home building is regulated, appropriately so, by local governments. Land use regulations, zoning, and building and energy codes, which all vary jurisdiction to jurisdiction, affect how a home is designed and constructed. Builders’ expertise is hard to judge with production volume and cost being less important factors in homebuying than in other industries. As a result, homes have enormous variability, which while not necessarily bad, can make it very difficult for consumers to compare different models and make an informed purchase. Until now…

Enter the NGBS

The National Green Building Standard ICC-700 (NGBS) was approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 2009 as the only American National Standard for high-performance homes and multifamily buildings in the United States. As a national building standard, the NGBS sets the baseline for residential construction regardless of location, climate, construction type, local code requirements, budget, or builder expertise. All homes and multifamily buildings built in compliance with the NGBS are designed for at least a minimum performance level, signified by the Bronze level. Builders can also seek higher performance levels by pursuing Silver, Gold, or Emerald certification levels.

A national standard for high-performance, green homes is key to improving the state of residential construction in the United States. But just as important as having a national standard, is the process by which it was developed. The hallmarks of the ANSI development process are the rigorous requirements for openness, balance, consensus, and due process. Why are these important? While the requirements are important for myriad reasons, one reigns over them all. To ensure that any national standard that governs an industry is going to be an excellent, state-of-the-art, rigorous one. Some of the nation’s most expert building scientists, regulators, and builders participated in the development of the NGBS. Just as important as national experts, however, were the opinions and suggestions submitted by hundreds of participants who took advantage of the open process to help shape the final standard. Every single NGBS practice (as well as hundreds that didn’t make the cut) was deliberated by the NGBS Consensus Committee before it was submitted for ANSI-approval.

NGBS Becomes a Game Changer

With the introduction of the NGBS, consumers received a single standard by which to make informed decisions for what may be the most important, if not most expensive, purchases of their lives: their homes.

The NGBS levels the home building playing field by requiring builders to comply with all its Mandatory Practices. No exceptions. Typically these are building practices believed to be so fundamental to high-performance, quality construction that the NGBS Consensus Committee couldn’t imagine a green home being constructed without their implementation. They include:

  • Essential building practices designed to enhance durability and reduce maintenance by the appropriate control of moisture, such as installing exterior drain tile, damp-proofing below-grade walls, and flashing around roof and wall assemblies.
  • Critical construction techniques to control indoor pollutants, such as venting bathrooms and clothes dryers to the outdoors and installing an air barrier between the garage and the conditioned space.
  • Quality control measures that improve a home’s comfort, such as sizing the space heating and cooling systems appropriately, and properly sealing ducts and the building envelope.

Homebuyers can always proactively ask a builder to affirm these practices are in place. But with an NGBS Green Certified home, consumers rest assured that these practices have not only been installed, but have also passed inspection by an independent, accredited, third-party verifier.

Meeting NGBS Requirements is Just the Beginning

The Mandatory Practices in the NGBS merely set a national baseline for homes that are efficient, durable, high-performing, and healthier. But NGBS Green Certified homes all rise substantially above that minimum baseline. Bronze level NGBS Green Certified homes must also incorporate a sufficient number of additional practices in each of the six green building categories to earn 231 points via third-party inspection. A Gold certified home needs 509 points. The specific practices incorporated are likely to reflect location, climate, market preferences, and budget realities, but the NGBS demystifies the process for consumers by requiring that each homebuyer receives a definitive list of the home’s green building features and how to maintain them.

Home Innovation’s green home certification process mandates a minimum of two inspections for each NGBS Green Certified home by a trained independent, third-party verifier. All builders in the NGBS Green Certification program aim to build high-performance, sustainable homes. But because of the quirky, variable nature of the construction process we Home Innovation can’t just take a builder’s word for it. We check … and double-check. In-person assessments provide visual assurance that what a builder says he’s going to do is actually what gets done, and that it gets done correctly. Only when we are fully satisfied can a home earn the NGBS Green Certification mark.

Look for the Home Innovation NGBS Green Certified mark on your green home. 

The homebuying process is daunting. Buyers can easily be overwhelmed with the entire homebuying transaction, from selecting flooring, countertops, lighting, and appliance options; to weighing diverse neighborhood attributes; to decoding legal jargon in mortgage documents. The last thing a buyer wants to worry about is if the builder took care of all of the important unseen details of a high-performing, quality home.

The National Green Building Standard is one way savvy consumers can separate the wheat from the chaff. Is your home NGBS Green Certified? Look for the mark. Don’t settle for anything less.

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