“US-EcoLogic’s goal is to work with our clients to demystify green certification and provide the technical support to ensure a successful certification process. Currently, US-EcoLogic has 23 accredited NGBS Green Verifiers, including 2 MASTER Verifiers. Between us, we have provided verification services for over 675 NGBS Green Certified buildings, which account for over 29,000 apartments. US-EcoLogic has an additional 23,000 apartments in 540 buildings in-process to earn NGBS Green certification.”
GREEN BUILDING Q&A
Q: Why do you recommend NGBS Green for your clients’ projects?
A: NGBS Green is a nationally recognized and respected program that provides a flexible and affordable way to verify green construction projects. An above-code green certification program, NGBS Green provides numerous credit opportunities that make it easy to build more sustainably while staying within a project’s budget.
The NGBS is helping the housing industry become greener along with the rest of the construction industry. For example, because of NGBS Green certification, we are seeing more and more developers incorporate ENERGY STAR appliance packages into their apartments as standard practice. Before the NGBS was widely used for green certification, there wasn’t any incentive for developers to upgrade to ENERGY STAR appliances. The appliances often cost more but only the residents received a benefit since they typically pay for their utility bills. Now, because ENERGY STAR appliance upgrades are heavily rewarded by the NGBS, we see more developers selecting energy- and water-efficient appliance packages.
NGBS Green is already very widely used, having certified over 18,000 single-family homes and over 8,000 multifamily buildings (221,000+ units with another 150,000 in process!) as I’m writing this. I have seen the NGBS continue to grow and surpass many competitors in the above-code certification realm. The 2020 NGBS has expanded its scope even further. See what the new 2020 NGBS has to offer here.
Q: When do you recommend clients engage a green verifier?
A: As early as possible! At US-EcoLogic, we encourage clients to engage our verifiers as early as possible in the design process. This way we can review each new plan as they become available to ensure that the mandatory requirements and credits selected are met and maintained through the life of the project. If a credit that was selected early on is removed for any reason, the verifier will audit the credits and come up with a cost-effective alternative so the change does not affect certification or budgets at the end. Engaging early means fewer change orders and lower planning and construction costs. Therefore, it is highly beneficial to meet regularly with the verifier and project team throughout the design process.
Q: How do you make sure the project team understands what is required?
A: Schedule an NGBS kick-off meeting early. I like to invite the design team to participate in a discussion of each mandatory requirement and credit selected. This is an opportunity for all design scopes to engage in open discussion about what will and what will not fit the project’s unique needs.
The verification report imbedded in the NGBS Green Scoring Tool is an excellent resource during this phase of development. It allows the project team to filter voluntary credits and mandatory practices based on which construction phase will be verified in the field. For example, the rough verification report will list items such as: soil disturbance and erosion control measures, installation of flashing, proper air sealing of ductwork, etc. This is also where a verifier would inspect insulation and perform preliminary duct testing.
Items in the final verification report might include: installation of non-invasive plants; ENERGY STAR lighting and appliances; water conserving appliances and fixtures; kitchen and bathroom exhaust requirements; etc. This is also where the verifier would conduct blower door testing and remaining duct testing, where applicable.
Q: What does the verifier do behind the scenes?
A: The verifier takes some of the scheduling and organizational stress away from the client by working closely with the construction team and coordinating with the NGBS Green team. The verifier will schedule all rough and final inspections with the construction team and relay the appropriate information to NGBS in a timely manner. The verifier will also make sure to regularly audit the NGBS scorecard against new plan sets and be sure to save all relevant documentation in an organized fashion, so it is easily accessible when it comes time for final certification. This also ensures there are no issues or mistakes caught after it is too late.
Q: What skills should a client look for in a verifier?
A: A successful verifier must have strong communication and organization skills along with a keen attention to detail. Using NGBS Green will never slow down the construction schedule with inspections and testing if you select a diligent verifier. US-EcoLogic has a team of project managers and a team of field verifiers who are all trained and accredited to manage projects effectively. To avoid excessive site visits, I like to establish a schedule that goes along with the subcontractor’s schedules and bundle as many rough items and final items as possible. Proper information management is of the utmost importance to ensure everything necessary for certification is addressed.
Q: How can a project team help the subcontractors be successful?
A: Again, communication and diligence are key. I like to hold a meeting during the framing stage with the subcontractors to talk about proper air-sealing techniques and how to properly install insulation. Handling this during the framing stage prevents failed inspections and failed duct and blower door testing later. Conducting regular site walks with the superintendent is another strategy that will help maintain these best practices throughout the life of the project.
Thanks for your insights, Amy! Check back for more “Verifier Takeover” posts in the Home Innovation Insights blog in the coming weeks.