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One-on-one insights from NGBS Green Verifier Laurie Colwander.

Michelle Foster
January 22, 2021

Voice of the Verifier: Laurie Colwander, NGBS Green Verifier

Laurie Colwander

Laurie Colwander, NGBS Green Verifier
Southern Energy Management

About Me:

  • I am the Director of Multifamily and Commercial Energy Services with Southern Energy Management (SEM) and have been an accredited NGBS Green Verifier since the program launched in 2008.
  • I am a member of the NGBS Green Advisory Group, which provides support and guidance for the NGBS Green certification program.
  • I even renovated my own home through the NBGS Green process — it was NGBS Green Certified at the Gold level!
  • I think NGBS Green is a great option for many multifamily projects pursuing a green building certification. The flexibility of the credits allows the project to focus on the things that matter most to each property/project team.

Southern Energy Management is a team of over 90 building scientists, solar professionals, and entrepreneurs dedicated to improving the way the world makes and uses energy. We’re passionate about continuously innovating and leading the energy market while maintaining our core values, and are a proud member of the B Corp community. I am happy to share some of the ways that we at SEM make building green as simple as possible by working with our partners as their NGBS Green Verifier.

Q: Why do you recommend NGBS Green for your clients’ projects?

A: The NGBS Green program is a great fit for many projects. We see three main reasons our clients choose NGBS:

  1. On-site inspections and verification, which provide an added level of QA/QC for sustainability focused construction details.
  2. The abundance of options and customization with 1,000+ potential credits to choose from in the NGBS checklist.
  3. More “bang for your buck” with lower certification costs than other programs.

Q: When do you recommend clients engage a green verifier?

A: We encourage our partners to get us on board as early in the process as possible. There are great benefits to having a green verifier be part of initial design conversations, especially to help guide and align sustainability practices with the project goals. During this time, we can also ensure that projects are set to meet any required criteria to take advantage of ancillary benefits like funding and utility incentives. We know project teams are busy and have a lot of other priorities to weigh to get the project off the ground, which is why engaging a great NGBS Green Verifier early is so important!

Q: How do you make sure the project team understands what is required?

A: To ensure all stakeholders understand what is required, we schedule kickoff meetings early at both the design and construction phases to review the credits for each project with the team. We make sure the team not only meets the NGBS credit requirements, but also understands any documentation or changes in scope that will be needed. Getting subcontractors on board early is highly valuable to communicate and set expectations for the site inspections to go smoothly and be sure the insulation and air sealing details are addressed.

Q: What does the verifier do behind the scenes?

A: Early in the process, I review plan sets and submittals to catch any potential issues and ensure material and equipment selections meet the certification requirements. I make sure what is documented in those drawings and specs, including items like appliances and HVAC equipment, meet the necessary efficiency levels. I also review the project for additional credits that the building can integrate to achieve even higher certification levels, or identify places where credits align with building codes and/or utility incentives. I meet with stakeholders on the project team after the initial review and at important design milestones, which helps to achieve a smooth integration of the NGBS credits.

Q: What qualifications should a client look for in a verifier?

A: I recommend clients ask if a prospective verifier has experience working with similar building types. It’s also important to discuss your verifier’s approach to communicating with your stakeholders, and how they plan to integrate with the designers and site team. Clients should ask the verifier how they are going to meet your construction schedule for on-site inspections. Lastly, a client should look for a verifier who can ensure the newly-certified property has the tools it needs to maximize its operational and leasing performance.

Q: How can a project team help subcontractors be successful?

A: I believe it is most helpful to educate the team about the NGBS credits being pursued and what is needed for compliance. Some credits affect the insulators, while others affect the HVAC contractors. A good verifier partner helps identify which subcontractors need to know what, and when, to ensure a smooth inspection and certification process.

Q: What is the most important skill a verifier brings to the project team?

A: An experienced verifier has developed a comprehensive understanding of how NGBS credits affect one another and the project as a whole. For example, if the project team decides to pursue a practice that necessitates changing one building product within the wall system, that may require also changing out other products or using new construction techniques for the wall due to how those products work together. An experienced verifier can help identify how one design item overlaps with other program/rebate/design goals. Some credits are either dependent upon or exclusive of each other, so it is important for the verifier to have experience in navigating the credits to maximize impact while balancing the effect on the existing design and systems.

Q: Developers worry that verification might delay a project. How do you ensure the project won’t be delayed?

A: The SEM team prides itself on ensuring projects are not delayed by integrating NGBS Green verification during the very critical initial planning process and project review phase. Developing a transparent path to meet each credit, while establishing and communicating clear expectations with all team players, is key to a successful certification.

Thanks for your insights, Laurie! Check back for more “Verifier Takeover” posts in the Home Innovation Insights blog in the coming weeks.


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