Home Innovation Insights

Insights from NGBS Green Verifier Abe Kruger.

Michelle Foster
June 4, 2021

Voice of the Verifier: Abe Kruger, NGBS Green Verifier

Abe Kruger, CEM, LEED AP Homes + NDAbout Abe Kruger:

Abe Kruger honed his expertise in sustainable construction over the last 16 years as a contractor, educator, and consultant in the residential building industry. In 2014, he cofounded SK Collaborative with Carl Seville. SK Collaborative has delivered testing and certification services for more than 20,000 apartments and homes, with nearly 23,000 additional units currently underway. They have completed projects across 19 states, U.S. territories, and countries. Abe is the coauthor of the first residential green building textbook, Green Building: Principles and Practices in Residential Construction (Delmar/Cengage Learning), and is also one of the principal authors of the LEED Reference Guide for Homes Design and Construction (LEED v4). He is a frequent presenter at local and national conferences, including Greenbuild, RESNET Building Performance Conference, and Greenprints.

About SK Collaborative:

SK Collaborative works with developers, builders, remodelers, contractors, architects, and homeowners to implement cost-effective techniques that improve building performance. Our services include consulting, design reviews and charrettes, training, and building certification for single and multifamily buildings under the National Green Building Standard and other green building programs. Additionally, we provide air infiltration testing for commercial buildings, building enclosure consulting, and sustainability certifications for light commercial buildings. SK Collaborative is currently working on projects totaling over 23,000 dwelling units spread across the United States, Caribbean, and Mexico.

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

A: NGBS Green is a very approachable green building program that delivers real benefits for builders, owners, and residents. We’re particularly excited about the new 2020 version for multifamily renovations and mixed-use buildings. Many of our clients also value that it’s a nationwide program that extends into the Caribbean.

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

A: We get asked all the time, “Is it ever too early for you to get involved?” And our answer is, “Never!” Ideally, the green verifier is included in the design process to maximize their positive impact on the project. As architect Peter Pfeiffer likes to say, “Ninety percent of the opportunity to make a home green is in the first 10 percent of the design process.” We’ve not only found this to be true, but we also have found that these early green building decisions tend to be the most cost-effective ones.

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

A: The first step to certification is a design review. The goal is to lay out a clear path to certification and identify any potential issues as early as possible. Next, you bring together the design and construction teams for a kickoff meeting early in the construction phase. This ensures everyone from the general contractor to the subcontractors understands the scope of work and green building certification process. At that time you review the requirements for insulation grading, air sealing, duct sealing, and optional point items like plumbing design, irrigation design, framing, etc.

Q: What does the verifier do behind the scenes?

A: The NGBS Green Verifier plays a handful of different roles. We educate the design and construction teams about green building and specific NGBS Green program requirements. We facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration. And yes, we are “verifiers” on site throughout the construction process ensuring what was designed is actually built. An accredited Green Verifier is a valuable resource that should be tapped as much as possible. In addition to providing green building certification services, we’re often asked to advise through the value engineering (VE) process, document energy code compliance, and verify compliance with local low-income housing tax credit programs. We can do all these things – and more!

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

A: The short answer is that a client should select someone who meets the needs of the project, which can vary significantly. For example, a client that’s working in multiple states may want a verification company that is able to work across their whole portfolio. If that’s the case, you’ll need someone that’s not just a “one man shop.” In addition, many of our clients like that we provide a range of services, including building enclosure consulting and energy code compliance testing, which can help reduce the total number of consultants needed on a project.

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

A: Ideally, the green verifier is welcomed into the design and construction teams. They can then support other team members to ensure project success. Within any given market, subcontractors get familiar with one another. It’s important to remember that most people do want to do a good job and deliver a product they can be proud of. The key is making sure the folks in the field understand the work scope and how it will be verified. While NGBS Green Verifiers need to enforce program requirements, we’re not trying to find problems just for fun. We want to do all we can to help our clients succeed in their quest for certification and create a truly green building.

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

A: Green Verifiers obviously need to be construction and green building experts, but it’s equally important for them to also be good communicators. Verifiers need to explain technical concepts quickly and concisely to a diverse audience.

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

A: Projects can be delayed due to scheduling issues and having to make corrections. Unfortunately, the Verifier can only do so much to control these issues. We recommend that project teams meet early and regularly to ensure everyone understands the green building program requirements and are on the same page for the work scope. We dedicate a lot of time educating on the front end – through design reviews, kickoff meetings, and the first inspection – so that the project team has a chance to implement any required changes across the entire project early on. We also have invested heavily in our inspection reporting process and strive to deliver reports before even leaving the construction site. Through good communication and planning, scheduling issues can largely be avoided.

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



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