Home Innovation Insights

You can't expect what you don't inspect. NGBS Green inspects quality, so builders & buyers can expect it.

Michelle Foster
October 15, 2021

Proof Points: An NGBS Green Home is a Better Built Home

Behind the Scenes of the NGBS Green QA System

The NGBS Green certification process is designed to confirm a home or multifamily building meets the stringent requirements of the National Green Building Standard ICC-700 (NGBS). A building that earns the NGBS Green certification mark has been shown to conform to the NGBS as verified in-person by an Accredited NGBS Green Verifier and certified as conforming by Home Innovation Research Labs.

The NGBS Green certification process includes numerous steps to ascertain a buildings conformance. First, the building is scored using an NGBS Green Scoring Tool. The Scoring Tool contains backend logic to help ensure that the user is entering in correct information. For example, a home in Hawaii would not be able to claim points from installing an ice barrier. Second, buildings seeking certification must have at least two inspections by an Accredited Verifier. The Verifier will inspect the building to confirm its NGBS compliance. Other green building programs allow documentation to demonstrate compliance, but documentation does not affirm that a building is compliant. General contractors often value-engineer out equipment, windows, and other sustainable product choices when site inspections are not part of the construction process. While not malicious, those kinds of changes can significantly affect a building's performance and efficiency. Third, depending on the building type, the building and equipment are subject to several performance tests to confirm peak operability. Even if the products or equipment are correct, they don’t always get installed correctly. Independent, third-party Verifiers ensure what is designed gets built. Last, Home Innovation reviews every verification report for every building seeking certification before conferring the NGBS Green certification.

As the national NGBS Green certification agency, our Quality Assurance (QA) oversight runs deep and we have expansive procedures to ensure buildings earning the certification mark are NGBS compliant. These QA procedures reinforce the NGBS Green certification mark by increasing homebuyer’s and renter’s confidence, bolstering the program’s value to builders and developers, and solidifying the program’s credibility with lenders and government agencies. 

A keystone of NGBS Green program philosophy is that QA is entirely complete before the certification is issued. Our goal is to be able to deliver robust QA within our long-standing promise of one-business-day certifications – assuming all other program requirements are met (e.g., a complete client agreement and proof of insurance). Frankly, I do not see the point of post-certification QA. If post-certification QA shows a project to be non-compliant, it is too late to fix the issue, and we have the awkward situation of having to revoke the NGBS Green certificate. Ain’t nobody got time for the pain, disruption, and general heartburn that would cause!

Another NGBS Green hallmark is transparency. We believe it is important to shine light on how we operate as a certification agency to provide greater credibility for the NGBS Green certification mark. This blog is intended to shine a light on our QA procedures so that clients, agencies, legislative bodies, and, most importantly, residents of NGBS Green Certified buildings understand why an NGBS Green Certified home is simply a better home.

NGBS Green Verification Report Reviews

All verification report submissions — both rough and final — are reviewed by Home Innovation staff. Each report and its accompanying documentation provides Home Innovation a snapshot of the verifier’s:

  • Understanding of the NGBS practices and compliance requirements
  • Adherence to the verification protocol and certification process outlined in the Verifier's Resource Guide (VRG)
  • Attention to detail

Verifiers are graded on every verification report submission. Verifiers can earn an A, B, C, D, or F grade for a report based on accuracy and completeness. Every six months, all verifier grades are compiled, averaged, and sent to the verifier, and, in some cases, their Verifier Organization Administrator.

Verification Report Desktop Audits

Desktop audits (DA) are a (mostly) random spot check on Verifier performance. Desktop audits are a documentation review of the information the Verifier collects to verify compliance. Our annual goal is DAs for at least 10% of projects seeking certification. While the selection is largely random, newer Verifiers and Verifiers with performance issues are selected at a higher frequency than experienced Verifiers or Verifiers with exceptional performance reviews. DA results are factored into the performance grade for the corresponding verification report.

Desktop audits are project specific. The Verifier is sent a list of NGBS practices for which the Verifier must submit the documentation collected during their verification. Performing poorly on a DA is a great way to ensure the Verifier will be selected for another audit in the near term.

Virtual Inspection Audits

Virtual audits (VA) are a more recent addition to our QA toolbox. Virtual audits are in-field assessments of a Verifier’s inspections using a video conferencing service. Because a VA is an evaluation of a Verifier’s skills and NGBS competency, our goal is to complete a VA on at least 50 Verifiers per year, or about 20% of the Verifier pool.

During a VA, Home Innovation staff observe the inspection and take notes, but generally do not interfere with or guide or prompt the Verifier in any way. Staff try to be as unobtrusive as possible to allow the Verifier to demonstrate their verification competency and acumen. Every VA is graded, and the review is included in the Verifier’s file. Verifiers that perform poorly receive a detailed performance evaluation that is sent to them to help the improve in the future, and a copy is kept in their record.

Performing poorly on a VA (receiving a grade of C or lower) ensures another VA will be scheduled in the near term. Serious issues identified in a VA can result in the Verifier being put on probation and/or being required to complete additional training. In particularly serious transgressions of program policy, procedures, or verification guidelines, the Verifier can have their accreditation terminated.

Automated QA via AXIS

In September 2021, the NGBS Green administrative database transitioned to the AXIS Platform. This new platform provides many benefits for clients and Verifiers, but among the chief benefit is our ability for automated, enhanced QA for every NGBS Green project. In addition, because QA will be handled via AXIS, we will be able to significantly increase the number of projects and Verifiers that are subject to more detailed QA.

As always, we welcome feedback and suggestions as to how NGBS Green QA process can provide additional value and enhanced credibility. Contact Michelle, if you have feedback or suggestions..

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