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State agencies can leverage green building programs to achieve resiliency goals.

Cindy Wasser, MBA
November 14, 2022

State Housing Agencies: Recognize Green Building Programs as Resilient Construction Guides

Financing agencies are increasingly interested in ensuring that funded buildings are designed to withstand and recover quickly from extreme weather events, such as wildfires, tornadoes, droughts, floods, and hurricanes. By investing upfront in resilient construction, the agencies can be assured that funded buildings will require less maintenance and repair costs when such events occur.

When incorporating resilient construction requirements into funding evaluations, financing agencies need to look no further than the green building certification programs that they may already require or incentivize for building efficiency and indoor environmental quality. Recent versions of the National Green Building Standard (NGBS), Enterprise Green Communities, and LEED include resiliency practices that serve as a benchmark for increased durability and/or resilient energy systems.

Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) provides an example for other state and local jurisdictions in their 2021-2022 Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) for Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

The QAP requires completion of a Resilience Evaluation that captures site information and strategies to address identified resilience issues. This evaluation, which can be completed by any member of the design team, uses a simple checklist provided by the agency. Where the evaluation identifies additional costs that are necessary to implement resilient strategies, the tool helps identify outside grants that could be utilized ahead of DSHA resources.

Third-party green certification to the NGBS, Green Communities, or LEED is required for funding eligibility. When an applicant addresses specific resilience practices within their selected green rating system, three threshold points can be earned. Though each program’s requirements vary slightly in their terminology and approach, they all require design team coordination to implement above-code resilience strategies.

  • NGBS: develop and implement design and construction practices to enhance the resilience and durability of the structure to better withstand flooding, snow, wind, or seismic activity. The building is designed and constructed to exceed the IBC or IRC structural requirements by 10-50%. [Addressing this practice also earns the building the NGBS Green+ RESILIENCE badge, which non-profit housing organizations can leverage when communicating with funders and residents about sustainability and resilience.]
  • Enterprise Green Communities: assess hazards and vulnerabilities; conduct floodproofing of lower floors; and provide emergency power to serve critical loads.
  • LEED: perform assessment and planning for resilience; designed for enhanced resilience; and implement passive survivability strategies; and provide back-up power during disruptions.

By leveraging third-party green certifications in this way, state agencies can achieve resiliency goals with limited investment of staff time to research strategies and develop metrics to qualify resilient design and construction. Housing Finance Agency (HFA) staff are also supplemented by the technical support teams of the green building programs for technical assistance and interpretations. Funding applicants are directed to the green building rating systems with which they are already familiar and are supported by the local green verifiers that understand the critical threats in the areas where they work. For the NGBS Green Certification program administered by Home Innovation Research Labs, an email hotline is available to partners for free technical assistance and interpretations. Home Innovation’s team of building science experts leverages their diverse expertise to support green building certification projects.

This winning strategy is resilient for affordable housing agencies, both in terms of technical requirements and implementation approach.

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