Home Innovation News

New Tropical Zone options make NGBS Green certification possible more widely.

November 13, 2020 | Upper Marlboro, MD

Sun-sational, Sustainable Design in the Tropical Zone

Home Innovation Certifies First NGBS Green Home in Puerto Rico

Recently, Home Innovation Research Labs certified the first NGBS Green home in Puerto Rico, thanks to new provisions in and interpretations for the National Green Building Standard ICC-700 (NGBS). The NGBS is designed to eliminate or reduce the environmental impacts of the homes we build (or rebuild), and also includes practices to help homes in natural disaster zones better withstand future disasters.

In September 2017, Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria – a Category 5 hurricane, the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane on record, and the most intense tropical cyclone worldwide that year. Maria damaged more than 786,000 homes, causing only minor damage to some, and sweeping others completely off their foundations. Now, three years later, Home Innovation is thrilled to have certified the first NGBS Green home in Puerto Rico, with an additional 269 buildings there currently in process to earn NGBS Green certification (43 multifamily buildings; 226 single-family homes). 

The 2015 NGBS and 2020 NGBS work particularly well in places like Puerto Rico that are in the Tropical Zone. Previous NGBS versions did not account for construction practices, resident preferences, or even building product constraints unique to tropical areas. Based on input from Consensus Committee members and stakeholders during the standard development process, the 2015 NGBS recognized buildings that meet the 2015 ICC Section R401.2.1 (Tropical Zone) would achieve the Silver level for energy efficiency. 

With that change, NGBS Green became a viable alternative as a green building certification program for buildings in tropical areas, resulting in five multifamily buildings receiving NGBS Green certification – three in Hawaii and two in St. Thomas, V.I. In turn, these certifications were key in helping the 2020 NGBS Consensus Committee further refine the requirements for buildings in the Tropical Zone. The 2020 NGBS includes important revisions such as recognizing fenestration choices more typical of tropical locales, such as jalousie windows, and providing an energy compliance path for both Silver and Gold certification levels. In addition, the 2020 NGBS has an entirely new section in Chapter 6: Resource Efficiency, designed to promote more resilient construction, which has become increasingly prominent in public policy and disaster recovery funding requirements.

Home Innovation Research Labs also modified the NGBS Green certification process to better accommodate Tropical Zone buildings. Buildings that do not have wall systems with fiberglass insulation behind drywall can skip the rough inspection phase to streamline and consolidate the verification process. We also waive the elevation limits for Tropical Zone compliance if the building is designed and constructed without conditioning. Finally, we have modified our inspection and documentation guidance for Verifiers working in the Tropical Zone, and are making a concerted effort to stick to our “within-one-business-day” document review and processing understanding that homes seeking HUD recovery funding are under strict deadlines for completion.

The first NGBS Green certified home in Puerto Rico is located in Bayamón, a municipality in the northern coastal valley and the island's second most populous city. The home was built on the site of a home destroyed by Hurricane Maria. The home’s design uses natural cross-ventilation to keep it cool and comfortable without an HVAC system. Jalousie windows help maximize natural ventilation by allowing airflow through the entire window area, and ceiling fans are located throughout the home to increase air circulation even further. The front door is covered by a sizeable overhang which helps keep rain out of the home and residents and guests dry until they can get inside.
For more details on this project, check out our case study. For more information on NGBS Green Certification, visit HomeInnovation.com/Green.

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ABOUT: Home Innovation Research Labs, located in Upper Marlboro, Md., is a full-service research, testing, and consulting firm determined to improve the quality, durability, affordability, and environmental performance of single- and multifamily homes and home building products – in short, we aim to perfect the home. Founded in 1964 as a subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), our team has been integral in solving many of our client’s most difficult product and technology issues, and helping to introduce some of the most groundbreaking innovations in construction. Through an interdisciplinary research approach – including market research, building science analysis, laboratory testing, and standards development – we help to find a home for innovation in the construction industry.

NOTE TO EDITORS ON STYLE USAGE: To identify this company and its work correctly, first reference should be "Home Innovation Research Labs." In subsequent mentions, “Home Innovation” should be used; we are not identified by an acronym. Prior to February 12, 2013, the company was known as the NAHB Research Center.