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"Everything You Wanted to Know About a Green Home but Were Afraid to Ask"

Friday, February 4, 2011

by

Gian Hasbrock, MIRM, MCSP, CGP, CRS
Coldwell Banker Advantage New Homes

 

As we make our way into 2011 - isn't it time we heard from our favorite frog blogger? Well, we were lucky enough to catch up with him as he shared "everything you wanted to know about a green home but were afraid to ask"...enjoy!

Just a few years ago building Green meant tree-huggers, granola bars and Birkenstocks. Not any more. As the Recovery gains momentum, building Green has gone mainstream. In every previous recession, the preferences of home purchasers coming out of the recession have been markedly different than those before the contraction, and the Great Recession proves the rule. But with everybody trumpeting Green-this and Green-that, what’s a consumer to do to separate the marketing wheat from the chaff?

In fact, just the word Green has been so overused recently that many housing professionals are using the term high-performance homes to describe how they are changing standard building practice. But energy savings are not the only building block to making a high-performance home. Green builders focus on site design and development; lot design, preparation, and development; resource efficiency; energy efficiency; water efficiency; indoor environmental quality; and operation, maintenance, and building owner education.

The only way to ensure that a home is green is to get it independently verified. There are a handful of recognized national certification programs, and some that are state-specific. The standards pacesetter is the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard. In 2007, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the International Code Council  (ICC) partnered to establish a nationally recognized standard definition of green building. The resulting ICC 700 NGBS is the only residential green building rating system to receive approval from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). For residential buildings, four threshold levels—Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Emerald—allow builders to quantify and qualify green building at all levels.

Other National programs include the American Lung Association’s Health House; Energy Star Qualified New Homes, and LEED for Homes. North Carolina has two state-specific programs: energy right and NC Healthy Built Homes.

Health House is a program from the American Lung Association. With a motto of greater energy efficiency and durability, they help consumers identify healthier choices when building a home, with particular emphasis on materials, efficiency, and air quality.

Energy Star is one of the best known certification programs. To earn the Energy Star, a home must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These homes are at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC).

LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficient Design) is an internationally recognized green building certification program that encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through a suite of rating systems that recognize projects that implement strategies for better environmental and health performance. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is primarily a commercial designation system, focusing on commercial interiors, schools, healthcare, and retail. At the recent dedication of Briar Chapel’s own Margaret Pollard Middle School, it was announced that the school will be the first LEED Gold school building in North Carolina.

North Carolina programs include energyright® solutions for site built homes. It is a cooperative program with local public power companies. The efficiency of your new home can qualify you for special financing options through the use of the industry-accredited Home Energy Rating System (HERS) software

The NC Healthy Built Homes Program povides a certificate for homes meeting “green home guidelines” built by residential builders and developers who practice sustainable, high performance building strategies making the home a comfortable, healthy and affordable place to live. The NC Solar Center and the NC HeathyBuilt Homes Program are partnered with Energy Star.

To find a Green home, the Triangle Multiple Listing Service makes it easy for consumers by adding two fields to all residential listings that itemize high-performance energy saving features and that list the various certifications, including those from Energy Star and GHBT (Green Home Builders of the Triangle).

Virtually all architects are acquainted with the various certification programs and can design a home from the ground up using high-performance standards. NAHB has developed a designation program through its Green Building Council (GBC) called Certified Green Professional (CGP) and Master Certified Green Professional (MCGP). Each require completion of rigorous course and field work to become a designee.

To fathom the various claims of “Green” now proliferating, it is helpful to paraphrase a quote from Yogi Berra: “Half the lies they tell about Green aren't true.” To find the whole unvarnished truth, a purchaser needs to dig deep and rely on the numerous Green certification programs that are available to secure peace of mind that you are really getting a high-performance energy-efficient home and saving the planet in the bargain.

Whew, that is a lot to digest...and it can sometimes be overwhelming with all of the data out there. At Briar Chapel we try to take the guess work out of choosing the right "green" home for you - so you can concentrate on the functionality. livability and aesthetics instead. All of our homes are third party tested and certified at a minimum of bronze level through the GHBT and Energy Star program. If you choose, you can customize your green features above and beyond that level - the sky is the limit!