Green building certification programs demystified: Energy Star, N.C. HealthyBuilt Homes and LEED for Homes
Anyone who talks about green building most likely has a unique definition of what it means. Hopefully, all ideas include elements of sustainability, energy efficiency and natural-resource conservation. In the absence of a universally approved definition of green, a recent wave of certification programs has emerged to prevent greenwashing, and to provide a marketing edge for builders who are willing to make human health and the environment top priorities. In Asheville, there are three certification programs for green building: Energy Star Homes, North Carolina HealthyBuilt Homes and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes.
Energy Star is a household name for appliances, but what is an Energy Star home? As with Energy Star appliances, the standards are created by the U.S. Department of Energy and inspected by a third party. Energy Star homes go beyond just efficient appliances: Each house is built to be at least 15 percent more energy-efficient than if the same home were built to code. This standard is achieved through a combination of well-installed and efficient insulation, HVAC equipment, lighting, water heaters and windows. Each home is first computer-modeled to determine its energy usage, then inspected by a nationally trained Home Energy Rater to ensure it will perform as planned. Energy Star homes are more comfortable, durable and energy efficient. An added bonus: Progress Energy and Duke Energy currently offer utility-rate discounts for certified Energy Star homes.
The N.C. HealthyBuilt Homes Program was created in 2004 through a collaboration between the N.C. State Energy Office, the N.C. Solar Center and building professionals throughout the state. This program is administered locally by the WNC Green Building Council. Every HealthyBuilt home is also an Energy Star home, but the program goes above and beyond energy efficiency. HealthyBuilt homes start with a menu of items, divided into seven sections: Site (erosion control to native plants); Water (low-flow fixtures to rain gardens); Building Envelope (insulation and framing); Comfort Systems (heat pumps to geothermal systems); Appliances, Lighting and Renewables (solar hot-water system); Indoor Air Quality (moisture resistance to nontoxic paints) and Materials (recycling to bamboo). Each home must attain a certain number of points in each section to qualify for the certification. These homes are then inspected to make sure each of the goals is actually achieved. Certified HealthyBuilt homes vary in price range and style, from alternative to conventional, high-end to affordable. Three years since its inception, there are approximately 100 HealthyBuilt-certified homes and 492 currently under construction in WNC.
LEED is a green-building rating system created by the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED Rating System is a nationally recognized standard for green building, but has until recently primarily focused on commercial construction (categorized as New, Existing and Interiors). After years of development, pilot runs and review, LEED for Homes was launched in November 2007. LEED for Homes is a voluntary rating system, similar to the statewide N.C. HealthyBuilt Homes program. As with N.C. HealthyBuilt certification, Energy Star is a prerequisite, and third-party inspections are required. The USGBC launched a test run of LEED for Homes in August 2005. As of October 2007, 134 homes were certified and 336 were registered across the United States.
For more information about the certification programs:
By Maggie Leslie
Source: WNC Green Building
Publication date: 2008