> FOCUS A PLACE LIKE HOME
“Join a fellow trade contractor conducting a blower door test,”
he said. “It will be transformational as you discover how interdependent each contractor is to the success of a high-performance
home. If the main conduit run isn’t adequately sealed, it will allow
air to enter the home. The same is true for an electrical box for
the ceiling, attic or exterior wall. Something as simple as sealing
can help improve certification in pretty much every program.”
Pluses and minuses
Residential certification and rating systems vie for attention.
It’s important to know what each offers. Passive House is estimated to use 80–90 percent less energy to heat and cool. The
Living Building Challenge begins at net zero in hopes of net-positive energy. LEED offers levels of sustainability looking at
whole-home performance. The EPA’s Energy Star focuses on
energy reduction. The new WELL Building Standard certifies
a building’s health. The NGBS and the Canadian-born Green
Globes (multifamily) require less documentation and are less
rigorous than some programs.
“Passive House looks to the envelope of a home as the pri-
mary vehicle for building heating and cooling efficiency,” Weiss
said. “It’s often considered the most rewarding of certification
programs for hard-core conservationists. I like how it’s being
adapted in the U.S. for individual climate zones; no longer is it
‘one size fits all.’ That makes it more mainstream and economic.
The Living Building Challenge with its net-zero prerequisite
puts forth a huge construction challenge, but it’s a very reward-
ing challenge for us as builders.”
La Fleur said a building envelope focus is a current trend.
“The tighter and better insulated the home, the more eco-
nomic electric becomes for HVAC, appliances and so forth,” he
said. “Interestingly, once you create efficiency and energy flow
in the home, going all electric is best. Passive House actually
doesn’t allow the use of natural gas.”
To reduce confusion in the array of residential certifica-
tions, some are beginning to align with like-minded programs.
For example, like LEED, the WELL standard is third-party-certified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).
That allows it to coordinate with LEED v4 and its points for
healthy interiors. Energy Star v3 is a compliance cited in LEED
for Homes v4.
Beyond health, there’s a rising call for affordability in
green home building. Even the stringent Living Building
Challenge has a program for affordable housing. Green senior
living, low-income and mid-price homes are cropping up
across the country.
“Over half of all LEED-certified homes are affordable housing,” said Nate Kredich, vice president, Residential Market
Development, the USGBC.
Late last year, Congress authorized the NGBS as a minimum
for all military residential construction.
“The Enterprise Green Communities program was created
specifically for affordable housing,” La Fleur said. “It’s free to cer-
tify, but there is a trade-off as its construction measures are more
involved and expensive. For ECs, their expertise is especially
needed as the program requires individual unit-level submeter-
ing, as does LEED for Homes v4 for midrise construction.”
In the end, De Wald feels the homebuyer will expect sustain-
ability in the home.
“Energy efficiency and new technologies that help operate a home cheaply, cleanly, safely, and more comfortably all
play into what is an establishing green market,” De Wald said.
“I would add that a contractor that does his homework on
residential home technologies and better building practices
will understand this green market and recognize which certification programs will be the best roadmap to achieving a
GAVI N, LEED Green Associate, is the owner of Gavo
Communications, a sustainability-focused marketing services firm
serving the energy, construction, and landscaping industries. He can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. P H