Despite all the progress that has been made to educate consumers and home industry professionals on all things green, there remains the important matter of defining what “green” means. To date, no universally accepted “green home” standard exists. Programs like the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) have established criteria in place for certifying a residence with the “LEED for Homes” (LEED-H) award, but even within the LEED rating system there are numerous performance levels that can be achieved by an aspiring green home.
“We like to think there are shades of green,” says Ryan Moehring of EcoBroker International, a green certification program for real estate professionals. “We believe a property with several green features is better than a property that has none.”
In 2008, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released its National Green Building Standard, which established an industry-wide standard by which green buildings are measured. The NAHB offers the guidelines for sale on its web site, for $31.95.
When a consumer wants to build a green home, he wants a contractor who has some knowledge and experience in the matter. Enter the burgeoning industry of green builder education. Programs and certifications are springing up countrywide, all aimed at legitimizing the home builder as a green home builder.
Green Builder College offers one such program. Offering courses in Green Building, Energy Basics, Energy-Efficient Homes, Managing Moisture, and IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) Fundamentals, the Green Builder College awards the Green Builder certification to those who complete all the courses and successfully pass a final certification exam. Level 1 Green Builder Certification- costs $700 and requires 40 credit hours. “The certification helps differentiate our students, which include builders, developers, remodelers, and designers,” says Sara Gutterman, co-founder and CEO of Green Builder College, which has expanded its curriculum to include advanced green certifications.
The USGBC also has green building education opportunities by way of online courses, private workshops, and “webinars,” which are online seminars. Three levels of offerings range from the introductory 100-level courses designed for the newcomer to the 300-level courses for builders ready to implement the LEED rating system in new construction projects. Costs range from $25 for an online introductory course to over $300 for full-day workshop training.
Additionally, the USGBC Web site features an Educator Provider Program (EEP) list of education opportunities that meet USGBC Professional Development Committee criteria and guidelines. Builders in search of advanced education on “green building theory, techniques and trends” can search the list for a suitable program, and consumers looking for a suitable green builder might screen prospective contractors by their successful completion of one or some of the EEP courses listed.
In addition to enrolling in green education courses, more builders are designing and building homes to meet certain green home criteria. LEED-H is one of the better-known green home certification programs, but Energy Star also has its “Energy Star Home” designation for energy-efficient homes.
There are statewide and regional certifications that are available to homebuilders, as well. Built Green is a Colorado-based certification program under the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver that rates and certifies new home construction and remodels as “Built Green.” Like LEED-H, Built Green has a builder checklist of required green features. Consumers looking to build a certified green home should inquire within their state home builder association for a list of certification options and certified builders and contractors.
Educating builders on green practices is not exclusively for purposes of new construction. The American Society for Interior Designers (ASID) and the USGBC have recently partnered to develop “REGREEN,” a best-practice guideline for green remodeling projects. The program's guidelines are available on its web site and it offers Learning Programs to educate professionals on the best practices for a green remodeling project.
Building a green home isn't for everyone. For those in search of a green home that's already built, look for a real estate agent who is current on the green industry; they need someone who has identified the green homes on the market and knows what it means to be green. EcoBroker International offers certification courses to brokers and agents looking to get that edge on the green real estate market. “We offer a three-course curriculum that educates real estate professionals and provides them with EcoBroker® Certification,” says Moehring. The three courses touch upon all things green, including the ins and outs of energy efficiency, securing finances to include green features and marketing oneself as a “Green Professional.” The certification program, which started in 2002, can be taken online and costs $395, a fee that includes textbooks, a one-year membership to the Association of Energy and Environment Real Estate Professionals (AEEREP) and the ability to list green properties on the company's Web site, EcoBroker.com…
A program like EcoBroker is also designed to meet the needs of the green home seller. A homeowner who has invested in green features will want a real estate agent who can understand-and sell-those features to a potential homebuyer. “A real estate professional who knows the value of those investments will be able to better sell the home,” adds Moehring. EcoBroker.com features a search engine to match consumers with Certified EcoBrokers® in their area.
The growing education of builders, buyers and sellers on green home trends and features is one more vital step in elevating the awareness and importance of going green. It's ultimately up to the consumer to drive demand for even greater knowledge and construction of green homes and green home features.