Green Building Standards are Keeping up with the Times

You’ll love the brand-new and improved National Green Building Standards. Here’s why.

In April 2016, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved the most recent version of the ICC/ASHRAE 700-2015 National Green Building Standard™ (NGBS).  First published in 2009, the NGBS sets the bar for sustainable and high-performance residential construction and provides a pathway by which builders, remodelers, designers, and developers may seek third-party certification of their work. This can include new homes, multifamily buildings, land developments, remodeling projects as well as hotels and dormitories. Although voluntary, the NGBS serves as the basis for many federal, state, and local green building programs. In addition, those whose projects are NGBS Green Certified may be eligible for federal, state, or local incentives—like tax credits, permit streamlining, or density bonuses.

Forecasts suggest that the green single-family housing market will represent 26 to 33 percent of the market in 2016. Home buyers have identified green building standards—including energy efficiency, low maintenance, resale value, and healthy indoor environment—as the most influential of all factors in their purchasing decisions, and builders are responding. As green building becomes more common, these standards become even more critical to the industry because they allow consumers and municipalities alike to understand appropriate green building criteria.

The NGBS is the only ANSI-approved green building standard specifically designed for residential projects. It covers everything from converting raw land into finished lots, to single-family new home design and construction, to high-rise multifamily development. The standard also delivers stand-alone chapters for development sites, home remodeling, and additions to and renovations of apartments and condos.

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In short, the NGBS outlines a variety of green practices and materials that can be used to minimize a project’s environmental footprint and create a higher quality home. These practices and materials also provide consumer benefits, such as lower utility bills, improved indoor air quality, and increased home value. Recognizing that what is considered green construction will vary according to local climate, geography, and market preferences, the standard’s flexibility allows those who use it to integrate green features at the appropriate level for their individual clients, businesses, and housing markets.

The 2015 edition incorporates changes that better align the NGBS with the 2015 family of ICC building codes. In addition, it expands the application of innovative practices, and builds upon the knowledge gained from years of designing, building, operating, and certifying to the green building standard. Some notable updates include:

  • Substantial revisions to the Energy Efficiency chapter, which now has more stringent rating levels based upon whole-house energy savings that are above the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code
  • A new energy compliance path for the HERS Index
  • Mandatory Grade I insulation installation
  • A comprehensive update of exterior and interior lighting provisions, including common areas in multifamily buildings
  • Mandatory installation of carbon monoxide alarms for all buildings constructed following the International Residential Code (IRC), regardless of level of certification or local code
  • Revamped stormwater management options that encourage low-impact development practices, such as swales and rain gardens
  • Greater emphasis on and recognition of multi-modal transportation options including bicycle parking, pedestrian connectivity, proximity to transit, and electric-vehicle charging
  • New references for Environmental Product Declarations for both specific and industry-wide products
  • Expanded provisions for Universal Design

Projects can be certified to the Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Emerald levels by reaching progressively more rigorous goals for energy, water and resource efficiency, indoor environmental quality, lot design and development, and home owner education. The NGBS is the only national rating system that requires this kind of comprehensive rigor for all the attributes that contribute to a home’s “green-ness.” To date, more than 100,000 NGBS Green Certified homes have been built nationwide, and many industry professionals are discovering the value that increased sustainability can bring to their homes and businesses.

For residential building professionals who need a credible and comprehensive definition of green that allows for regional and market-based flexibility, the NGBS provides a superior option. It allows builders to set themselves apart by responding to the growing consumer demand for more responsible, higher-performing housing options without creating unnecessary administrative burdens or adding significant cost. Whether an industry professional is new to high-performance building or a seasoned veteran, the NGBS makes it easy to become part of the growing green market.

The full article, written by Susan Asmus, was published in the Summer 2016 Issue of Best in American Living.


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