Seeing Green is 20/20 AND Can be Cost-Effective Too

What if we told you that you could design and build a green home cost-effectively?  Would you believe us? While markets and material costs vary across the country, there are some several common practices that can be put into place early on in the design process to reduce costs, time and materials.

Starting with the ‘house as a system’ design approach is key. All the pieces of a house system – electrical, plumbing, ventilation, building envelope, site, etc. – are interconnected and can either work with or against each other, depending on the design. Teamwork to design these subsystems as parts of a whole that are right-sized and work together provides the opportunity to maximize home performance cost-effectively for your location and market.

Second, consider involving your entire project team early on before key decisions are made.  Too often, the builders are left out of the design process even though they have firsthand knowledge of how the systems and components come together in the field.  By bringing them into the discussions early, the amount of change orders can be reduced, significantly saving the project time and ultimately saving money.  

Finally, don’t just stop with the builder, also consider including all of your subcontractors early in this process.   Show them how their individual roles are key to the success of the project as a whole and ask for their insights.  This can also save money and create the best home for your client.

The new ICC700-2020 National Green Building Standard® (NGBS) can provide your project team a flexible roadmap to guide the design and construction your next high-performance project and the certification process provides the third-party verification to validate your work.

The NGBS – the first residential green building rating system approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) -has been used by building professionals for more than a decade. Over 218,000 homes and residential units have been certified to the standard as of May 2020.

The standard provides practices for the design and construction of all types of green residential buildings, renovations, and land developments. The NGBS is comprehensive, covering all six keys areas of high-performance building: Site Design, Resource Efficiency, Water Efficiency, Energy Efficiency, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Building Operation & Maintenance.

The 2020 edition expands the application of innovative practices and offers additional paths towards achieving certification. Significant changes include:

  • A new Chapter 12: Certified Compliance Path — for Single-Family Homes, Townhomes and Duplexes — that is intended to provide an entry point to certification for single-family builders, particularly production builders.
  • An expanded scope that now includes certification for:
    • Mixed-use buildings in their entirety as long as the residential portion of the building is greater than 50% of gross floor area; and
    • Assisted living facilities, residential board and care facilities, and group homes.
  • A substantially revised remodeling chapter that offers:
    • An option to utilize a phased approach for multifamily remodeling projects; and
    • A choice of prescriptive or performance compliance paths for energy and water efficiency.
  • A new water-efficiency performance path using an index that generates a score relative to a standard baseline home and equates that to an NGBS certification level.

The NGBS provides architects, builders and developers the flexibility needed to design and construct homes and mixed-use buildings that are sustainable, cost-effective and appropriate for a home’s geographic location.

Download the NGBS for free at nahb.org/ngbs.


Crucial to selling green, high-performance homes is to communicate the value to consumers in terms they understand. Recent NAHB surveys show they want what you are building, but if you are not talking to them in language that grabs their attention and makes an emotional connection, you may miss out on the sale. Consumers want comfortable, durable, healthier, affordable homes. High-performance homes check all of those boxes; talk to your customers in terms that resonate – quieter, less drafty, lower utility bills, easier to breathe, low-maintenance, etc.

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