More rigorous because the NGBS requires the home to include sufficient green practices in each of the six categories of green building practices to meet the category minimums for each green level [rather than a simple point minimum that can be gained through any combination of green features, as in LEED]. To be certified at a higher level, the project must have more practices in all of the green categories. More flexible because there are over 1100+ points for a builder to select to attain certification. Less prescriptive because, while there are some mandatory practices in every category except Lot Design…there are not many mandatory practices. More affordable because the flexibility, lower verification costs, and the lower certification fees means that it costs less to attain certification.
ET: It seems counterintuitive that a certification could both more rigorous and more flexible than LEED. How is that?
MD: It is one of those things that, as soon as I say it, people look at me like it’s some kind of scam. But [the NAHB Research Center] spent a lot of time designing a system where you had to meet these point minimums for each category, and that really does give it a level of rigor. We have a number of projects that will often meet a higher certification level for some of the categories, but the building as a whole is only going to be certified at the lowest number — you’re judged by your lowest score.
ET: So rather than the way LEED works, you’re saying that the NGBS requires that a home be well-rounded, so to speak?
MD: Yes, I think so. And I think it’s a better educational tool for the builders. If you look at different green measures and categories of green, one of the things we focus on so much is energy efficiency. I think there’s a general consensus that many consumers find this important, in terms of saving money over long term operating costs. But there’s no question that a number of energy efficiency measures, such as a higher efficiency HVAC systems, cost more money.
So builders get the idea that green building has to cost a lot more money. Something they don’t think of as often…is resource efficiency. But what a great balance with energy efficiency and resource efficiency! Because often, if you can cut down on the amount of building product that you need — for example by taking advantage of engineered wood products or pre-built trusses, and using less wood — your costs will go down, and you can often offset the costs of energy efficiency.
And I think you’re right with regard to consumers as well. Oftentimes builders, again, will focus on the energy efficiency side of it, but you don’t want to build a really tight house and not think of indoor air quality. Especially because we know that female consumers especially really care about indoor air quality. There’s a great balancing act between having an energy efficient, very tightly constructed house with well-thought-out practices to contribute to indoor air quality.
I think [the standard] gets a better product to consumers in the end, and I think it offers better assistance in really just pushing the industry up and having everyone building better, more efficient, high-performing buildings. And that’s the goal of our program. We want everyone to be able to build a green-certified house, we want to show them how to do it, and make it easier.
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