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New NAHB Green Building Guidelines

May 01, 2005
May/June 2005
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2005 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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        The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently released new voluntary guidelines that will help conventional home builders to incorporate environmental practices into home building. The guidelines project was started a year ago as an attempt to provide NAHB members with research and education on building resource-efficient homes that are both affordable and regionally appropriate. The guidelines offer green solutions for all aspects of home building, including lot design and preparation; indoor environmental quality; resource, energy, and water efficiency; maintenance and homeowner operation; global impact; and site planning and land development
        “The guidelines are revolutionary because they will help all builders— not just niche builders—construct more energy-efficient, environmentally sensitive new homes in different price ranges and climate conditions,” says Ray Tonjes, chair of NAHB’s Green Building Subcommittee. “NAHB’s Model Green Home Building Guidelines are a milestone in our efforts to provide safe, decent, affordable housing for all Americans and to help conserve our environment.”
        Although the guidelines have been developed for new single-family homes, they can also be modified for use with multifamily homes, custom homes, and remodeling projects with existing homes. In addition, local home builders associations can use the guidelines as a blueprint to create their own custom, voluntary green building programs, which would provide criteria, research, education, and promotion to home builders in local markets.
        “Developing locally based programs has usually been the most successful way to achieve residential green building goals,” says Michael Luzier, president of the NAHB Research Center. “The guidelines are an excellent tool to give local home builders associations a jump on the program development process.”
         Jim Hackler,program manager for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes, agrees that the guidelines are important.“I think that the NAHB should be commended for providing information and guidelines on green building.The information is very accessible, and it’s a good, solid first step for a number of builders out there.”
        Hackler is currently finalizing the pilot guidelines for the rating system for LEED for Homes.“The NAHB’s program is different, since it provides information and guidelines, and it’s up to different home builder associations across the country to implement the policies.We’re providing a national standard for green building that requires third-party verification. I certainly respect what the NAHB is doing;we’re just providing different strategies for green building.”
        The NAHB guidelines were developed by the NAHB Research Center in a process that involved more than 60 stakeholders from the green building industry, including architects, manufacturers, home builders, environmentalists, government agencies, suppliers, and trade associations.The guidelines are accessible to builders who are unfamiliar with green building techniques, but also offer construction and design suggestions for green builders who are a little more seasoned. The guidelines provide numerous references on specific green building topics, and they offer a range of flexibility in green building approaches that allows builders to decide what level of commitment they are interested in pursuing when approaching green features in a home.
        The NAHB has also created a new organization called the Green Building Initiative (GBI), to help implement the guidelines in markets across the country. The GBI is a not-for-profit association supported by a broad cross section of groups and individuals interested in promoting energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable practices in residential and commercial construction.
        “We commend NAHB for developing these important guidelines,” says Ward Hubbell, executive director of the GBI.“While we appreciate the tremendous strides made by the green building pioneers, our focus is on giving the everyday builder the user-friendly tools to be more environmentally progressive.”

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