In the past, the green building movement has suffered from a lack of nationally recognized standards to define a green home. This spring, two national agencies introduced initiatives that will set some measurable benchmarks. The Washington, D.C.–based U.S. Green Building Council, which gave us LEED commercial guidelines in 2000, has launched a pilot program that tweaks that framework. Working with research institutions, utilities, builders, and local chapters of the USGBC, the agency plans to test its rough draft of the technological makeup of green houses, to ensure the bar isn't set too high or too low. The agency aims to have official guidelines established by 2006.
“Our national program is designed to create some consistency in the marketplace, recognize people who are doing really progressive things, and verify it's the right approach from a green standpoint,” says Jim Hackler, LEED Home program manager. “Is it understandable, is it affordable, does it have an impact? The whole strategy is market transformation.” The pilot includes custom homes, multifamily, affordable, and production housing. “Our biggest target is builders,” Hackler says. “On paper you can have a house that's solid green, but if builders don't make sure these specs take place with subs, the end product may be the farthest thing from green.”
In January, the National Association of Home Builders unveiled a pilot version of green guidelines that home builder associations can tailor to their local markets. “It's not a program but a primer on green building, with a scoring methodology for line items and a user guide,” says Richard Dooley, an environmental analyst at the NAHB Research Center. “Local HBAs can use it to develop green building programs.”