Nearly 90 regional and local green building programs across the U.S. have been leading their markets into green building for years, but many believe it will take a national initiative to establish construction and performance standards to move green building solidly into the mainstream. That includes the NAHB and U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), both of which have launched separate national initiatives targeting residential construction.

The USGBC, originator of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program for commercial buildings, released LEED for Homes in November. This spring, the NAHB will launch its ANSI-accredited National Green Building Standard. Both systems define a green home as one that saves energy, water, and other natural resources; incorporates sustainable or recycled products and materials; and protects indoor air quality.

The NAHB’s National Green Building Standard is based on its 2005-released Model Green Home Building Guidelines, but is more stringent and includes multifamily, land development, and remodeling along with single-family. The consensus-based standard will use a point system across seven categories for achieving Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Emerald certification levels. Beyond establishing baselines for energy efficiency and guidelines for HVAC sizing, the voluntary standard will not mandate specific practices to achieve points for certification. Builders also will be able to address local environmental concerns. NAHB’s program will require third-party verification.

The USGBC’s LEED for Homes is a consensus-based rating system for single-family and multifamily homes that sets benchmarks across six categories for achieving certification levels of Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. Regional environmental issues can be addressed as the builder deems necessary after meeting prerequisites in each category. LEED for Homes also requires verification of each home’s energy performance as being consistent with the Energy Star program.

USGBC intends to maintain LEED’s rigorous technical requirements—including third-party verification, documentation, performance tests, and inspections—but as the program spreads and more LEED providers are added, the process should become more streamlined.

For more information, visit www.usgbc.org/leed/homes and www.nahbrc.org/gbstandard. —Stephani L. Miller