• Michelle Desiderio
    Michelle Desiderio

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To enhance the value of its brand and certification mark in an increasingly competitive residential marketplace, the NAHB Research Center has changed its name to Home Innovation Research Labs. The name change does not alter the nearly 50-year-old organization’s mission or its relationship with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) as its independent subsidiary.

Home Innovation Research Labs vice president of innovation services Michelle Desiderio talks with ECOHOME about the new name, the recently released 2012 version of the National Green Building Standard, and challenges facing green home builders and remodelers.

Why is the NAHB Research Center changing its name?
The new name is intended to provide building industry clients such as product manufacturers, trade associations, home builders, remodelers, developers, and architects with more brand equity and understanding with consumers.

Over the last couple years, Home Innovation staff worked with a leading marketing communications company in the housing industry and a leading brand consulting firm. An exhaustive research process conducted by these third-party consultants tested the company’s value proposition, name, and certification mark with consumers, builders, and product manufacturers. With its long history steeped in research, the NAHB Research Center was accustomed to listening to data – and in regard to its name change, the data spoke loudly. Ninety-one percent of consumers surveyed said the new name would impact their purchase decision favorably compared to the existing name, and 59 percent of builders surveyed said the new name was better than the existing name in conveying the meaning of the company’s certification seal and services. Interestingly, the builder group surveyed was about half NAHB members and half non-NAHB members, and support for the name change was equally positive with both groups. Ultimately, it was determined that a new name and accompanying marks would be the best strategy.

Will the name change have any implications for builders who certify their projects to the National Green Building Standard?
Yes. We believe that the name change will have a tremendous benefit for builders, developers, and remodelers who certify their projects to the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard (NGBS). While the name NAHB is well-known within the building industry, “NAHB Research Center” was not a meaningful brand for consumers. The market research data indicated that home buyers and renters are likely to be much more favorable to Home Innovation Research Labs. And while not as statistically significant as the data collected above, we have already heard from our builder clients that they believe the name change will have a hugely positive benefit in their marketing of NGBS Green Certified homes and apartments.

The NGBS recently released an updated version of the NGBS. What are some of the most important changes in the 2012 standard?
One of the most important changes in the 2012 NGBS is that the energy-efficiency design target moved up considerably. The 2008 NGBS baseline is the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Therefore, to be certified at the Bronze level of the 2008 NGBS, the energy efficiency target was 15 percent energy-use reduction above the 2006 IECC. 
For the 2012 NGBS, the Bronze certification level is targeted at about 15 percent above the 2009 IECC. That means the design target for energy use for a home seeking Bronze-level certification in the 2012 NGBS is roughly equivalent to a 2012 IECC home. As always, all certification levels above Bronze must meet progressively higher energy-efficiency levels (and benchmarks in all NGBS practice categories) to be certified.

A second important change is that remodeling and renovation was consolidated into one distinct chapter. The 2008 NGBS offered remodelers and developers two options to certify existing buildings. One was the streamlined green remodel path, but it was only available to buildings constructed prior to 1980. The second was a certification path for gut renovation. The 2012 NGBS offers a streamlined certification path for existing homes and multifamily buildings that incorporate green practices, and the certification levels are based on the water and energy savings that can be obtained over the building’s baseline energy and water use. The consensus committee felt very strongly that while the environmental benefits of new residential construction are important, it is equally if not even more important to provide a viable, affordable, and yet challenging certification path to encourage high-performance retrofits of our aging housing stock.

Another significant change in the 2012 NGBS is the number of new green practices that architects and builders can select to obtain points toward certification. So while the point values required for certification were increased for a number of chapters so as to uphold its rigor, we believe that builders, developers, and architects will find the NGBS maintains its flexibility for  variety of climates, housing types, and market conditions. One example is that the 2012 NGBS has points available for homes and multifamily buildings that incorporate universal design elements. The consensus committee believed buildings that were designed to allow the occupants to age in place were intrinsically more sustainable.

What prompted these changes?
The ANSI process requires periodic review and updating of the NGBS. This was the first update since the NGBS was originally approved by ANSI in early 2009. The consensus committee updating process allows anyone to suggest a revision or improvement. Various stakeholders were the main source of these changes.