What's green? With no national green building standards to consult, and interpretations as varied as one might expect in an industry as geographically and otherwise diverse as construction, that's a question many remodelers have been asking as interest in all things green has soared.
A National Green Building Standard aims to set the record straight, at least by the definitions of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the International Code Council. Since March, the two groups — aided by a consensus committee representing remodelers, builders, code and government officials, suppliers, and others — have been hashing out the terms of a points-based system for certifying homes as green, with flexibility for regional variations. Now in draft form, the 89-page standard is open to public comment until September 24, with a second draft expected to be posted in October.
While much of the proposed language is relevant only to ground-up construction, it is sprinkled with clarifications specific to renovations of and additions to existing buildings. “Remodelers came up with questions such as: ‘What percentage of the house has to be remodeled to be considered green?'” says Calli Schmidt, the NAHB's director of environmental communications. There are four proposed “performance levels” for green remodeling — bronze, silver, gold, and emerald — based on compliance with practices such as having a construction waste management plan, not enclosing walls with high-moisture insulation, and replacing existing appliances with Energy Star or equivalent appliances.
The draft also includes proposed definitions of some 75 words and terms used in the standard. So if you have an opinion on what is meant by, say, advanced framing or recycled-content materials, now's your chance to weigh in.
Remodeler Mark Scott, for one, welcomes the standard — with just a little bit of skepticism. “‘Official' definitions would go a very long way to clearing up confusion” involving an issue that is largely “hype-driven,” says the owner of Mark IV Builders, in Bethesda, Md. He speculates, however, that a close look at many remodelers' practices would show that they already exceed whatever thresholds the National Green Building Standard ultimately establishes.