Two regional green building groups have signed on as inaugural participants in a new U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) initiative.

The LEED for Homes Affiliate Program will help local groups promote green building, sustainable design, and energy and resource efficiency, according to the USGBC. One of the first participants in the free program is the Home Builders Association of Greater Dallas, an affiliate of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) since its founding in 1944.

The affiliation with LEED for Homes means that Greater Dallas HBA members will have access to technical resources, training, and education from another one of the nation’s top green building programs, says Phil Crone, director of government affairs and green building programs with the Greater Dallas HBA.

“For our members we wanted to be able to offer any of the good, bonafide ways to build a green home in our marketplace,” says Crone. In the Dallas area, green building program choices include the Greater Dallas HBA’s local Green Built North Texas program and the ANSI National Green Building Standard. With the new agreement, members can also receive additional in-depth training and education regarding the USGBC’s LEED for Homes program.

“We try to be that centerpiece that can bring together all three of these green building programs to our members,” says Crone. “It doesn’t matter which one they pick.”

The announcement will not change the Dallas organization’s relationship with the Washington, D.C.-based NAHB, whose Model Green Home Building Guidelines, the basis for the ANSI National Green Building Standard, is seen by some as a competitor to LEED for Homes.

Crone says the decision to affiliate with USGBC was based partly on the current economic downturn that has ravaged the U.S. home building industry. “By becoming a LEED for Homes Affiliate, we are providing our members with another tool to remain competitive in a soft market,” he says.

This is not the first time the two groups have worked together. In January, the USGBC’s North Texas chapter and the Greater Dallas HBA co-presented the Texas Green Homes Summit in January, which drew more than 800 attendees. Planning is under way for an expanded summit in February 2010.

The new partnership will allow the Greater Dallas HBA to continue to offer educational programming, Crone adds. “We would not be able to do something like the summit without the partnership and help of the USGBC,” he says.

Roseville, Minn.-based Minnesota GreenStar also joined the Affiliate program. Founded in 2005, the group is focused on green building issues of local importance, such as energy efficiency for extreme climates, water conservation, and natural resources protection.

The new Affiliates will work closely with their local USGBC chapter to develop programming and educational opportunities tailored to their specific market, according to Nate Kredich, USGBC’s vice president of residential market development.

“The chapter will partner with the local program or HBA to put together the priorities for that market,” he says. “We think those priorities need to be driven locally.”

Kredich says he expects more groups to sign on as Affiliates in the coming months.

“We’ve seen strong interest in the program, driven in large part by the fact that many HBAs are running out of money to do the kind of programming they want to do,” he says. “We want to be able to fill that void.”

Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor Online for EcoHome.