The National Association of Home Builders this week launched its National Green Building Program, an education, verification, and certification program for building green homes.
Like the well-established U.S. Green Building Council LEED rating system, it awards buildings on a bronze-silver-gold scale on a points-based system.
And that's a point that will warrant scrutiny. You have on the one hand, standards developed by a nonprofit group (though one whose standards certainly benefit certain accomplished builders economically) and on the other hand standards developed by an industry group.
LEED has been gaining tremendous traction in recent years, and buildings are going up greener as a result. How will a second rating system (or third, if you count the government's EnergyStar rating system, which sticks to home owner energy efficiency to the exclusion of other factors, like locally sourced and recycled materials) confuse the market for consumers?
LEED is well respected, but not without critics. Even some green advocates see its rating system as problematic, since the cost and benefit of achieving another level of certification (platinum instead of gold, say) can mean using more resources.
We're reluctant to criticize any new system, especially before it's had a chance to prove itself on the ground. But the National Homebuilders Association hasn't exactly been a leading advocate for environmental initiatives, having fought national battles on the likes of wetland protection, and local battles that have everything to do with sprawl.
The NAHB touts its "consensus-based" standards. When it comes to setting benchmarks, though, consensus can be a synonym for lowest common denominator, and it isn't always the best measure of a program. Results are. With greenwashing rampant, results are what we should be watching for with this, or any other green rating system.
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