Home Magnifying Glass Labels
It's clear that going green is becoming increasingly attractive to home buyers and sellers. But without having degrees in architecture, design and sustainability, how do consumers know the difference between inflated claims, overhyped language and the real deal in terms of energy efficiency, healthy indoor air quality and truly green materials?
For eating greener one can choose USDA certified organic foods. For vehicles there are official EPA fuel economy ratings. For green homes there are now a number of labeling systems that are starting to catch on in the marketplace, and which will hopefully spur acceptance, demand and innovation.
Across the country there are actually some 80 local and regional green-home certification programs, most of which are tied to local climactic conditions. More than 200,000 homes have thus far been certified by various programs -- and that number is expected to swell rapidly over the next year.
NAHB Green Homes Logo
NAHB's National Green Building Program
The National Association of Home Builders recently unveiled its much-anticipated National Green Building Program, which builds on years of cooperation with local programs. New homes can be awarded national certification based on three levels: bronze, silver and gold.
Each home gets scored on a checklist of seven categories: lot design, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, operation and maintenance and global impact. Scores are verified by a NAHB Research Center-accredited third party.
The 7,000-square-foot New American Home 2008, the centerpiece of the recent International Builders' Show, was certified to gold level. The home is 62% more energy efficient than conventional models. Learn more about the NAHB program at nahbgreen.org.
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USGBC Leed for Homes
Long awaited, the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes launched officially in early 2008, after a popular three-year pilot program. The USGBC is already well known for its rigorous certification of commercial buildings.
The group says LEED-compliant homes cost only 2 to 5 percent more than conventional homes, but they result in substantial energy savings (at least 15 percent over comparable homes).
LEED takes a holistic approach to labeling, with established criteria that go beyond energy efficiency to encompass indoor air quality, material use, water conservation and 'green' landscaping. Dwellings can earn Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum levels. Large home sizes incur penalties. Learn more from the U.S. Green Building Council at usgbc.org.
Energy Star Logo Homes
EPA's Energy Star for Homes
The EPA's blue-and-white Energy Star label has become quite well known when it comes to buying appliances, but few people know that they can also shop for Energy Star Qualified Homes, in addition to more than 18,000 certified products.
Energy Star for homes focuses exclusively on energy efficiency, and the guideline is that a participating structure must be at least 15 percent more efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC). In reality, many of the 200,000 homes that have thus far won the designation include energy-saving features that make them 20 to 30 percent more efficient than standard homes.