Green Home Rating Systems: Your Time to Shine

Green Home Rating Systems: Your Time to Shine

Cambria Bold
Oct 13, 2009
(Welcome to Nandita, one of our finalists for our Green Architect blogger search. She's writing from Atlanta. Comment away!)

Maybe you missed your chance to win an Olympic medal, but for the go-for-the-gold attitude in us all, there's still the opportunity to get that metallic symbol recognizing you as the paragon of green-ness you are by way of third-party green home certifications. Green home certification is perfect for the competitive type who wants to push to get just one more point in a green rating system, or who wants an edge in the real estate market. National rating systems carry street cred and speak a common green language to a wide audience. The most common national rating systems are...

LEED for Homes:

LEED is a program of the U.S. Green Building Council and is arguably the most recognized green rating system around. The LEED for Homes program provides a reference guide and rating system to help you understand the different aspects for your project that need consideration. If you want your home to be one of the over 3000 LEED certified homes out there, your builder must work with one of the LEED for Homes Providers to make sure things are on the up and up.

  • Who will The well-rounded environmentalist
  • Cost: $500-$3000 depending on home size and certification level pursued
  • Certification levels: certified, silver, gold or platinum

Energy Star and HERS:

Much like your refrigerator, your home can also earn the Energy Star. In order to get that coveted designation, your home must be at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code. Achieving this level of economy translates to a HERS rating of 85. The HERS Index rates the energy efficiency of your home on a scale where 100 is the typical new home and 0 is a zero energy home. Unlike LEED, Energy Star focuses solely on home energy use. To get your score, a Home Energy Rater will do a pre-construction energy analysis using fancy software, as well as on-site inspections when the home is complete.

  • Who will shine: The off-the-grid hippie
  • Cost: typically, $100-$300 for a HERS Rating
  • Certification levels: score from 100 to 0, to get an Energy Star you need an 85 or less.

NAHB National Green Building Standard:

For good or bad, most homes are built by developers these days. Fortunately, the National Association of Home Builders has brought some sustainability comparison tools to the market through their National Green Building Standard. At a minimum, encourage your builder to use the rating system and guidelines found on the website.

  • Ideal candidate: The contractor with a conscience
  • Cost: $200 per building for NAHB members, $500 for non-members
  • Certification levels: bronze, silver, gold, emerald

Check for regional rating systems in your area as well. These may be less expensive, come with knowledgeable local resources, and address environmental concerns specific to your climate. Some that come to mind are EarthCraft (Georgia), Built Green (Washington), and FGBC green home standard (Florida).


Image by Nandita Vyas

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