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March 20, 2007
by Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP

“In an effort to bring uniformity to sustainable building practices, the International Code Council (ICC) and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) have announced an agreement to develop and publish a residential green building standard.” This recent press release announces the upcoming launch of NAHB’s Green Home Building Guidelines. If NAHB is trying to unify sustainable practices, why is it developing these guidelines this year, the same year that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is releasing its LEED for Homes program?

NAHB’s guidelines are similar to LEED for Homes. There is a point system based in several categories: Lot Design, Preparation, and Development; Resource Efficiency; Energy Efficiency; Water Efficiency; Indoor Environmental Quality; Operation, Maintenance, and Homeowner Education; and Global Impact. A project can achieve Bronze, Silver, or Gold rating. Both the NAHB and USGBC websites even claim that their programs began in 2004. NAHB maintains that its guidelines are more geared toward local or regional jurisdictions, but after reading through the point system, I am unclear as to how its point qualifications are different from LEED.

One difference between the Green Home Building Guidelines and LEED for Homes is that NAHB is working with the ICC and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop its standards. This will make it easier on designers who comply with these building standards already, while in order to achieve LEED certification a designer has to go above and beyond the existing standards in order to achieve points.

Also, NAHB claims that its guidelines are more oriented to the economic needs of homeowners. It is difficult to convince a homeowner to apply for LEED certification because of filing costs, but nowhere does the website outline application costs for the Green Home Building Guidelines (at least that I could find).

Ultimately, this is another example of clashing organizations adding to the confusion about sustainability. At least NAHB acknowledges, “It should be noted that although many green building programs have been in existence for 10 years or more, the concept and practice of green building is not clearly defined and straightforward.” Also, NAHB’s website does include a link to the USGBC’s website (not vice versa). So maybe the USGBC is the only one who does not play well with others. I am not against multiple systems to rate sustainability, but why duplicate the efforts of other organizations? Why not deliver a clear and simple guide that anyone can understand and use?

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