There is a lot of confusioin about new home certifications… Hope this will clarify a bit – Several widely recognized programs are available. These are the main programs that are available are:
- ENERGY STAR (NW ENERGY STAR in WA, OR, ID & MT)
- RESNET HERS
- DOE Builders Challenge
- LEED for Homes
- NAHB Green
- Earth Advantage New Homes
The first 3 on the list above are focused on energy usage and energy conservation. The last 3 have additional aspects that require resource efficiency… meaning they are a more complete “green” program. There is much overlap of the “green” programs with the “energy” programs. Some of the “green” program paths require the RESNET HERS or NW ENERGY STAR certifications. Also, depending on the path, the NW ENERGY STAR may require a RESNET HERS as well.
Here are some debatable personal observations…
LEED for Homes is virtually a standalone complex program.
RESNET HERS is a logical place to start as it can be a basis for all but the LEED for Homes program. The NW ENERGY STAR is a good first step for a builder to start on the way to a green home. Usually after attaining an ENERGY STAR certification a builder automatically qualifies for the DOE Builders Challenge. The DOE Builders Challenge is generally an add-on, or secondary certification.
For those who want to jump in & go green – the easiest but not the cheapest would be to sign on to Earth Advantage New Home. EA will hand hold you for awhile although it comes at a price. The most complex route is the LEED for Homes as it has a huge learning curve.
My opinion is that the NAHB Green is the cheapest and most logical green program. A builder can get a very good knowledge of the program by going through the NAHB Green planning process one time. Their designer needs to be on board with it too. 4-6 hours walking through the steps will give most builders a clear idea of what it will take.
All the green programs have different levels of certification. The lower levels can often be met with a minimal amount of changes to the builder’s current processes. A word of caution though – each has strict requirements even for the lower levels so be sure to know in advance what the criteria is!