Copy of Fifty Shades of Green
Clients often express interest in green construction, energy efficient homes, environmentally friendly products, indoor air quality, local materials and many have heard of one or several of the standards and rating system out there. How can they chose which rating systems is appropriate for their project? Which will be most useful in directing the design toward their green goals? Which costs less and is fastest and easiest?
As a start, we recommend our clients to define their “green goals” before looking at the different standards and rating system options. Is their priority to minimize energy consumption and operation costs? Are they mostly concerned with the indoor air quality of their home and want to create the healthiest home for their family? Are they true environmentalists and want to conserve the earth’s resources and natural habitats? These green goals help us recommend to our clients their best route into achieving their shade of green home.
To untangle the confusion created by the numerous standards and institutions we present a short summary of each of the available programs in Massachusetts, (assembled from their websites, websites of design firms using these programs as well as from Wikipedia), pointing out their advantages and disadvantages, and a summarized list of suggested techniques for greener homes. We also include some definitions and terms often used in the “green vocabulary”. We end this review with some recommendations for our residential homeowner clients.
GREEN STANDARDS AND RATING SYSTEMS
PASSIVE HOUSE INSTITUTE US
Design methodology for super insulated air tight building that uses 70-90% less energy than conventional building, using off-the-shelf building products. The Passive House Institute US describes it as “the most rigorous building energy standard in the world”. This high performance standard is achieved through maximized passive solar gains, reduced heating loads, efficient ventilation of fresh air, and significant size and cost reduction of the heating system, which in some cases can be eliminated altogether.
The Passivhaus-Institute was founded, in Germany in 1996. Since then, thousands of Passivhaus structures have been built, to an estimated 25,000+ as of 2010. While it is just starting in the US, in Europe more than 20,000 homes, apartments, offices and schools have been built to Passive House standards. Most are located in Germany and Austria, with others in various countries worldwide.
Best program if looking to achieve substantial reduction in conventional energy use.
Provides proper ventilation continuously, at low speeds and free of dust; creating a superior, healthy indoor air quality.
About 8%-10% more expensive than conventional construction.
Thicker envelope reduces usable area of house.
Fully relies on ventilation system for fresh air.
A suite of voluntary rating systems for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings, homes and neighborhoods. A concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED consists of a suite of nine rating systems one of which is LEED for Homes which is used for single family and multifamily, affordable and market rate housing projects. LEED is a design tool and not a performance measurement tool. It addresses many attributes, such as site selection, materials and resources, water, and energy. The energy portion of the LEED rating can be met with ENERGY STAR certification. Professional accredited is LEED AP or LEED for Homes Green Rater. All LEED for Homes projects are third-party verified by a Green Rater. Green Raters visually verify as-built LEED measures and collect supporting documentation as needed before certification. Performance testing is also required on LEED for Homes projects and is conducted onsite by a qualified third-party. Projects using LEED for Homes and LEED for Homes Multifamily Midrise do not use LEED Online for certification. Certification will be handled through the Green Rater. For the homebuyer, LEED is the label that demonstrates in measurable terms that a home incorporates efficient techniques and features, and that the final product has been third party-verified and performance tested.
Encompasses the widest range of green topics.
Not energy specific.
Has prestige and brand recognition as the national benchmark for green buildings.
A structured and rigorous process.
Third-party validation of achievement.
Verified materials and products.
Process that is raising public awareness.
Qualify for a growing array of state and government incentives.
Added costs- administrative costs, consultant costs and construction costs. (~ $15,000 for private residential project, out of which $5,000 are a fee) It can be less in the cases where the clients manage the process themselves, (for large multi family buildings and commercial buildings the LEED expenses are substantially larger).
Need to be a fully gut rehab renovation.
The LEED for homes system is primarily applied to new construction and it has no standalone rating system for land developers.
Doesn’t work with the phased approach of many residential renovations.
LEED certifies whole buildings and/or projects, not individual components/rooms of a building.
Need a LEED for Homes Green Rater to verify certification all throughout design and construction.
Cumbersome and inflexible, certification can take long time.
The mandatory measures are costly. LEED requires ENERGY STAR certification
Mandates specific requirements that must be met in order to achieve LEED for Homes certification
NAHB Green (NGBS)
NAHB’s National Green Building Program offers builders, remodelers, developers, and other home building professionals a variety of services to learn, incorporate, and market green building. There are two rating systems available to score green projects: The NAHB Model Green Building Guidelines for new single-family homes and the National Green Building Standard ICC-700 for new single-family and multifamily construction, residential remodeling and renovation, and subdivision development. Professional accredited is an NAHB Green Accredited Verifier.
Both rating systems are used as design tools for building professionals to plan their green projects. They are also scoring tools, providing the list of green choices made so that inspectors can test and verify the results. Finally, they are used for certification. It uses a points system where the builder must meet certain mandatory requirements and then can select from many building technologies and products to earn additional points to achieve the desired certification level.
The NAHB Research Center trains, tests, and accredits Verifiers who review the design and inspect the home during construction to verify that all green practices that the builder claims toward green certification have actually been incorporated into the home.
Can be used for small remodeling projects.
Has the approval of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Covers a wide range of sustainable aspects.
Projects may collect as many points as necessary without restriction in order to achieve a level of certification.
Need of third party verification by NAHB Green Verifier.
Known as a trade association that helps to promote policies that make housing a national priority but doesn’t have the national recognition of LEED.
An international standard for energy efficient consumer products originated in the United States of America and a government backed construction standard run by the EPA and DOE, providing certification for homes and buildings requiring at least 15% less energy consumption than building code requires. The Massachusetts New Homes with Energy Star program offers substantial financial incentives to reach Tier III, an exceptional threshold signifying at least a 45% improvement in performance over a code-built home. The Massachusetts New Homes with ENERGY STAR Program, sponsored by the local electric and gas utilities and energy efficiency service providers, promotes the construction of homes that are built to achieve ENERGY STAR certification and/or incorporate other above code energy efficiency standards. A company can be a partner with the Massachusetts New Homes with ENERGY STAR Program. The accredited professional is a certified HERS rater.
Availability of financing for home purchase using an ENERGY STAR Mortgage.
Over 1,000,000 ENERGYSTAR homes have been built in the United States, compared to 15,000 residences for LEED (LEED wasn’t initially intended for the residential market).
Easy to manage certification procedure.
Web-based portfolio manager tools to submit an application allows contractors to benchmark a building’s energy performance (utility usage).
There’s no single path to an ENERGY STAR label; it can be achieved through a combination of energy efficient equipment and sound operating practices.
Need for a Certified HERS Rater on staff.
Focuses solely on energy use and voluntary product labeling.
Has an extremely stringent quality of insulation inspection.
ENTERPRISE GREEN COMMUNITIES
Enterprise Green Communities provides funds and expertise to enable affordable housing developers to build and rehabilitate homes that are healthier, more energy efficient and better for the occupants.
It provide a clear, cost-effective framework for all affordable housing development types in any location in the country, including new construction and rehabilitation in multifamily as well as single-family buildings, delivers significant health, economic and environmental benefits to low-income families.
The Criteria are grouped into the following categories: Integrative design, location and neighborhood fabric, site Improvements, water conservation, energy efficiency, materials beneficial to the environment, healthy living environment, operations and maintenance.
2020Green- A commitment to make progress toward the goal of ensuring that all housing with public subsidy and long term affordability requirements has the opportunity to benefit from green practices by 2020.
The lifetime utility savings of a dwelling unit exceeds the cost of integrating the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria into affordable housing.
Life cycle analysis perspective, with attention to operation and maintenance of developments.
Just for affordable housing.
Probably more for larger developments, rather than single family houses.
The EPA created indoor airplus and construction specifications to help meet the growing consumer preference for homes with improved indoor air quality. Construction specifications include the careful selection of and installation of moisture control systems; heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems; combustion-venting systems; radon resistant construction; and low-emitting building materials. Indoor airplus partner, accredited professional is verifier for indoor airplus. Indoor airplus is a companion label to ENERGY STAR. Together, these programs provide comprehensive health protections. Homes built to earn the indoor airplus label include features to reduce contaminants that can lead to poor indoor air quality, including mold, moisture, radon, carbon monoxide, toxic chemicals and more
Focuses on making the home environment healthier for its inhabitants.
Deals with issues like pest control, moisture control, exposure to combustion pollutants that other standards don’t address.
Provides a manual explaining the home’s indoor air quality features and how to operate it to continue minimizing the risk of indoor air quality problems
All Indoor airPLUS homes must first earn ENERGY STAR certification.
LIVING BUILDING CHALLENGE (THE INTERNATIONAL LIVING FUTURE INSTITUTE)
The Living Building Challengeis the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard. It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements, including net zero energy, waste and water, over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy. It is a philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program that promotes the most advanced measurement of sustainability in the built environment possible today.
The Challenge is comprised of seven performance areas, or ‘Petals’: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. Petals are subdivided into a total of twenty Imperatives, each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence. This compilation of Imperatives can be applied to almost every conceivable typology, or project type, be it a building (both renovation of an existing structure, or new construction), infrastructure, landscape or community development.
Projects can achieve three types of certification: Full Certification, Petal Recognition or Net Zero Energy Building Certification. Because the Living Building Challenge defines priorities on both a technical level and as a set of core values, it requires an approach to design, construction and operation that is fundamentally different than the conventional structure.
Certification is based on actual, rather than modeled or anticipated, performance. Therefore, projects must be operational for at least twelve consecutive months prior to evaluation. A building, neighborhood, renovation, or infrastructure (non-conditioned space) which meets this rigorous green building standard must achieve all corresponding prerequisites or imperatives (no point system). This program goes beyond the LEED standard by the USGBC. Advantages:
Raises the bar and defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment.
Suitable for any building type since it is performance-based.
Can be applied to existing buildings as well as to new buildings.
Living Buildings have their own ‘utility,’ generating their own energy and processing their own waste.
Post construction certification, based on actual performance, thus not guaranteed.
Harder to achieve compared to LEED and the other rating systems.
All elements of the Living Building Challenge are mandatory.
Regreen are Guidenlines not a rating system. REGREEN program was created through a partnership between the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Foundation and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The scope of REGREEN emerged from conversations occurring among a variety of residential building experts in a conference in April of 2007.
REGREEN was launched in March 2008 with the release of the REGREEN Residential Remodeling Guidelines. The REGREEN guidelines were developed by a diverse group of industry experts and went through a public comment period, providing all interested parties and stakeholders a chance to provide feedback. The guidelines address the major elements of any green renovation project, including the site of the home, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, material and resources, and indoor environmental quality. The guidelines blend product selection, building systems integration and proven technologies into a seamless compilation of green strategies and case studies for the homeowner, builder and design professional. The REGREEN guidelines can be applied to a variety of home projects, from remodeling a kitchen to adding a major addition, from redoing a back yard to executing a gut rehab. Homeowners can either use the guidelines for their own do-it-yourself projects or visit with a professional who can apply REGREEN as a design guideline.
Useful for new construction to small area renovations.
Easy on line tools that generate list of appropriate green measures to implement based on scope and goal of the projects.
Not a rating system.
INTERNATIONAL GREEN CONSTRUCTION CODE (IGCC)
The IGCC initiative began in 2009 with cooperating sponsors American Institute of Architects (AIA) and ASTM International. The AIA has been involved with green initiatives and sustainability movements before, including its 2030 Carbon Neutrality challenge. ASTM’s involvement with the IGCC is an attempt to ensure that the code will use certain voluntary consensus standards recognized by the industry. The Code Council announced the release of Public Version 1.0 of the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) to regulate construction of new and existing commercial buildings on March 15, 2010.
The IGCC is the first model code to include sustainability measures for the entire construction project and its site — from design through construction, certificate of occupancy and beyond. The new code is expected to make buildings more efficient, reduce waste, and have a positive impact on health, safety and community welfare. The IGCC creates a regulatory framework for new and existing buildings, establishing minimum green requirements for buildings and complementing voluntary rating systems, which may extend beyond baseline of the IGCC. The code acts as an overlay to the existing set of International Codes, including provisions of the International Energy Conservation Code and ICC-700 the National Green Building Standard, and incorporates ASHRAE Standard 189.1 as an alternate path to compliance. Governments across America and around the globe can adopt the code immediately to reduce energy usage and their jurisdictions carbon footprint.
If adopted, becomes rules to be followed like the building code.
It also addresses energy conservation as well as water conservation and water quality, air and indoor environmental quality, and material waste reduction.
Not a rating system.
Has not been adopted in MA yet.
HERS (Home Energy Rating System)
The HERS Index is the nationally recognized scoring system for measuring a home’s energy performance. Based on the results, an energy-rated home will receive a HERS Index Score. The HERS Index Score can be described as a sort of miles-per-gallon (MPG) sticker for houses, giving prospective buyers and homeowners an insight as to how the home ranks in terms of energy efficiency. In addition to a HERS Index Score, a home energy rating also provides the homeowner with a detailed report regarding energy problems in the house. The HERS Index is a scoring system established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) in which a home built to the specifications of the HERS Reference Home (based on the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code) scores a HERS Index of 100, while a net zero energy home scores a HERS Index of 0. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is in comparison to the HERS Reference Home. The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that a typical resale home scores 130 on the HERS Index while a standard new home is rated at 100.
Each 1-point decrease in the HERS Index corresponds to a 1% reduction in energy consumption compared to the HERS Reference Home. Thus a home with a HERS Index of 85 is 15% more energy efficient than the HERS Reference Home and a home with a HERS Index of 80 is 20% more energy efficient.
It is conducted by a certified RESNET home energy rater.
Provides a computerized simulation analysis utilizing RESNET accredited rating software to calculate a rating score on the HERS Index. The report will also contain a cost/ benefit analysis for the recommended improvements and expected return on investment.
HERS Index is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured.
A home’s score is always relative to the size, shape and type of the specific house, since the reference home it is compared to is an imaginary home of the same size and shape as the actual home.
Only a measurement of home’s energy efficiency.
Ranks a home based on its performance and assigns it a HERS Index Score, not a design tool for new construction.
Developed by the Green Building Initiative by the Green Building Initiative (GBI) in 2005- A revolutionary building environmental design and management tool. It delivers an online assessment protocol, rating system and guidance for green building design, operation and management. It is interactive, flexible and affordable, and provides market recognition of a building’s environmental attributes through third-party verification.
The system, which is an online questionnaire-based approach interactive software tool, competes with LEED. Once the questionnaire has been completed, a report is automatically generated that provides ratings, a list of achievements, and recommendations. An independent third-party verifier completes the task, (no need for binders or templates and is more adaptable to a specific project’s requirements).
Green Globes helps both with the new construction of commercial buildings and with the maintenance and improvement of existing buildings.
Can be used both for new buildings and for renovations
Simple and fast on line evaluation, less paperwork than LEED
Addresses also the emergency management of buildings with respect to disasters and incidents of all kinds
The building intelligence quotient tool addresses communication systems; building automation, annunciation, security and control systems; facility management applications; and building structure and systems.
Free associate membership, no appeal costs, and few registration costs, less soft costs of consultants and documentation.
Integrates life-cycle thinking into the rating system, specifically through sourcing of materials and the durability and adaptability of the structure itself.
Third-party assessments are performed on-site by seasoned personnel
Less popular than LEED
Doesn’t have prerequisites, threshold limits, or minimum performance requirements. Therefore, it is a subjective rating system and lacks transparency when compared to LEED.
Many local communities have Green Building Guidelines that have been established by their local building professionals. In some communities they are the primary designation of Green Homes rather than utilizing one of the national programs above. Check with your local architect and contractor to see which local, regional, or state programs are most appropriate for your home.
PRODUCT CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS
Many different products have their own certification programs meant to provide consumers and building professionals with means of identifying the more sustainable among the large variety of items out in the market. However, each of these certification programs is different, in terms of the products and materials it certifies and also in terms of the sustainable characteristics it is verifies. It is very hard to compare between the different programs, or to know which is best to follow. In an effort to respond to this, the Pharos project (see below) has been created, with the intention to provide an umbrella certification platform to all building materials.
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program designed to encourage water efficiency in the United States through the use of a special label on consumer products. It was launched in June 2006.
WaterSense is not a regulatory program, but rather a voluntary program. EPA develops specifications for water efficient products through a public process. If a manufacturer makes a product that meets those specifications, the product is eligible for third-party testing to ensure the stated efficiency and performance criteria have been met. If the product passes the test, the manufacturer is rewarded with the right to put the WaterSense label on that product.
WaterSense makes it easy for consumers to differentiate among products that use less water and reinforces that saving water is easy and does not require a major lifestyle change. Products bearing the WaterSense label:
Perform as well or better than their less efficient counterparts.
Are 20 percent more water efficient than average products in that category.
Realize water savings on a national level.
Provide measurable water savings results.
Achieve water efficiency through several technology options.
Are effectively differentiated by the WaterSense label.
Obtain independent, third-party certification.
FSC- forest stewardship council
International not for-profit, multi-stakeholder organization established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. Its main tools for achieving this are standard setting, certification and labeling of forest products. FSC is a global forestry certification system established for forests and forest products. The FSC logo is to guarantee that the product comes from responsible sources — environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable. The FSC label can be found on a wide range of timber and non-timber products from paper and furniture to medicine and jewelry.
FloorScore® was developed by the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) together with Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) to test and certify flooring products for compliance with indoor air quality emission requirements adopted in California. FloorScore IAQ Certification means that a flooring product is independently certified by SCS to comply with the volatile organic compound emissions criteria of the California Section 01350 Program. Hundreds of resilient flooring materials and their adhesives bear the FloorScore seal. Any product that has met these stringent standards is a product that will contribute to good indoor air quality. The FloorScore certification means healthier, cleaner air and that means healthier humans.
Independent, non-profit, science-based, standard development and certification body based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to promote the manufacture, purchase, and use of more sustainable products and services. Green Seal’s flagship program is a voluntary certification program that features a certification mark– an eco-label – to demonstrate that a product or service is safer for human health and the environment. Green Seal’s flagship program is voluntary certification of products and services to its standards. Green Seal’s sustainability standards identify requirements which products or services must meet to achieve Green Seal certification. The standards are based on a life cycle approach, considering various impacts including those from raw materials extraction, manufacturing, use, and re-use or disposal. The evaluation process includes review of data; assessment of labeling, marketing, and promotional materials; and on-site auditing. Products or services become certified and awarded the Green Seal Mark only after these evaluations are completed, and regular compliance monitoring is required to maintain certification.
Cradle to Cradle
Certification by an independent non-profit called the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. The certification is available at several levels: basic, silver, gold, platinum, with more stringent requirements at each. It is a biomimetic approach to the design of products and systems. It models human industry on nature’s processes viewing materials as nutrients circulating in healthy, safe metabolisms. It suggests that industry must protect and enrich ecosystems and nature’s biological metabolism while also maintaining a safe, productive technical metabolism for the high-quality use and circulation of organic and technical nutrients. It is a holistic economic, industrial and social framework that seeks to create systems that are not only efficient but also essentially waste free.
All materials used in industrial or commercial processes—such as metals, fibers, dyes—fall into one of two categories: “technical” or “biological” nutrients. Technical nutrients are strictly limited to non-toxic, non-harmful synthetic materials that have no negative effects on the natural environment; they can be used in continuous cycles as the same product without losing their integrity or quality. In this manner these materials can be used over and over again instead of being “downcycled” into lesser products, ultimately becoming waste.
Biological Nutrients are organic materials that, once used, can be disposed of in any natural environment and decompose into the soil, providing food for small life forms without affecting the natural environment. This is dependent on the ecology of the region; for example, organic material from one country or landmass may be harmful to the ecology of another country or landmass
SCS- Scientific certification system
SCS is a multi-disciplinary scientific organization based near Oakland, California. Founded in 1984, their mission is to encourage more environmentally sustainable policy planning, product design, management systems and production operations by instituting a series of internationally recognized evaluation, certification and labeling programs. These programs are designed to help consumers, business managers and government policy setters make better educated decisions by putting crucial environmental information into their hands.
SCS’s Environmental Claims Certification Program was established to provide independent verification of the accuracy of environmental claims appearing on products and packaging.
The Environmental Choice Program (ECP) has developed 150 environmental standards in a wide range of product categories and awards the EcoLogo certification. Founded in 1988 by the Government of Canada but now recognized world-wide, EcoLogo is North America’s largest environmental standard and certification mark. EcoLogo provides customers – public, corporate and consumer – with assurance that the products and services bearing the logo meet stringent standards of environmental leadership.
The EcoLogo Program is a Type I eco-label, as defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This means that the Program compares products/services with others in the same category, develops rigorous and scientifically relevant criteria that reflect the entire lifecycle of the product, and awards the EcoLogo to those that are verified by an independent third party as complying with the criteria.
EPEAT- Environmentally Preferable Electronics Assessment Tool
The Environmentally Preferable Electronics Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a rating system to help purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare, and select desktop computers, notebook computers, and monitors based on their environmental attributes. EPEAT provides a set of voluntary environmental performance criteria, which are specified in an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standard for environmental assessment of computer products.
Computer products receive Bronze, Silver or Gold EPEAT rating depending on how many of the 23 required criteria and 28 optional criteria are met. EPEAT is operated by the Green Electronics Council, an independent non-profit organization.
An independent certification and verification program for renewable energy and for companies that use renewable energy. Companies selling renewable energy can receive Green-e certification by meeting the standards and undergoing periodic reviews to ensure compliance. Businesses using certified renewable energy to manufacture their products can be identified by the Green-e logo. Green-e is currently developing the first national standard for the expanding carbon offset industry.
GEI- GREENGUARD Environmental Institute
The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) establishes low emissions standards for products such as building materials, interior furnishings, furniture, cleaning and maintenance products, electronic equipment, and personal care products. GREENGUARD certifies products that have been tested by an approved testing lab to ensure that their chemical and particle emissions meet acceptable indoor air quality guidelines and standards. Since children are more vulnerable to environmental toxins than adults, GEI also provides a certification program for low emitting interior building materials, furnishings, and finishes used in daycare and K-12 environments. UL Environment acquired GREENGUARD in 2011, further advancing its mission of promoting global sustainability, environmental health, and safety. GREENGUARD Certification is broadly recognized and accepted by sustainable building programs and building codes around the world. Additionally, the GREENGUARD Product Guide serves as a free online tool for finding certified low-emitting products for offices, hospitals, schools, homes, and more.
The Pharos project
Created by HBN, the healthy building network is the first, on-line evaluation tool for building materials. At its core, this is a tool for users to locate the best materials to meet their current needs for transparency in building materials and products. It is a tool to help cut through “green-washing” and identify the realities about what makes a product truly green. It is also a platform from which to show manufacturers what constitutes a market in support of the best environmental, health and social equity practices. It is a fee based program but open to all and includes:
• Building product library: Transparent and in-depth information about what’s really in building products, with comparative scores on environmental and health impacts • Chemical and material library: Over 20,000 chemicals and bio-based materials with health and environmental hazards have been screened from over 40 authoritative lists • Certifications and scoring: Transparent scoring protocols for environmental and health impacts of building products are linked to a library of over 150 certifications
Us green building council
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) which was founded in 1993 is a membership based nonprofit organization committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. USGBC works toward its mission of market transformation through its LEED green building program, robust educational offerings, a nationwide network of chapters and affiliates, the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, and advocacy in support of public policy that encourages and enables green buildings and communities. USGBC works to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work.
Green building initiative
The Green Building Initiative (GBI) provides sustainability assessment and certification services to help reduce operational costs, qualify for tax incentives, meet federal mandates, or increase the marketability buildings.
It offers the green globes program as well as guiding principles compliance certification.
Environmental Protection Agency’s Labs21
This program is dedicated to improving the environmental performance of U.S. laboratories. It is cosponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). It offers professionals worldwide the opportunity for information exchange and education. Laboratories and high performance facilities are targeted because the typical laboratory uses far more energy and water per square foot than the typical office building.
A U.S. based, non-traditional and flexible environmental advocacy group focused on protecting the global environment by using innovation and common sense to develop, and quickly implement, bold solutions to global warming. The organization was founded in 2003 in response to rapidly accelerating climate change. Architecture 2030’s mission is to create and quickly respond to opportunities that shape the dialogue and address the crisis situation surrounding the building sector and its contribution to global warming.
The 2030 challenge
The building sector is the major source of demand for energy and materials that produce by-product greenhouse gases (GHG). Stabilizing and reversing emissions in this sector is key to keeping future global warming under one degree Celsius (°C) above today’s level. To accomplish this, and avoid dangerous climate change, Architecture 2030 issued ‘The 2030 °Challenge’ in 2007, asking the global architecture and building community to adopt the following targets:
All new buildings, developments and major renovations to be designed to meet a fossil fuel, greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting, energy consumption performance standard of 50% of the regional (or country) average for that building type. At a minimum, an amount of existing building area equal to that of new construction to be renovated annually.
The fossil fuel reduction standard for all new buildings be increased to, 60% in 2010, 70% in 2015, 80% in 2020, and 90% in 2025 to reach Carbon-neutral by 2030 (zero fossil-fuel, GHG emitting energy to operate).
This may be accomplished through innovative design strategies, application of renewable technologies and/or the purchase (maximum 20%) of renewable energy.
Net zero energy building (NZEB) / Zero fossil fuel consumption
A building with zero net energy consumption and zero carbon emissions annually.
Traditional buildings consume 40% of the total fossil fuel energy in the US and European Union and are significant contributors of greenhouse gases. The net zero energy consumption principle is viewed as a means to reduce carbon emissions and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
Most zero energy buildings use the electrical grid for energy storage but some are independent of grid. Energy is usually harvested on-site through renewable sources such as solar photovoltaic and wind, while reducing the overall use of energy with highly efficient HVAC and lighting technologies. When the on-site energy production matches the on-site energy consumption they net out to zero. The zero-energy goal is becoming more practical as the costs of alternative energy technologies decrease and the costs of traditional fossil fuels increase.
Although zero energy buildings remain uncommon even in developed countries, they are gaining importance and popularity.
Net positive energy house
A building in which more energy is produced on site than is consumed on an annual basis.
Ultra-low energy house
A building that consumes a fraction of the energy compared to a typical new home built to code, often 50% to 90% less energy.
Deep energy retrofit (DER)
A whole-building analysis and construction process that uses “integrative design” to achieve much larger energy savings than conventional energy retrofits. Deep energy retrofits can be applied to both residential and non-residential buildings. A deep energy retrofit typically results in savings of 30% or more, perhaps spread over several years, and may significantly improve the building value. A deep energy retrofit of existing structures is a reduction of energy requirements achieving at least 50% better performance in the existing building than code requires for new construction. In Massachusetts the utility companies sponsor the Mass Save Home Energy Services Program which leads to deep energy retrofits.
Life cycle analysis
A technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life from-cradle-to-grave from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal including all intervening transportation steps necessary or caused by the product’s existence or recycling. The goal of LCA is to compare the full range of environmental effects assignable to products and services in order to improve processes, support policy and provide a sound basis for informed decisions.
An approach to building design, construction, and retrofitting that dramatically reduces heat loss (and gain) by using much higher levels of insulation and airtightness than normal. Superinsulation is one of the ancestors of the passive house approach.
ASHREA American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
Founded in 1894, it is a building technology society with more than 50,000 members worldwide. The Society and its members focus on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration and sustainability within the industry.
ASHRAE develops standards for both its members and others professionally concerned with refrigeration processes and the design and maintenance of indoor environments. ASHRAE writes standards for the purpose of establishing consensus for: 1) methods of test for use in commerce and 2) performance criteria for use as facilitators with which to guide the industry. ASHRAE publishes the following three types of voluntary consensus standards: Method of Measurement or Test, Standard Design and Standard Practice. ASHRAE does not write rating standards unless a suitable rating standard will not otherwise be available.
Consensus standards are developed and published to define minimum values or acceptable performance, whereas other documents, such as design guides, may be developed and published to encourage enhanced performance.
ASHRAE is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and follows ANSI’s requirements for due process and standards development.
SUMMARY OF TECHNIQUES
Depending on which goal you set for your home project and which set of standards or guidelines you chose to follow, the green techniques applied in the design will vary. This list represents a summary of techniques suggested by all the above programs, gathered for our clients. Incorporating as many as possible of the techniques listed below will lead to a highly sustainable home. The intention of the list is to educate toward understanding the possibilities to achieve greener homes, and to set a starting point from which to select features that will fit their needs. Then, they can make a decision about which standard or rating system they should follow.
Reduce water consumption in the house and in the garden by:
Install a rainwater harvesting system/rainwater runoff collection system.
Install a high efficiency irrigation system.
Install low-water-use faucets, showers, and toilets.
Install water-conserving bathroom faucet aerator.
Reconfigure plumbing to distribute domestic hot water efficiently.
Install on-demand tank-less hot water recirculation system.
Choose high-efficiency water heater, and insulate water heater and hot water pipes.
Set water heater temperature no higher than necessary.
Select high-efficiency, H-axis clothes washer (front loading rather than top loading, to conserve water).
Choose efficient hot tub or spa.
Energy- HVAC system components
Reduce or eliminate use of fossil fuels based energy consumption but at the same time maintain a more comfortable living environment with properly engineered HVAC system sizing, improved duct and equipment installation:
Reduce significantly the size of the heating system by specifying a more efficient system that matches the predicted heat loss of the house.
Install energy efficient cooling and heating systems, and Energy Star qualified appliances, lighting, and water heaters.
Reduce heating loads in the house.
Calculate heating and cooling loads for each room. With forced-air systems, test air flow in every room. With non ducted systems, include 2+ zones with separate controls.
Use computer modeling to determine heating and cooling loads and evaluate different heat distribution options.
Consider energy toll of small appliances.
Use hot water heat recycling technologies to recover heat from showers and dishwashers.
Install passive solar building design techniques or active solar technologies to maximize passive solar gains.
Incorporate internal thermal mass in the house structural design to reduce summer peak temperatures.
Use passive natural ventilation enhanced by the stack effect with high clerestory-operable windows.
Insulate and seal all ventilation ducts against leakage.
Use earth warming tubes.
Reuse heat from internal sources for space heating, such as waste heat from lighting, white goods (major appliances) and other electrical devices.
Use appropriate HVAC refrigerants (use none, use non-HCFC refrigerant, or a refrigerant with good combined GWP/ODP score). Consider alternatives to conventional refrigerant-cycle air-conditioning.
Provide appropriate controls and zoning for HVAC.
Install programmable thermostats unless thermostat controls a zone with electric radiant heat for which a manual thermostat is appropriate.
Provide controllable interior shading.
Energy- HVAC ducts and infiltration
Enhance the efficiency of the HVAC system by:
Ensure low levels of air infiltration and use heat recovery ventilation to lower heating and cooling energy.
Ensure tightness of mechanical ducts- Conduct duct tightness test (before and after) in homes with forced-air systems.
Properly maintain equipment.
Reduce forced-air duct leakage or piping heat loss. Install pipe insulation on all hot water lines.
Supply ducts in unconditioned attics shall have insulation ≥ R-8; all other ducts in unconditioned space shall have insulation ≥ R-6.
Total duct leakage shall be ≤ 8 CFM25 per 100 sq. ft. of conditioned floor area
Duct leakage to outdoors shall be ≤ 4 CFM25 per 100 sq. ft. of conditioned floor area.
Reduce or eliminate use of fossil fuels based energy consumption by:
Install a renewable electricity generation system (PV, wind, hydro).
Consider solar electric (photovoltaic) system.
Consider solar water heating.
Provide enough day lighting to minimize need for ambient lighting during day hours.
Provide appropriate mix of color-correct ambient and task lighting.
Install energy-efficient electric lighting (fluorescent lighting, LED).
Install high efficiency appliances (ENERGY STAR-labeled refrigerator, ceiling fans, dishwasher, clothes washer, cooking appliances).
Avoid recessed lights in insulated ceilings or use insulation-contact fixtures.
Provide adaptable lighting for multiuse spaces.
Select outdoor lighting to minimize light pollution.
Provide appropriate outdoor lighting controls as needed.
Provide appropriate indoor lighting controls as needed.
Provide for line-drying options for laundry.
Consider power management systems for office equipment, and low standby energy use.
Ensure a controlled environment by using super insulation methods and controlling air infiltration:
Use high levels of insulation properly installed. Install insulation that meets R-values of the 2009 IECC (International energy conservation code) typically Rip40 walls and Rip60 roof, corresponding to SI U-values of 0.15 and 0.1 W/(m²·K) respectively, and verify the quality of the installation.
Infiltration rates shall be less than or equal to the following values: 5 ACH50 in Climate Zones 3,4 (MA), and 4 ACH50 in Climate Zones 5 (MA),6,7,
Seal the building enclosure against air leaks and have the air-tightness verified.
Ensure envelope airtightness- wrap the entire house with a continuous air infiltration barrier making the house nearly airtight.
Detail insulation to ensure insulation continuity where walls meet roofs, foundations, and other walls, airtight construction, especially around doors and windows.
Ensure careful sealing of every construction joint in the building envelope, and sealing of all service penetrations.
Limit air changes rate (infiltration) of no more than 0.6 ac/hr under forced pressurisation and depressurisation testing at 50Pa minimum. Control rate of air change at about 0.4 air changes per hour.
Perform on site blower door test to prove compliance.
Upgrade basement floor, exterior basement walls.
Include capillary break between all concrete and sill plates.
Install attic insulation.
Consider radiant barrier in attic.
Conduct blower door test (before and after).
Conduct room-to-room pressurization testing.
Conduct infrared imaging (before and after).
Complete thermal bypass inspection and resolution.
Air Seal and insulate rim joists.