IN A PUSH TO MAKE GREEN HOME BUILDING more mainstream across the country, the NAHB unveiled a new set of voluntary guidelines to “help all builders construct more energy efficient, environmentally sensitive new homes in different price ranges and climate conditions,” according to Ray Tonjes, chairman of NAHB's Green Building Subcommittee.

The guidelines cover six key areas: lot preparation and design, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency/conservation, occupancy comfort and indoor environmental quality, and operation, maintenance, and homeowner education. Some 60 people developed the guidlines, including architects, manufacturers, government agencies, suppliers, environmentalists, and builders, such as Pulte Homes. The Green Building Initiative was formed to support implementation of the guidelines at the local level.

Green home building is already happening in virtually all parts of the country, notes Rich Dooley, NAHB's project manager for the initiative, with about 30 programs in effect. The Pacific Northwest, in particular, has shown increased interest in residential green home building, with four existing programs and more on the way, according to Dooley, who also points to Denver as a market making headway. “The latest numbers I've heard were that about 20 percent of the new homes built in Denver are done under the Built Green program,” he says.

According to Dooley, anecdotal evidence suggests that transitioning from traditional construction techniques to green building techniques usually adds about a 2 percent to 5 percent initial increase in costs. However, costs drop as initial costs (e.g., educating themselves and their subs on new technologies) are absorbed with each home built. Payback varies, depending on builders' baseline as well as the specific technologies they incorporate.

“Many veteran green builders say they can build green as cost effectively as they could build to code,” says Dooley. The new NAHB guidelines are available online: