When 800 registered voters were asked last fall about what would motivate them to either purchase a new green home or “green” their existing home, 64 percent said that reduced energy costs would be the biggest reason. With energy prices on the rise, now's the time to improve the energy efficiency of America's homes, and the NAHB is helping to lead the way.

As advocates for buyers, it's up to the nation's home builders to make sure the solution is not only effective, but also less expensive than the problem itself. Now, more than ever, we need to build on the success of the local HBA programs that have resulted in the construction of more than 100,000 green homes nationwide.

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE Following extensive testing and refinement, our association and the NAHB Research Center are now putting the finishing touches on the NAHB National Green Building Program, which will be launched on Green Day, Feb. 14, at the International Builders' Show (IBS). The National Green Building Program includes a scoring tool that helps builders identify and document green construction techniques and features in the homes they build. You can try it out at www.nahbgreen.org. This tool is the heart of the new program, which also will include a registry of green homes and builders as well as extensive educational resources, providing the opportunity for all of our members to build green.

HIGHER EDUCATION On Green Day, we will also introduce the new University of Housing Certified Green Builder designation, which will help identify people with considerable expertise in green building.

The timing could not be better for two initiatives that will help pave the way for authentic, cost-effective green building. We also surveyed builders and developers last fall, and the vast majority of NAHB members—90 percent—are interested in participating in a voluntary green building certification program. Eighty percent say they would choose the NAHB National Green Building Program over other national programs such as the Green Building Council's LEED-H rating system.

While new technologies and advances in building science already mean that homes are significantly more energy efficient than they used to be, a certification program is the next logical step. The NAHB National Green Building Program moves the market forward in a flexible, cost-effective manner, because in today's market, cost is the overriding concern.

Heating and air-conditioning bills wreak havoc on the family budget, and people vote with their wallets. That's something that everyone concerned—builders, regulators, and advocates—needs to keep topmost in their minds.

A CLEAR LINE But that certainly doesn't mean that green must be watered down. Green comes in many shades, but for NAHB builders, there is a bright line: To meet the minimum certification requirements under the NAHB program, homes must meet energy-efficiency levels that are at least equivalent to Energy Star, the federal EPA program that has enjoyed great success in the marketplace. Over the past seven years, 750,000 homes have earned the Energy Star label, indicating that they are at least 15 percent more efficient than required by current energy codes.

When a green home doesn't look or feel significantly different from one built using more traditional construction methods, when builders have the tools and resources to build them without significant material or labor cost increases, and when consumers readily accept the finished product, then green has arrived. And that's why—and how—the NAHB National Green Building Program will bring green to the mainstream. The time has come, and we're ready.

Brian Catalde