On Earth Day, April 22,the NAHB Research Center issued the first Emerald-level green home certificate under its National Green Building Certification. Emerald is the highest and most stringent level of certification a home can achieve when scored to the National Green Building Standard rating system.

Builder Robert G. Brown of RGB Custom Homes achieved the top level by building a very green, 1,900-square-foot home in East Stroudsburg, Pa., that scored 724 points based on the Standard, well above the 697 minimum points required to achieve Emerald.

While known for building larger custom homes, Brown says his company had seen a growing demand for smaller, more-efficient homes in its market. Beyond his typical building techniques and products, there were a few new selections he incorporated into this home, including the ultra–low-flow 1.28 gpf toilets (required for Emerald-level certification), geothermal heating system, and energy recovery ventilation system. Brown notes that he never paid much attention to landscaping on the homes he built previously, but with this home he paid a lot of attention to all aspects of the home siting and landscaping to minimize slope disturbance, protect natural resources, and preserve wildlife habitats in the area. Ultimately, it was the combination of a number of green practices and products that helped capture the top certification level.

Brown says while there was a decent learning curve for both his company and his trades, he thinks they could now easily replicate the process for future green homes thanks in part to the available resources such as the Green Scoring Tool available on www.NAHBGreen.org. He also says the stringent third-party verification process the company went through with accredited verifier Frank Malpere really helped everyone on the jobsite understand the reasons behind the green practices. Having Malpere visually inspect and/or test every point claimed by the builder was a real eye-opener and an education for the construction team.

Malpere advises other builders seeking certification for their homes to create a partnership with an accredited verifier right from the start.