This article was featured in our December 2014 issue of BUILDER Magazine.
Green home certification is a market-driven tool. Builders and developers typically seek National Green Building Standard (NGBS) Green Certification voluntarily because they value the marketing benefits and quality assurance that third-party green certification provides.
But what about communities where builders are less familiar with green building practices and don’t realize the benefits they may accrue by taking the first steps toward green? Sometimes local jurisdictions can help prime the pump for green home demand by consumers and interest by builders in their market.
NGBS as Voluntary Green Building Code
In Clark County, Wash., community leaders saw green home construction as an opportunity. They felt green home building would reduce demand on local infrastructure. On that belief, they sought to drive market demand for green homes through builder and community education. Mike Selig, the county’s building safety program manager, says his team observed a “chicken-and-egg problem”—builders claimed home buyers weren’t interested in green construction; meanwhile, residents were either unaware of the benefits of green construction or couldn’t find professionals who could build a green home.
To help move Clark County in a more sustainable direction, its Board of Commissioners adopted the NGBS as the county-wide voluntary green building code. They determined it was easier for the building department to learn one rating system and train all towns/villages within the country on the same system, to ensure permitting consistency and knowledgeable support staff for builders.
According to Selig, the commissioners chose the NGBS as their preferred green building rating system because it was the most code-compliant and easiest to navigate. “It was also the only ANSI [approved] code, which lent a lot of credibility,” Selig said.
NGBS Adoption Spurs Local Green Education, Jobs, Green Home Construction
In addition to systematizing the building department to use the NGBS, Selig also was able to use it as a springboard for community and industry training and outreach, and a re-engagement of department staff with related expertise who previously had been riffed during the market downturn. With federal funding from the Recovery Act, Selig rehired staff and deployed a county-wide program that performed home energy audits, contractor training, and community outreach/education based largely on the NGBS.
The resulting Planet Clark program, initiated under the grant monies, continues today because of sustained community interest. One of the primary outreach tools of the program is a 20-foot-long demonstration trailer, which is equipped with energy-efficient products, children’s play and learn displays, and building safety information. It began traveling to community fairs, home and garden shows, and schools to teach residents about sustainable living practices, energy efficiency, and green home construction practices.
In 2012, the county worked with Quail Homes and the Evergreen Habitat for Humanity chapter to construct the Planet Clark Emerald House, the area’s first Emerald-level NGBS Green Certified home. It was designed to maximize natural light and heat to reduce energy use, and served as a demonstration home for months before being occupied by a local family. The home also includes high-performance fixtures, low-maintenance landscaping, and rainwater collection systems.
Help for Local Green Advocacy Efforts
Clark County’s efforts provide a great example for NGBS Green Partners looking to create demand for certified green homes within a local community. Michael Luzier, president and CEO of Home Innovation, traveled to Clark County this fall to help further educate local builders and consumers about green home building and the NGBS. Visit homeinnovation.com/green for more information.