The Greenbuild Unity Home is currently under construction at Unity Homes' factory in Walpole, N.H.
The Greenbuild Unity Home is currently under construction at Unity Homes' factory in Walpole, N.H.

Maureen Mahle, director of sustainable housing services at Steven Winter Associates, is one of the most experienced green building certification practitioners in the housing sector, and she is bringing her expertise to the 2015 Greenbuild Unity Home on display Nov. 18 to 19 at the International Greenbuild Conference and Expo in Washington, DC. The project is a partnership between BUILDER, Unity Homes, and the Cradle To Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

Steven Winter Associates is the demonstration project’s green building certification specialist and Mahle, along with SWA colleague Karla Butterfield, is managing documentation and submittals for LEED v4 Platinum, Energy Star v3, and EPA’s WaterSense and Indoor AirPlus certifications. “We’ve come a very long way as a LEED provider,” she says, “which is helping us ease the learning curve with the new LEED version (LEED v4) that will become mandatory in November 2016.”  The 2015 Greenbuild Unity Home is registered under LEED v4, and its certification will be completed when the home is placed on its permanent site in Walpole, N.H. and is tested and verified after the conference.

“LEED v4 is generally more stringent than the 2009 version,” Mahle says, “with most projects scoring one tier lower,” meaning homes that previously might have achieved Platinum or Gold certifications in the 2009 version might drop one level under v4 to achieve Gold or Silver. “The new version emphasizes total water efficiency more than previously and requires adherence to Energy Star’s latest version as a prerequisite.”  And rather than require a HERS Index of 70 as before, LEED v4 uses a sliding scale.

“In some ways the new rating system is more challenging,” Mahle points out, “but at the same time there are new opportunities in water efficiency and healthy materials, and there is even more flexibility to trade off credits from areas in which you may not do well to focus on areas where you can.”

For example, the Greenbuild Unity Home will be placed on a rural site in New Hampshire after Greenbuild, which hampers its ability to qualify for LEED credits related to location and transportation. “The real challenge for this project in reaching the total number of points required to earn Platinum certification relates to its site,” Mahle says. “Urban infill projects get 15 points without much trouble.”  This puts more of the scorecard focus on other attributes like energy, water, materials and resources, and health--all strong and innovative performance features being highlighted in this year’s show home.