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Don't get green washed.


Feeling Green Washed? (A numbing sensation similar to cramming for finals.) Don't know what to believe about "going green"? And the alphabet soup of acronyms, how do you even remember much less choose?

I'll admit we do sometimes, keeping abreast of the alphabet soup of industry acronyms, certifications and designations. Below I've written a short glossary of some primary certifications (certainly not a comprehensive list). Bottom line, it's all good although skeptics argue the purported savings from "going green" are unverifiable and simply marketing fluff from industry participants trying to reinvent themselves post housing bubble.

As with most things in life, the truth is somewhere in between. Is the Green Movement a fad? Certain parts are surely puffery. Take cleaning products for example, do you really need to buy the "green" disinfectant cleaner (which almost always costs more than the conventional brand)? Probably not, cleaning with white vinegar is about as green as you can get and it's way less expensive.

So some of the current "green claims" in construction will likely fade away too as more prime initiatives, likely those connected to improved energy efficiency (recapture) and the modernization of an undeniably old housing stock, become mainstream through the adoption of new construction code. Just the reality that owners and industry participants are discussing and implementing these systems proves building science has turned a corner from the design room to construction site. I think green elements are here to stay regardless of the slogan or terminology used to express it in the future.

A point we preach as you undertake any home improvement, remember to look upstream and downstream from whatever element you're upgrading and make sure you're not reducing the benefit of your expense/fix by ignoring something else that will diminish the advantage of your improvement. For example, if you're getting a new roof, don't just stare at the roof, look around. How is your attic insulated? What's the condition of the venting, duct work and HVAC within the attic? Don't miss the forest staring at individual trees, your home is a system.

Don't know the difference between Energy Star and the Death Star?

Here's a short primer:

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes (LEED-H): The US Green Building Counsel created and administers this certification that incorporates a LEED Rating, a point total assigned to homes that meet or exceed guidelines for "high performance, green homes".

ENERGY STAR: A home must achieve between 15 - 30 percent improved efficiency than "standard homes" as set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Home Energy Rating System (HERS): The HERS Index is another scoring system based on a HERS Reference Home developed by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) to which the subject property is compared.

National Green Building Standard (NGBS): The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) created a points system similar to LEED-H in that a total rating value is accumulated through scoring 7 categories. NAHB issues guidance via their NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines (GBG).

There are also regional (EarthCraft Homes) and local (LEAP) programs and associations.

Study those acronyms because there will be a quiz!

I probably should've written this at the top for those who stopped reading long ago but, regardless of designation, all of these entities provide check-lists so any builder can comply. In other words, they promote and encourage participation by all housing professionals. Regardless of skepticism, the building trade is indeed greening. And really, how can anyone argue against improving efficiency and improved health?

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