Draft Standard Nearly Ready for Public Comments
Three months after they first convened, members of the National Green Building Standard consensus committee continue to motor through the tasks at hand, keeping them on schedule to debut the first green standard for single-family and multifamily building, site development and residential remodeling at the International Builders’ Show in February.
Most recently, the committee met on July 9 to 13 at the National Housing Center to discuss 360 separate proposals made by the seven task groups that are each working on different aspects of the standard — from energy (which included 136 new proposals) and water and resource efficiency to point determinations.
Documents from the July meeting are available at the NAHB Research Center’s standards pages.
The five days were long and often full of “spirited exchange,” said committee chairman Ron Jones. “Most significant of all is that we are right on track,” Jones said. “We hit the end of the week completing the work we had to do.”
The committee’s weeklong task was to examine components of the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines — upon which the standard is based — and decide which practices to keep as is, which to remove and which to modify.
Next, the committee must decide how many points to assign to each practice and determine the points needed for bronze, silver, gold and platinum green building levels so that the proposed standard can be released for public comment in August. “There is still plenty to keep committee members busy in the weeks ahead. There’s a lot of work to do, but we couldn’t do that if we hadn’t done the work we did that week,” Jones said.
“We not only made it through the chapters of existing guidelines, but we have new chapters in site development and lot development, multifamily building and remodeling, and I think that’s huge,” he said.
NAHB is working with the International Code Council to create the residential green building standard and the two chose a consensus committee representing a broad spectrum of builders, code and government officials, energy experts, suppliers and industry consultants.
The goal, said Jones, is “a standard that is meaningful but achievable,” and during the week, committee members had to flesh out what that means.
In a point-based system, builders need a baseline, one that’s above code but not impossible to obtain with some stretching. “We need to have an entry level with robust prerequisites,” Jones said.
Standard Adaptable to Different Parts of the Country
Another challenge is ensuring that the standard can be adapted regionally. The standard’s success, committee members believe, lies in making sure that green building practices remain flexible, reflecting the area of the country where the homes are being built. Jones said the document remains on track to meet that goal. “We have provided enough options to go along with the requisites that it’s going to be applicable all over the country,” he said.
“If you live in a part of the country that may not have tremendous energy demand but a great deal of water problems, the standard allows you to select the things that are most meaningful in that market,” Jones explained.
“In a moist climate, like the Gulf region, it’s going to give you the flexibility to address issues of durability and infestation issues like termites, but not force you to meet a bunch of unnecessary requirements like deep frosts lines and heavy heating modes.
“In a broader sense, the standard is going to allow choices from a menu that includes examples of responsible building practices — being responsible for materials choices, the waste stream, indoor environmental quality — there are many worthwhile choices for the builder who is just sort of reaching the door to green building and for the builder who wants something more robust,” Jones said.
Additions for Multifamily Builders, Remodelers and Land Developers
Committee members also worked on two additions to the standard. NAHB’s guidelines do not include information for multifamily builders or remodelers, and information on site and lot development is in the appendix.
For example, the guidelines say that all hot water lines should be insulated with a minimum of one inch of insulation, but in a remodeling project, all the home’s hot water lines might not be readily accessible.
The committee’s task group on remodeling recommended that for additions, the item would apply to new or modified plumbing associated with the addition, and for renovations where hot water lines in the existing home are accessible, the hot water lines should be insulated to meet the new construction standard. At least 50% of the hot water lines must be insulated to receive points, the group decided.
The committee also needed to decide how to include undeveloped land as an acceptable choice in the site selection list, which already included infill, grayfields and brownfields sites.
It also examined innovative options that can reduce the environmental impact of residential land development, such as reduced street widths, cluster development and alternative wastewater systems.
The committee also looked at practices that, in the green building community, are somewhat controversial.
“There was a strong feeling coming out of the task force on water that we should take a good hard look at swimming pools,” which use a lot of water, Jones said. “The committee determined that while swimming pools are not necessarily desirable, it was not our business to preclude people from pursuing their lifestyle, and as long as they make up for it with other measures, it’s really the bottom line,” an assessment of the total performance of the house, Jones said.
“Housing in this country is predicated on choice, and if there is one thing that NAHB stands for, it is the right of people to choose where and how they live. If we can provide that choice” and still include essential green elements, “it’s a good outcome,” Jones said.
After point totals are worked out among committee members by teleconference and e-mail, the draft standard will be released on Aug. 10 for public comment. The comment period ends Sept. 24.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.