Know the Basics When Getting Into Green Remodeling
Incorporating green remodeling into a remodeling business is much easier than remodelers might think, in part because many remodelers already are green, according to Michael Strong, CGR, GMB, of Brothers Strong in Houston.
Old homes are notoriously leaky, which causes conditioned air to escape and heating and cooling systems to use more energy. And since many are equipped with inefficient heating and cooling systems, even more energy is used to cool and heat them.
Older homes also are more likely to have inefficient faucets, toilets, appliances and showerheads. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a family of four can save up to 25,000 gallons of water per year by replacing older model toilets and installing high-efficiency toilets that use 1.6 gallons or less per flush.
Though faced with the challenge of remodeling older homes to become “greener,” many remodelers were left out of the growing number of green building programs. Even nationally recognized programs did not provide opportunities for green remodeling projects to be certified as green — until now.
The National Green Building Standard provides a credible industry benchmark and scoring process for green remodeling and renovation projects.
The standard was developed through an open, consensus-based process allowing full participation of all interested stakeholders. It is also the first green building rating system to be approved by ANSI, making it the benchmark for green residential construction.
The standard recognizes a wide variety of green practices, which can be incorporated into residential development, construction and renovation on a national scale, and it encourages home owners to operate and maintain their homes in an environmentally responsible manner.
Green Remodeling Step-By-Step
The National Green Building Standard provides in-depth guidance for green remodeling and a basis for scoring green remodeling projects.
Remodelers can use the online Green Scoring Tool, a free, easy-to-use software application, to streamline the process of planning and scoring a green remodeling project to the standard. The software is designed to guide users step-by-step through the green requirements.
The scoring tool includes decision support information such as "How to Verify," "Intent," "How to Implement" and "Resources." It is also designed to provide online links, where appropriate, to green products that have been pre-approved for specific points in the standard.
Two Paths to Green Remodeling Certification
There are two possible remodeling paths to green certification. Homes built after 1980 follow the same path as newly constructed homes — also called the Green Building Path — using the notes for renovation and/or additions.
For homes built before 1980, a remodeler can choose to follow the certification process for new-home construction or the Green Remodel Path.
Both paths allow certification at the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Emerald levels for either single-family or multi-unit homes. Remodelers should fully explore both paths and evaluate which one best meets their needs from a features, performance and cost perspective.
Green Remodel Path
The Green Remodel Path is available only to homes built before 1980 and has three required elements:
- Achieving a certain reduction in energy usage
- Achieving a certain reduction in water usage
- Complying with five mandatory indoor environmental quality practices
The reduction in energy and water consumption must range from a minimum of 20% for Bronze to at least 50% for Emerald certification. The home's water and energy usage must be analyzed before and after the remodel.
The verification process requires an inspection to verify the indoor air quality practices and a review of the energy and water analyses. The Green Scoring Tool will walk the remodeler through the necessary requirements for this certification path.
Remodelers taking this path may make these recommendations to a home owner for meeting certification to the standard:
- Conduct an energy audit to determine energy leaks in the house.
- Improve insulation and sealing, such as caulking and flashing, to reduce air and energy leaks.
- Install a more efficient and properly sized heating and air conditioning system while upgrading the ducts in the home, such as sealing and insulating to minimize leaks.
- Upgrade appliances with greater efficiency, such as Energy Star products — including a refrigerator, dishwasher and washing machine.
- Replace water fixtures with more efficient products, such as toilets, faucets and a tankless water heater.
- Use low- or no-VOC paints and varnishes.
Green Building Path
This path requires a remodeler to incorporate a number of green building practices as part of the remodeling process. Homes built after 1980 must use this path, which can score renovations and additions. Each practice earns points or meets certain mandatory requirements toward certification.
In addition to minimum threshold points in each of six green building categories, the standard designates overall totals for each certification level.
There are several hundred practices to choose from, but remodelers only need enough practices to accumulate threshold points for the desired level of green certification. The practices in this path are generally the same as the practices for new construction, but some are modified specifically for renovation with Renovation Notes in the standard. The Renovation Notes often provide additional points.
A Green Building Path renovation requires two inspections by an accredited verifier for certification. This certification path will be automated in the Green Scoring Tool within the next few months.
In addition to the Green Remodel Path recommendations, remodelers taking this path can also give home owners these additional suggestions:
- Deconstruct instead of demolish rooms to be remodeled. Collect and donate (or sell) materials from the deconstruction for reuse or recycling.
- If building an addition to the home that expands the footprint, take action to conserve the natural resources of the land being used. This may also apply to minimizing changes in slope, managing storm water, maintaining a wildlife habitat and minimizing soil erosion.
- Insulate floors, foundations and crawlspaces.
- Reduce total hot water pipe length.
- Create a continuous air barrier between the garage and conditioned space in the home.
- Remove carpeting and either finish underlying flooring or install non-carpet materials.
- Vent bathrooms, clothes dryers and kitchen exhaust or range hoods to outdoors.
Visual third-party verification of the green features in every remodeling project that earns the Green Certified is a hallmark of the NAHB Research Center’s National Green Building Certification.
Verifiers accredited by the Research Center are expected to independently confirm — through a process involving document reviews and on-site inspections — that all green certification requirements and points specified by a builder or remodeler are in place for a candidate home. No self-certifications or affidavits are allowed.
This is the cornerstone of the certification’s credibility. Accredited verifiers are listed by state on the NAHBGreen Web site.
Costs of Remodeling Green
In general, the additional costs to remodel a home to any green building rating system fall into three categories:
- Additional costs for the building products to comply with the green practices. These will vary widely by project, but aren’t necessarily significant.
- Costs or the project’s verification. Verifier fees vary by market and are negotiated between the remodeler and the verifier.
- The National Green Building Certification fee. Certification fees were designed to be affordable across a broad range of remodeling projects. For NAHB members, the remodeling project certification fee is $200 per single-family unit, or $200 per building plus $20 per unit for multifamily projects.
The National Green Building Standard is available for purchase at Builder Books.com. For more information about National Green Building Certification, call 877- 624-2476, or use the Contact Us form on www.nahbgreen.org.
‘National Green Building Standard’ Available at BuilderBooks.com
“The National Green Building Standard,” available through BuilderBooks.com, provides “green” practices that can be incorporated into multifamily and single-family new home construction, home remodeling and additions and site development.
The standard covers lot design, resource, energy and water efficiency; indoor environment quality; and owner education.
Currently the first and only ANSI-approved green building rating system, the National Green Building Standard is the benchmark for green homes.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here.
‘Green Remodeling: Your Start Toward an Eco-Friendly Home’ Available at BuilderBooks.com
“Green Remodeling: Your Start Toward an Eco-Friendly Home,” available through BuilderBooks.com, shows remodelers how they can take part in the "green" revolution.
The publication covers topics such as reducing home energy use, selecting nontoxic products, saving water and supporting the environment through the use of products that support responsible manufacturing and the sustainable harvesting of natural resources.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here or call 800-223-2665.