Q: I’m a home contractor. There are different green building courses and green home certification programs now, and it’s somewhat confusing to know which classes are the best to take and which I should get certified in. The U.S. Green Building Council LEED program seems to be everywhere and I wonder if I should focus on this program. If you could point me in the right direction I would really appreciate it. —Jerry, Hampton Bays A: Hi Jerry,
At minimum, you need to build a house to Energy Star standards (not a very high standard, to be frank), so be familiar with this program and home rating system.
Look at classes taught locally. SUNY Ulster, where I teach a green building and renovation class, has excellent course offerings.
Nationally, the USGBC LEED program has become a dominant green building program. Some states and municipalities have actually mandated some USGBC certifications for future building. But currently LEED dominates commercial real estate, not single-family home building (for instance, new Connecticut LEED requirements apply only to residences of more than four families).
LEED detractors say the rating system has flaws and is too expensive. The classes and exam to become a LEED Accredited Professional are costly. It can take thousands of dollars and considerable paperwork for a building to apply to get certified.
A good side to LEED is that the approval process requires detailed coordination and communication between professionals involved in a project. Often, homes are not built or renovated green because of lack of planning and communication between architects, designers, owners, and contractors. So with or without the LEED certificate at the end, the LEED system forces you to walk through the building process with sustainability at the forefront.
A less expensive and perhaps more practical alternative to LEED is the new Green Building Program that the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has rolled out. Green builder John Messerschmidt of Four Points Consulting Group in New York City is becoming accredited by the NAHB to be a green home certifier under that program. He says:
“The National Association of Home Builders appeals to me as a builder because they offer more comprehensive training in building homes. NAHB has been doing this much longer than USGBC, and while LEED is gaining notoriety in the large-scale commercial arena, I feel NAHB will become more relevant in the residential market. As far as certification of houses, NAHB’s certification process is much less cumbersome for residential home verification than LEED. Therefore, it will cost the consumer less than getting their home LEED certified.”
I’d say getting a LEED AP title and offering clients the ability to work within the LEED system is a good idea because if you do not become part of the system you might not get certain jobs in the future. But if I were you, I’d think seriously about first becoming part of the NAHB program. It’s sure to become a force in future home building.—Paul
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