Leaner and Greener: Green Built Homes Rolls Out Updated Checklist, New Certifications

As codes have changed and technologies have advanced in the 16 years since the program’s inception in 2004, Green Built Homes has continually evolved to encourage positive changes in the building industry and highlight new opportunities to make projects more sustainable.

Green Built Alliance is thrilled to announce the release of Green Built Homes Version 3.0, which has been updated and revised to stay current with changing building codes and increase simplicity for program participants. All homes registered after January 1, 2021 will be required to use the new checklist. 

Many items that are now standard construction practices have been removed from our checklist, while we have added opportunities to gain points for new technologies. The sections have been overhauled to be more streamlined and organized. The point system and levels have been adjusted to reflect the changes. 

This Platinum Net Zero Energy certified home was built by Familia Enterprises on an infill location in a walkable neighborhood. The home includes native and edible landscaping and a variety of green finishes. Familia Enterprises photo

New elements

Two new prerequisites are now required for all homes. 

First, all baths with showers must be tested to exhaust 50 CFM intermittent or 20 CFM continuous. Previously, fans were required to be rated at these levels and we provided points for passing the diagnostic testing, but now the exhaust fans must prove to function as designed in order to achieve certification. 

Second consistent with code, CFL or LED light bulbs must be installed in 75 percent of lamps in permanent lighting fixtures. 

For Platinum Level Certification, a balanced ventilation system is also now required.

The Net Zero Energy Ready Certification has been updated to allow installation of combi meters in lieu of installing a chase and conduit for future solar. In addition, a home that does not meet all prescriptive requirements — including having a maximum Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Score of 55, adequate south-facing roof area within 45 degrees east or west of solar south, and a minimum of 110 square feet of roof area per 2,000 square feet of conditioned area — may provide an estimate and system design by a licensed installer that will achieve a HERS Score of 15 with 6 kWh or less. Designs may include future ground-mounted systems. The idea is to encourage homeowners to go solar by making it as easy as possible.

Green Built Homes Version 3.0 introduces the newly available HERSH20. The Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) that developed and oversees the HERS Index has created a tool for estimating and rating the water use of the home as designed.

HERSH20 is a system for rating whole-house water efficiency that includes both indoor and outdoor uses,” according to RESNET. “With the average family spending more than $1,000 annually on water costs, HERSH20 provides a simple, easy to compare rating on a scale from 0 to 100+; where lower numbers mean less water use. The HERSH20 Index was developed as part of a partnership between RESNET and the International Code Council.”

There are also more credits available for non-toxic, healthy and environmentally preferable products. There is also more information on wildlife protection, bear prevention and biophilic design strategies that attempt to create connections between humans and nature within the built environment. 

The Green Built Homes checklist is a robust tool and guide that provides the best metric to differentiate between greenwashing and the real deal when a home goes through the full inspection process for the certification,” said Sure Foot Builders owner Raymond Thompson, who was one of seven people on the Green Built Homes Version 3.0 committee that provided guidance and feedback through the process of developing the new checklist. “That said, the dynamic nature of the checklist and its continual reiterations still allow a place for a basic Green Built home, which is an improvement on the standard code-built home, as well as a Net-Zero or Regenerative home, which would be pushing the leading edge of the green-building movement.”

New certifications

Thanks to funding from the Kendeda Foundation, the Green Built Homes program now places more emphasis on regenerative elements, including the addition of a Net Zero Water Ready Certification and a pilot Regenerative Certification. 

Regenerative buildings are designed and built so that they are integrated to have a net-positive impact on the natural environment around them. The regenerative items encourage the certification system to evolve beyond the previous approach of rewarding features that make homes “less bad” for homeowners and the environment, to begin encouraging elements that actually improve the world around them. 

All items considered regenerative are highlighted in green across the checklist to encourage use and highlight their importance. 

The Net Zero Water Ready Certification will require the HERSH2O as well as a calculation of outdoor water use using the WaterSense budget tool. The site will need to be designed to manage 100 percent of its stormwater onsite, and the home will need to capture the total demand of its water through rainwater after first reducing it as much as possible through a combination of strategies. The rainwater system will then need to be plumbed for non-potable use (at a minimum). 

For those ready for even more of a challenge, a separate checklist of prerequisites has been created for Regenerative Certification. A Regenerative Certified Home will be Green Built Homes Certified to the levels of Net Zero Energy and Net Zero Water Ready, as well as meet the qualifications of ENERGY STAR® and Indoor airPLUS. In addition, there are requirements for the site location, food production, material use and recycling, to name a few. 

The new Regenerative Certification is being introduced as a pilot program so Green Built Homes can work with builders to gain feedback on various requirements. The program is challenging with a goal of inspiring what is possible through the use of thoughtful design and attention to detail, resulting in a home that is truly better for you and the environment. 

“LEED and Green Built Homes slowed the speed with which we were hurtling towards the abyss of environmental destruction and degradation from that of a speeding train to a slow jog. Good but not good enough,” said Stephens Smith Farrell of Haizlip Studio, who served on the committee overseeing the checklist revisions. “Green Built Homes Regenerative (and other regenerative visions of the built environment) will have us turn around and begin the critical work of making the world ever so slightly better, more sustainable, more equitable with every step, however small and seemingly insignificant. We are making this imperative turn today. Come along.” 

Get Involved

There is an opportunity for builders to be among the first to complete a project under the new Regenerative or Net-Zero Water Ready certifications. Email Program Director Maggie Leslie at maggie@greenbuilt.org if you are interested in the distinction of being a leader in these new certification levels available for the first time in Western North Carolina by participating in our pilot.

Green Built Homes Committee:

Special thanks to our dedicated committee members, whose expertise and perspective helped inform our revisions to the newest version of the Green Built Homes certification checklist.

  • Jessica Arrowood, Vandemusser Design
  • Chrissy Burton, Fisher Architects
  • Leigha Dickens, Deltec Homes
  • Sam Ruark-Eastes, Green Built Alliance
  • Jamie Shelton, Blue Ridge Energy Systems
  • Stephens Smith-Farrell, Haizlip Studio
  • Raymond Thompson, Sure Foot Builders

Maggie Leslie oversees the Green Built Homes and LEED Homes programs as program director for Green Built Alliance. She began working for the nonprofit as its treasurer in 2003, and has been on staff since 2006. She has also worked with Southface Energy Institute in Atlanta and Homes Energy Partners in Asheville. Connect with Maggie at Maggie@greenbuilt.org.

You can also view this article as it was originally published on pages 44-45 of the 2020-2021 edition of the directory.