Benefits of Green Building Certifications

Q&A with Drew Smith

Sustainability and Green Building
Drew Smith
Drew Smith is chief operating officer of Two Trails, Inc., a world-wide sustainable building consulting firm with headquarters in Florida, and additional offices in Nevada and Illinois.

What are some of the benefits you see for builders obtaining third-party green certifications?

A certification such as the National Green Building Standard includes the involvement of Green Verifiers. In addition to conducting onsite inspections, their expertise can help you achieve your sustainable objectives starting in the design planning phase and take the project to a new level that you had never considered. For example, laying out the energy efficiency plan during design using a certification system as your framework can help you synergize efficiencies throughout the home.

Having proper documentation increases the value of the project. Think of it like having a signed baseball card. How much is that worth? That depends on who signed it, right? If you are starting a new home, a remodeling project, or going through the steps to make energy efficient improvements, it just makes sense to get the certification as proof and increase the project value; otherwise, without the certification, it is just words on paper.

Most builders perceive green building as being more expensive than a code-built home. What are your thoughts on this?

When building a new home, design and material selection greatly impact the operating costs for decades. Investing in triple-pane windows and doors, generous insulation, and air sealing can greatly reduce your heating and cooling costs, while also boosting comfort. But is it financially savvy to construct a super-efficient home over a code-built home because of the reduction in operating costs?

The simple answer is yes, but the more detailed answer is that it depends. Some energy-efficient upgrades have a lot of bang for your buck, while others don’t. Your local climate is another variable.

This is not necessarily a cut-and-dry answer, but the long-term savings often outweigh the initial upfront expenditure, not to mention you get a healthier and more comfortable living environment.

As incoming chair of NAHB’s Environmental Issues Committee, what are the top environmental issues you see challenging the residential building industry in 2021?

Some of the top environmental issues I see that will challenge the building industry in 2021 are:

  1. Increased stormwater regulations: Increased regulations will have a costly effect to the building industry, not only with timing delays but also additional permitting costs. The biggest concern is whether an NPDES permit will be required for a septic tank installation.
  2. The possibility of mandated electrification of all buildings in some states: Electrification can result in both increased first costs and higher utility bills, which may place additional burdens on the consumer. Also, electrification is currently infeasible in some areas of the country.
  3. Impact of the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) on building materials: TSCA, the nation’s primary chemicals management law, now provides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory authority to evaluate chemicals already in commerce in addition to new chemicals. This may result in fees being added to some products containing certain chemicals. This could increase costs for some currently imported products, such as wood flooring or products containing formaldehyde, which the builder will have to absorb. NAHB staff is currently reviewing the risk evaluation.

This content originally appeared in the February 2021 edition of Green Intersects eNews. To sign up for the newsletter, contact Linda Wade.