Benefits of Green Building Certifications

Q&A with Matt Cooper

Sustainability and Green Building
Matt Cooper

Matthew T. Cooper is the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of PEG LLC with more than 25 years of expertise in the evaluation, design and control of the built environment.

Since the pandemic, what changes have you seen in demand for third-party verified high-performance home certifications? Have you seen increased interest in indoor air quality (IAQ) (or other specific strategies) from customers?

We have seen a great deal of increased interest in improved ventilation, IAQ and third-party verification as people continued to work and learn remotely, needing to make their homes also function as offices and classrooms. Thermal comfort and energy efficiency have also seen a large increase in interest and focus with so many more people spending increased time in their homes.

A larger change for the rating industry has been the demand for on-the-fly modeling of homes to adapt to material shortages throughout the residential new construction industry. For example, if a particular window or insulation product is suddenly not available during a build, builders are clamoring for energy modeling of replacement options so that they can continue with production while ensuring they will meet their code or above-code requirements.

PEG offers services supporting several different green building programs. What is your advice for builders and developers to select the program that best fits their project?

Our guidance begins with necessity as the first filter. If a proffer or municipal requirement is the driver, then that is the first tier of selection. After that (or if it is a purely internal decision), we tend to focus on the culture and business practices for the builder. Selecting a green building program that aligns well with how a builder’s standard day-to-day design, procurement and construction operations function can provide a great deal of comfort with the process that lends itself to greater success with the least amount of frustration.

Builders are used to code-based language, and the National Green Building Standard (NGBS) is written in the same methodology. This makes it much easier to segment roles and responsibilities for the various trades working on the home. When there is reduced ambiguity for who is doing what in the process of designing and building an above-code home, there is far less chance for things to be overlooked.

Have you seen increased flexibility for builders as they transition from certifying to the 2015 NGBS to the new 2020 NGBS? Are builders utilizing the new Energy Rating Index (ERI) pathway and/or the new Water Rating Index (WRI) pathway for water?

2020 had its own set of challenges for everyone in the residential new construction industry. The flexibility provided for compliance paths in the 2020 are a useful tool for builders and verifiers. Implementation for these paths is on the increase for sure and will continue to be as other challenges to builders get resolved.

Principally, the ability to use trade-offs to adapt to supply-chain interruptions and availability make the ERI and WRI powerful tools for the verifier/builder collaboration. The key to this success, though, is dependent on the verifier’s expertise with use of the software tools utilized to demonstrate compliance.

Do you have any tips or advice for those young professionals considering becoming a high-performance consultant and/or becoming third-party verifiers?

The best advice I can give is to learn the fundamentals of construction, understand the roles of the various trades, and then move into learning building science, energy modeling and the verification process. Engendering confidence in the level of knowledge that you have as a third party is the best tool for fostering a collaborative relationship with builders and their trades.