Rhode Island Builder Chooses NGBS as Best for Green Building

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Dave Caldwell had a choice.

The builder of the first home certified under the 2012 ICC 700 National Green Building Standard (NGBS), Caldwell could have designed the vacation house on the Atlantic Ocean in Narragansett, R.I., using any of several green rating systems. After all, he’s used several of them, including EPA’s Energy Star, LEED for Homes and the Department of Energy’s Builders Challenge.

But he chose the NGBS “because it’s the best current program for residential construction.”

Founded in 1968, Caldwell’s firm, Caldwell & Johnson has completed more than 500 custom homes and major remodeling projects in the Ocean State. It has always been known for building high quality energy efficient houses. And as an early adopter of green building techniques, including water efficiency, healthy indoor air quality and environmentally sustainable materials, the company prefers NGBS.

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While all of the green building programs require builders to meet certain benchmarks, Caldwell points out that the NGBS is designed for home builders.

Other programs can be a lot more costly and time-consuming,” according to the Rhode Island builder, whereas NGBS is “more user friendly and more accessible to good but novice green home builders.”

NGBS also is somewhat more flexible, but at the same time, it’s more difficult to score higher ratings than with other programs. “You walk a fine line, because it’s much more thorough than other programs” said Caldwell, who built one house certified at the highest LEED level that he said would not have been rated at the highest level (Emerald) under NGBS.

The 2012 NGBS was approved by the American National Standards Institute and released in January 2013. It was the first upgrade of the standard since 2008, when the original NGBS was released.

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Completed in July, the first 2012 NGBS house, which is rated at the Silver level, clocks in at 2,200 square feet. Designed to be nearly net-zero energy, the home captures renewable solar energy using photovoltaic shingles from CertainTeed that are situated along the ocean side of the roof. Hot water is supplied from a heat pump water heater from GE, a product which draws ambient heat from surrounding air to warm refrigerant. Meanwhile, a Carrier heat pump heats and cools the house. And to maintain indoor environmental quality, air is circulated with an electric heat recovery ventilator.

Water conservation and management was equally important, both for Caldwell and his clients, who were looking for “an environmentally responsible” home, he said. So the design calls for water from low-flow toilets and faucets to flow into an on-site wastewater treatment system which mechanically filters and cleans the water. In addition, terracing, low-maintenance native vegetation and other landscape features protect against stormwater runoff.

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