Roxanne Button Kujawa, AiA, MRAIC, LEED AP, is an architect, sustainable design advocate, artist and writer. She is currently Senior Architect/Project Manager at Architectural Resources.
You’re about to renovate or build a new home, and you want to do it as “green” as you can. You probably have a lot of questions about green (or as I like to call it, “greener”) buildings. What’s a green certification and do you really need one? Where can you go for the best information? And what should you be looking for?
Where do you start? There are many resources available in print and on the internet for homeowners who want to learn more about green building - too many resources, in fact. Before you Google “green home design” and get thousands of hits, start with these three sites that I often refer to in my work:
- For over 20 years, Building Green has been the most respected voice in the green building industry. Highly knowledgeable and trustworthy, this is the site that I recommend the most to my colleagues and clients. They publish the excellent Environmental Building News newsletter, and there is a searchable database on their website for green materials. Parts of it are available by membership only.
- This is a very good site from the U.S. Green Building Council for homeowners. It has sections on energy efficiency, green materials, and water use. It also has a Pro Directory to help you find the right design and construction professionals for your project. Submit questions on just about any home renovation or construction issue through the “Ask A Pro” section.
- This site is meant for building professionals, so it may not be right for every homeowner. But it’s an excellent resource if you want to get into the nuts-and-bolts of green buildings, or find out from the pros what they do in their projects. GBA also has a great free e-newsletter which you can get by creating an account. Start with the “Green Basics” tab at the top of the webpage. There are great illustrations and thorough explanations of terminology. If you’re really into construction, you can pay for a professional membership and get access to even more technical information including construction details.
Magazines with a green focus or with good green home information include This Old House and Natural Home & Garden. Finding good books on green building is easy through sites like Taunton Press (publishers of Fine Homebuilding), Chelsea Green Publishing, and Ecotone Publishing Company.
One book that I recommend a lot is Your Green Home by Alex Wilson, one of the founders of Building Green. I have had to replace this book once so far because I’ve lent it out so many times and I’ve had a hard time getting it back! It covers everything you need to know for building a new green home, but it would also be useful to renovators.
What about green building certifications?
There are a lot of programs on the market that certify everything from toilets to paint, to entire buildings. You’ve probably heard of LEED – the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating program developed by the USGBC. About 5 years ago, LEED for Homes (LEED-H) was released to provide a standard for the residential building market.
While LEED-H has certified over 20,000 homes, the Energy Star program has certified over 1 million homes. Energy Star may be more familiar to you as a label for appliances and light bulbs, but it is also a well-known building certification program.
Another green home certification is from the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). The Rivera Greens neighbourhood in Clarence, built by Natale Builders, is one local example. It will be the host site for Buffalo Green Drinks on July 25 (click here for registration information).
ReGreen is not a certification, but a set of guidelines for renovating homes. It was developed by USGBC and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and has almost 200 different strategies for doing a greener renovation.
In my next post, I’ll get into more detail about the different types of green certifications that are on the market, and what they really mean for homeowners who are renovating or building new.