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Jan 8, 2014 7:00 PM  PST  

Green Home Certification Simplified 

The process of getting a green home certification is easier than you think--especially if you follow these five guidelines.
By Nathan Krantz, former Director of Technical Services at Build It Green
Jan. 8, 2014
This article originally appeared in the Nov./Dec. 2013 issue of Green Home Builder magazine.
When weighing the decision to pursue a green home certification for your project, picture the end results: faster-selling homes that keep you ahead of the competition, with happier customers and fewer warranty calls; buyers that are thrilled to move into healthier, higher-quality certified homes that will save them thousands in energy and maintenance costs. 
There are clear marketing and sales benefits when you commit to green certification for your projects. A 2012 study by UC Berkeley and UCLA researchers found that in California, a green label on a house adds an average 9% to its sales price. Green and money-saving features matter to consumers; that’s why savvy builders use certification for a marketing edge to differentiate themselves from their competition.
Third-party verification has additional benefits for builders. An extra set of eyes adds another layer of quality control that can help reduce errors and ensure that a home functions flawlessly.
But how do you reach that result with the least hassle? All green certifications, from Energy Star and GreenPoint Rated to LEED for Homes, bring additional inspections and documentation requirements, but the process doesn’t have to be difficult. Integrating certification into your project management process is the key. After working with many dozens of builders, Build It Green has captured five best practices to help you make the leap into green home certification. 
1. Hire a qualified Rater. 
Experience matters, so determine how many projects a Rater has certified that are similar to yours. Verify that they have a current and valid professional certification. Look for a professional who has a customer service orientation and is committed to educating and guiding you through the process. 
2. Involve your Rater early in the design process.
Too many builders involve a Rater late in the game, sometimes even after construction has begun. That’s a sure-fire recipe for change orders and cost overruns when you’ve bid out the wrong materials or failed to direct subcontractors to follow specific practices and installation techniques that are necessary to achieve a certification prerequisite. The scope of work won’t change drastically if the right steps are in place from the start.
“An ideal approach is to involve your Rater in a design charrette with your architect and other team members,” says Jonathan Fearn, LEED AP BD&C, Director of Development for SummerHill Homes, which typically builds to GreenPoint Rated standards.
At these initial meetings, the Rater can walk your team through the certification checklist and determine the most cost-effective ways to incorporate green features into the plans and boilerplate specs. “You can get everybody’s buy in at that point, and when you establish the checklist early on, you find you can typically earn more points toward your certification,” adds Fearn.
3. Make everyone aware of certification requirements, from sales staff to site supervisors.
Your contractor understands the requirements of a green certification, but do your subcontractors and suppliers grasp the purchasing choices—like recycled materials or no-VOC paints—and documentation requirements? In your contracts with subcontractors and suppliers, consider specifying that you will withhold payment until proper documentation is received and reviewed by your Rater.
Overall, clear communication is critical, as is education: Cutting-edge green building practices can sometimes be at odds with how tradesmen have traditionally performed their jobs. Try to frame certification as an opportunity for staff to learn and improve to create a higher-quality product.  
4. Work with your Rater to build inspections into your production schedule.
Ask your Rater to provide ongoing communication and status updates after each inspection, regarding what passed or what needs changing. If your rating is for a model home, your Rater can help you find ways to improve the score during subsequent production.
5. Get the marketing department involved.
Your investment in green home certification will pay off only when you market it properly. If you’ve built a cutting-edge home, you need to educate your buyers about its energy- and water-saving features, its superior air quality and durable construction materials. Third-party certification is an appealing shorthand for all these technical details, so leverage it!
“Training and educating your sales team is an ongoing process—to make sure everyone on the front lines understands the certification and is well-versed in the unique green features of your different homes and communities,” says Fearn.
In addition to staff training, incorporate green labels into marketing materials in your model homes and sales offices. “Selling the benefits of green” is the final touch to making certification work for everyone. In doing so you’ll enhance your profits, deliver a better product, and help the planet in the process.

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For additional information on this Build It Green News article, please contact:

Don Knapp
(510) 590-3360

Source: Don Knapp

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