New home construction is shooting for the stars

New home construction is shooting for and reaching new stars.

At the 12th annual Built Green™ Conference held this year in Mukilteo, WA, Built Green, a program of the MBA of King and Snohomish counties announced a new project certification system, Emerald Star. With its introduction, the group is pushing the envelope in the residential construction community to reach even higher green building goals.

In comparing Emerald Star to LEED for Homes, Built Green certification committee member and architect, George Ostrow, believes the certification’s requirement of net-zero energy is harder to achieve than LEED for Homes, Platinum, but isn’t as stringent as the Living Building Challenge, program developed by the Cascadia GBC, and administered by the new International Living Future Institute.

In Built Green’s jurisdictions, there are two completed projects that are good candidates for Emerald Star certification, earning almost 900 Built Green points each, zHome and Eastside Harvest House*. (However, ES’s no-fireplace requirement disqualifies the EHH from receiving Emerald Star certification.)

Key Highlights of the Emerald Star Requirements:

o General
• Design – promote a integrative design and delivery process
• Education – include a program for community engagement
• Size – encourage smaller sized projects
• Location – near essentials to support local economy and community
o Energy – net zero energy and modeling standards use
o Water – significant targets for delivering a conservation model for water use including rainwater harvesting
o Stormwater – in general homes must provide a successful strategy for managing stormwater on-site
o Materials – focus on durability, reuse or salvaged products, local sourcing, and recycled content products
o Waste management plans – goal is 90% construction waste recycling
o Indoor air quality – banned products cannot enter the home, HRV to circulate clean air especially in air-tight homes, maintain safe moisture levels, use low- and not-toxic construction materials

Beginning in 1999, Built Green certification was a diplomatic move for the MBA, designed to introduce the conservative builder community to a new level of compliance. To encourage broader adoption and acceptance of the system, they kept the bar relatively low – offering one, two and three stars. Since then, the certification’s success has allowed them to eliminate the entry-level options and move from a base of one star to three stars with most projects now achieving 4 and 5 stars!

As with all innovation, Built Green’s goal is to bring about significant change in the construction industry. Conspicuous consumption, waste, toxic materials and built-for-disposal concepts are on the way out. Good luck to Emerald Star and other certifications that push industry to achieve beyond its comfort level.

Is your jurisdiction, industry group or local company pushing the boundaries of green building? Then tell us about it! — alex


* Disclosure my client, Model Remodel, is the builder of the project and I worked on it extensively for over a year.

Image: Courtesy of Google Images / PSD Graphics