First Home Certified Emerald Under Green Building Standard

emereld-green-buildingRGB Custom Builders of East Stroudsburg, Pa., has built the first home to be certified to the Emerald level of the National Green Building Standard rating system.

Builder Bob Brown’s home scored a total of 724 points in the six categories of the standard, which include energy, water and resource efficiency, indoor environmental quality, lot and site development and home owner education and maintenance.

The National Green Building Standard was approved earlier this year by the American National Standards Institute as a green rating system for new homes, remodeling projects and subdivisions.

The 1,900-square-foot home has not been sold yet, Brown said, because the company is using it as a showcase for green building techniques and to spur more home sales. In the week after it was certified, the home attracted 60 visitors in the small Pocono Mountains community where it is located.

Those touring the house have been especially interested in its geothermal heat pump — a top-of-the-line model that added $20,000 to the cost of the home, Brown said. However, current tax credits for energy efficiency bring the price down to $14,000 and the home’s owners can expect lower heating and cooling costs to pay for the pump in less than four years.

Before beginning construction, Brown used the standard scoring tool to see how his current home projects would rate.

The good news, he said, was that RGB Construction’s base homes scored at near the top of the standard’s Silver level.

The company targets the area’s luxury market, building 20 to 25 homes annually at an average price of $450,000 plus land costs, and it has been using many sustainable building practices without calling them green.

Now, Brown said he’ll likely offer his home buyers the option of Gold level certification for an additional cost of $3,000, which will pay for certification, low-flow toilets and the other products he will need to reach that level.

The home cost about $45,000 more to build, Brown said, but it would still have reached the Emerald level without a number of the materials and appliances that were chosen — such as the heat pump, $4,500 in landscape design and installation costs and $2,600 worth of cork flooring. “We could probably cut $15,000 off this number and still be Emerald,” he said.

It’s also 38% more efficient than the standard home he builds, which scores at the Silver level and is 30% more efficient than a home constructed under prevailing building codes.

Brown said that the next job should be much easier now that he understands the scoring system and the certification process. His brother and business partner kept careful records to document and measure almost every step they took. While the documentation helped them in the learning process, much of it was not necessary for certification.

“We didn’t need to do a lot of the things we did,” he said.  “Now that the learning curve is down, we can probably do this in our sleep.”

Brown also credited Frank Malpere, his NAHB Research Center-accredited verifier, for his expertise, which also helped him through the process.

Having a show home just down the street from the company’s sales office is sparking more than the usual amount of interest from home shoppers, he said. “Everyone wants to see it, and that’s working well for us,” he said.

In a press release, NAHB Research Center President Mike Luzier congratulated Brown on his home’s achievement. “We are thrilled to have a home certified Emerald so soon after that option became available,” he said. “It’s a testament to the flexibility of this national certification program that allows builders to select the right level of green for their markets and their customers.”

Since the ANSI approval of the National Green Building Standard in January, more than 1,000 homes have been scored to the standard using the online scoring tool at NAHBGreen.

Click here to see photos of RGB’s Certified Emerald Green Davidson Model.

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