The Growth of Green Home Building
The growing interest in green home building is evident on many fronts. Dodge Data and Analytics estimates that 84 percent of home builders will offer green construction options by 2018. In late 2015, the same firm estimated that green building volume will double every three years.
Consensus on a National Green Building Standard
The ICC 700 National Green Building Standard (NGBS) is the result of a collaborative effort by major trade and other organizations, among them the International Code Council, American Institute of Architects and the U.S. Green Building Council. The new NGBS is the first green standard for home building accepted by the American National Standards Institute. Although it is not a mandatory standard, the NGBS certainly expresses an industry-wide desire to standardize green building.
Green Building Home Building vs. Current Regulations
Because the NGBS standardizes green building, it introduces efficiency in the construction process that is beneficial to contractors and homeowners alike. Both the cost savings and the health benefits of green construction encourage homeowners, builders and architects alike to look closely at going green. However, the momentum of the green building revolution is often slowed by three layers of regulations.
- Condominium and homeowners’ association regulations
- Local zoning vis-a-vis setbacks, height and other requirements
- Local building codes endorsed at the state level
Examples of the Challenge
Here are just a few categories that illustrate what’s holding back green:
Super-insulated construction – One of the ultimate examples of green construction is the net zero home. Such structures minimize energy consumption in part through the use of super-insulating materials and building techniques. For example, continuous water-resistive and air barriers like high performance DELTA®-VENT SA minimize the incursion of cold air in the winter and warm, humid air in the summer.
Local zoning – Setback requirements occasionally inhibit green building. Let’s say a developer wants to construct multi-family housing on a given land parcel. The developer wants to super-insulate the structure with foot-thick exterior insulation. However, setback requirements force the architect to subtract living space to accommodate those walls. If developer is unwilling to sacrifice square-footage, a move that may lower rents, the plan may be scuttled.
Rainwater harvesting – Alternative water collection methods are an increasingly common element in green construction. Homeowners that harvest rainwater for irrigation use reduce demands on the municipal water supply. Water that never makes it to the street reduces pressure on municipal storm sewers as well. However, some states still inhibit rainwater harvesting through strict regulations borne out of complicated water rights laws written long ago.
HOA aesthetic requirements – The green building challenge that existing HOA and condo associations present should not be understated, because there are literally hundreds of thousands of such associations across the country, many with idiosyncratic or out-of-date demands that are sometimes difficult to amend. Many association boards have an absolute right to veto designs for aesthetic reasons. At times, there’s a conflict between sustainability and existing aesthetic requirements. Solar installations often run afoul of these requirements, many of which were established decades ago, long before the arrival of residential renewable energy installations.
Many in favor of sustainable design and construction hope that the NGBS will increasing influence state building codes. Given the wide variations in weather across the country, such regulations will legitimately vary state-by-state. However, some states are responding more quickly than others to the need for updated regulations that facilitate rather than inhibit green construction.
Dörken delivers innovative, high-performance air and moisture barriers for commercial and residential construction sold under the DELTA® brand name. A North American manufacturer based out of Beamsville, Ontario, Dörken Products, Inc. is a subsidiary of Ewald Dörken AG, a leading European developer and manufacturer of waterproofing and drainage products sold worldwide. Dörken is known for delivering premium products while providing educational programs and full technical support. For more information, call 1-888-4DELTA4 (433-5824) or visit www.dorken.com.