KWA Construction, LP was formally introduced to green building a little over three years ago by Zad Roumaya. Mr. Roumaya postponed his day job as a noted metal sculpture artist to develop a forty nine unit condominium project adjacent to his studio in The Cedars of Dallas, called Buzz. It had long been a goal of his to transform an infill site that formerly consisted of a handful of vacant lots, one of which formerly housed an old tire shop, into a green, sustainable and affordable community that had connectivity to downtown Dallas.
During this time, the most commonly accepted method to claim that your project was green meant that it would be LEED certified, a green building rating system developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). Although there were other programs and rating systems such as Green Globes which originated in Canada, or the Department of Energy’s Energy Star rating system, the USGBC’s LEED rating system was the most recognized. Unfortunately until 2008, the USGBC had largely overlooked multifamily housing which was required be certified through its LEED NC (New Construction) Program. This not only made it difficult to get multifamily housing projects certified, but costly as well. Upon realizing this during the Buzz design charrette, the project team decided to abandon the idea of LEED certification, but still install the green components as originally planned – such as the rainwater reclamation system for irrigation, and building a moped storage to house the zero emission mopeds that came with the unit.
In 2008, the USGBC introduced a LEED for Homes Rating System that could be applied to multifamily housing three stories and under, along with a multifamily housing pilot program – LEED for Homes Mid-Rise Pilot. Currently, the USGBC offers a rating system or pilot program for practically every type of housing development including neighborhood development, affordable housing, and remodeling (REGREEN Residential Remodeling Guidelines). Also in 2008, The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the International Code Council (ICC) published a nationally recognizable standard to define green building – the National Green Building Standard. The standard was developed to comply with the requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The NAHB National Green Building Program is based on this ANSI standard, and is the first green building program that can tout this achievement. For projects built in Texas, the Home Builders Association of Greater Dallas spun off a multifamily housing protocol from their Green Built North Texas single family program. There are plans for this program to undergo a name change in 2009 Texas Green Built. This will allow the program to be used throughout the state.
WHICH SHADE BEST SUITS MY PROJECT
Being that there are three green building programs in Texas to choose from, determining which program is the best fit for a multifamily project is not easily answered. Let’s start with what the programs have in common:
- All three are recognized green building programs
- All three programs primarily focus on water efficiency, energy efficiency, material reuse/reduction, and the sustainability of the site.
- All three require an independent third party verification process
- All three require a registration fee for having their respective program associated with the project
Registration fees vary per program. The LEED for Homes Program costs $450 per project plus $0.035 per square if a USGBC member registers the project, if a non member registers the project the fees increase to $650 per project plus $0.045 per square foot. The NAHB Green Building Program costs $20 per unit, which will be invoiced upon completion of the verification process, and The Green Built North Texas Program has a $1500 registration fee for projects of 200 units or less, and $2000 for projects over 200 units. As mentioned all three programs require third party verification. LEED requires that you use a LEED for Homes Provider, The National Green Building Program requires that you use an Accredited Green Building Verifier, and Green Built North Texas allows you to use any one of the following: a RESNET Certified Home Energy Rater, a Certified Energy Company, a NAHB Accredited Green Building Verifier, a LEED Provider, an NAAB accredited Design Professional, a Licensed Texas Real Estate Commission Inspector, or a Residential Combination Inspector certified by the ICC. The third party verification fees can range from $120-$250 per unit, and are typically quoted on a per project basis by the respective verifier.
Aside from the registration fees, another consideration when choosing a green building program is to assess the overall goals of the project in regard to green building. If the goal to build green is for marketing purposes, LEED has the brand name product in the market place and is the most recognized. If the goal is to adopt a standard for green building to be implemented for all developments the NAHB program may be the best fit, since it is based on an ANSI standard, and least likely to be changed annually. The USGBC has been known to amend their LEED certification programs as their goals and agenda change. This means that certification requirements are subject to become more or less stringent from project to project over a projected time span. If the goal is to find a least cost green building program with a project registration process, Green Built North Texas will work. Finally, if the goal is to simply build a green product that reduces the project’s impact on the environment, reduces energy consumption, and is sustainable – one may consider developing and implementing their own green standard for their projects. The money not spent on program registration fees and third party verification can be used to implement greater green building strategies for the project. Should you like to know more about green building practices and programs in relation to multifamily construction please contact KWA Construction, LP at email@example.com.