Why You Need a Green Certification
Why You Need a Green Certification

Why You Need a Green Certification

Just a few years ago, designers and builders could develop their own in-house standards for "green" construction and consider themselves leaders in the market. But expectations have evolved. Now customers — even some building codes — are demanding that projects and contractors meet objective third-party green standards.

Standards-writing groups range from national organizations, such as the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program (LEED), to state-specific groups like Green Built Texas (GBT). They certify the project or the contractor, or both, usually at a reasonable cost.

customers are demanding projects and contractors meet objective third-party green standards

Build green credibility

Barry Hensley, owner of Hensley Premier Builders in Frisco, Texas, got his company certified as a green builder by GBT at a cost of about $600. He says it's been a trust-builder with potential customers. "Credibility is a challenge in this market," he says. "For a small company like ours, certification is becoming a must-have."

Hensley says demand is coming from more than just homeowners. "Our local Multiple Listing Service is adding a field to their listings that will identify green-built homes, and they will eventually require documentation to prove it."

Build green credibility

Comply with government guidelines

Demand is also coming from government agencies. For instance, New Mexico offers a state tax credit for sustainable homes. According to Steve Hale, program director for Build Green New Mexico (BGNM), there are only two ways for a home to qualify: certification either by BGNM or through LEED. Similarly, many California jurisdictions require that homes be rated by the state's Build It Green program.

Build It Green grants points for features that include recycling, energy efficiency, proximity to services and mass transit, density, recirculating plumbing systems, and xeriscaping. Different jurisdictions require that projects meet different point thresholds. "Anyone can claim to be a green company, but Build It Green uses a standardized format to measure that claim," says John Moniz, owner of Moniz Land Development Solutions in Morgan Hill, Calif.

Comply with government guidelines

Reduce your liability

Certification can also help reduce a contractor's liability against accusations of "green washing." "It's not enough to say the project will be green," advises Sarah Shapiro, an attorney with Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel in Philadelphia, who has seen court challenges to green claims that weren't specific enough. "The contract must specify the particular standard you want to meet. This could be LEED, Green Point Rated, NAHB Green, or some other standard that you and the clients choose."

Reduce your liability

Attract new customers

Perhaps the greatest value of a third-party green label is that it can help attract new clients in a tough market. Dallas-area residential and commercial designer Elaine Williamson has always worked to her own green standard, but wanted to up the ante by earning a third-party green certification for her firm. She got one of her designers LEED certified -- a process that took about 18 months of part-time study and cost $400 -- then put that designer in charge of a new LEED division. "We were designing green anyway, but this made it official," she says. The payoff? About a month after announcing the LEED division, Williamson had attracted several strong job leads thanks to her new green designation. "Certification is the way things are going. It's well worth the effort to get on board."

Attract new customers