Green Home Certifications

5 Categories Green Home Certifications Typically Have in Common

Rate It Green is one of Green Home Coach’s Trusted Partners and provides a host of resources for education, research and discussion in and about the Green Building space.  I am honored to have been 1 of 5 industry professionals interviewed by Grace Morrison for 2 in-depth articles about residential green building certifications and where we stand with green building. The first article –  An Introduction to Residential Green Building Certifications: Part I – is a good introduction to green building certifications, what they do for a builder, remodeler and homeowner and how we can use them to achieve better housing for all of us. Look for commentary on Part II later in the month.

The 5 industry professionals 

Marla Esser Cloos, Green Home Coach

Sheridan Foster, Elemental Green

Matt Hoots, Sawhorse Inc.

Brett Little, Green Home Institute

Carl Seville, SK Collaborative

“Green Building Certifications affirm specific achievements and credentials and encourage the development of leading-edge practices and materials. Unfortunately, it can be challenging for someone new to green building to gain proficiency or to  figure out where or exactly how to begin their green building journey”

From Allison’s newsletter – Allison Friedman is the founder of Rate It Green

I have to admit that in discussing the state of the green building industry, there’s hope and excitement, but also some of what I’d call some real and justifiable anxiety.  Many green builders label themselves optimists.  I do, too.  And yet, there’s also a worry one senses about staying at a spot just below the tipping point for what feels like too long.  We can all be forgiven for asking, “Are we there yet?” Or, for sometimes just feeling out of patience because weren’t we feeling at this same tipping point back in like 2005??   It doesn’t feel as easy or as obvious as it should be to be green, to just be smarter and more efficient and healthy and comfortable and… Why isn’t everyone on board with this already?!!!

Well, here’s some good news.  I have had some conversations about what DOES work and what IS changing, and I think it’s time for all of us to share some specific information and either cheer each other up, or if you don’t need cheering, just share some ideas and expertise and optimism with those who might benefit. I want to hear them, and I think other people will want to hear your wisdom as well. “

What is Green Building, or More Specifically, a Green Home?

Green, energy-efficient, high performance, sustainable…whatever the name is they all point to homes that focus more on the living experience in a home, as well as the home itself. Understanding the basics of these features and homes helps to better understand how to design, build and sell them. 

The author, Grace, further elaborates “Green building is essentially thoughtful design and execution, representing a more holistic understanding of building science with five main pillars or areas of focus: energy, materials, water, health, and place. Green building also describes a process and can represent more than one point in time, encompassing the strategic planning, design, construction, and operation of a building throughout its lifecycle, from material sourcing through end of life, to optimize the building’s environmental impact.”

A Green Home Looks Good AND Performs Well

Who doesn’t want a home that looks great, feels great and performs well? A green or greener home can offer these benefits. Green homes embrace a holistic approach to building, remodeling and upkeep that balances the use of resources with the health, wellness and control available to the people living in that home. A green home is better by offering the peace of mind of knowing the homes you work on and live in do the best they can to provide a better living experience for the people living in it.

The Benefits of a Green Certified Home

One of the benefits of a green-certified home is the health and safety of you and everyone else living in that home. Another benefit is that the resale value of your home tends to be better, and green-certified houses tend to sell faster. All the certification programs give you, as the homeowner and inhabitant of the home, the peace of mind and reassurance that your home has that third-party stamp of approval that stays with that home, and that can be very important if you ever decide to sell the house.


What Makes a Green Home Green

So, what makes a green home green? There are 6 categories of home building / remodeling / and maintenance practices that cover the physical parts of a home as well as our behavior in a home.

  • Land and site the home or building sits on
  • Resources and materials that make up the home
  • Energy and the systems that use energy in the home
  • Water and the indoor and outdoor uses of water in and around the home
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Home occupant information and education – how to live well in your home


Each category is made up of building practices, products and materials as well as the connectivity between the parts of homes and how we, the project team and occupants, interact with them.

Almost all of the green home certification programs include some form of the 5 physical categories, yet the information and education part is essential to the experience of the people living in the home even if it is not a part of the official certification program. 

You have to think in a balanced and holistic way about your home, so you need to consider the categories of selections, products, materials, and processes used to build a home that meets the green homes certification program. You need to think about the materials you use, the indoor environmental quality, the education and documentation, and the energy and water-efficiency of the home. You also need to choose your community, and where you want your home to be situated.

In Grace’s words, “Green buildings are generally high functioning, lowering operational and energy costs by 25% in the US and up to 40% globally, and consuming 11% less water in the US and up to 30% less water globally (WGBC, n.d.). Green buildings are also healthier for the occupants with mindful selection of materials and educated indoor air quality choices, equipment, and practices, also further improving occupant comfort… Green buildings are increasingly valuable as real estate investments, but it’s also imperative to build sustainably to meet critical climate goals.” 

What are the steps to achieve a certified green home?

At an earlier time in my business, I authored and shared an e-book called “Certified Green Homes – the Whys and Hows.” It was a time that it was even more challenging to understand how to green certify a home for both the builder and the homeowner. So I wrote this book to explain and hopefully simplify the process. Do you think I should update and re-release it? 

Conducting an assessment of the home plans or an existing home is a good place to start to identify areas of compliance and areas that need improvement. Once this “gap analysis” is complete, it is more straightforward to design in the elements to reach the agreed upon goals for the home or building. Green Home Coach’s “Can My Home Be Green?” program can help with this analysis.  

Why Green Certify a Home?

Most homes are certified because the homeowner or builder chooses to certify and build a green home based on project goals. Some municipalities do now require a specific minimum certification, but for most projects the final decision on whether to certify will depend on project goals. 

The value and marketability of the home or project may be key drivers for certification. Many homeowners are citing the projected health and wellness benefits available from a green certified home. Improved efficiencies in resource and materials use, energy and water all mean a lighter impact and usually smaller utility bills as well. 

Our author also suggests that “certifications help owners understand the history of the home. If a building has previously been certified, new owners looking to renovate can understand what is already in place from previous construction and assure that the builders constructed the home with green building principles in mind. Moreover, while some builders have the credentials to be green builders, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they build green homes, so the third-party verification acts as evidence of a contractor’s green building experience.”


To learn why someone might choose not to certify and what green home certifications there are, read the entire article, An Introduction to Residential Green Building Certifications: Part I,  by Grace Morrison with Rate It Green. 


Resources and Referral links:

Rate It Green 

An Introduction to Residential Green Building Certifications: Part I

Green Home Coach

Elemental Green

Sawhorse Inc.

Green Home Institute

SK Collaborative