Helping Builders Build Green

Green Building Standards for HomesGabbing with Michelle Foster of Home Innovation Research Labs, a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Michelle is the VP of Innovation Services and does a lot of talking with people around the country about building a green home, green building standards and the financial community.

As the only child of a single mom, Michelle “tortured her mother incessantly about how important it was to own a home.” After college studying environmental policy, she fell into working in housing. As she got more entrenched in the political, social and environmental issues, she became interested in how we can design, build and promote more sustainable housing but in a way that is not only affordable and desirable for the people who wanted to live there, but in a way that the market was really looking to do. She was really looking to transform the market and have a revolution in creating better housing.

Green Building Standards


The transactional process in real estate plays a part in this. For instance, to buy a house, one has to qualify for a mortgage for that particular house and how much it costs. The lender is figuring out if that person can afford the mortgage and the other expected expenses. Yet never in that process does anyone look at the larger expected expenses of an older home in comparison to the lower expenses or a better built house. Considering these factors in the process could help remove barriers to more homes being built green. Taking this into consideration means a better investment in the asset of your home, rather than spending more on expenses that don’t add value to your home and investment.

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Buying a home is such an emotional, big decision. It is important to help home buyers think holistically about where they will be most comfortable, what is the smartest investment for them and will make them happiest going forward.

Creating Green Building Standards

Michelle came to Home Innovation Research Labs to manage a brand new green certification program for housing (NGBS – National Green Building Standard). It was an opportunity to be a part of this voluntary program to support green recognized design and construction of residential building.

Certifications started around the end of 2008 and early 2009. Fast forward to November 2016, and there are over 91,000 homes and units certified with NGBS. The 100,000th certification milestone is expected in early 2017.

Why is certification, especially green certification is so important to a home owner or resident? The National Green Building Standard defines what a green home is and was put together by a committee of experts that represent all the industry including federal agencies, environmental agencies, as well as builders, code officials, and more.

Confirm the green practices that the builder claims have been installed and installed correctly

This standard, NGBS, is how a home is judged to meet these criteria. An independent third-party verification means that every single home seeking to be NGBS certified has an independent third-party person (NGBS Verifier) visually confirm the green practices that the builder claims have been installed and installed correctly. The verifier returns when the house is complete to inspect the remainder of the practices. Nationwide, there is a field staff of about 230 independent verifiers.

One of the most common things verifiers see is that insulation is not installed correctly. Oftentimes, it is the result of trade contractors, such as an electrician, moving or squishing the insulation to work on other areas of the house, such as electrical wiring. For an NGBS certified home that is not OK. The insulation installation must meet the criteria for proper installation. (note from Marla – this is so important for the insulation to actually perform at its rated insulating capability. Many homes are still cold or hot even though there may be enough insulation yet it has been squished or moved and loses its effectiveness.)

Certified Means Green Building Standard Compliant

Twice inspected verification and validation that the home is certified means you can be sure that is the case. What this means to the home buyer, owner or resident, is that they can be certain that everything has been installed correctly and has been built in compliance with the high performing or energy efficient practices. It can help a home or unit be much more comfortable and have lower utility bills.  That actual certification is proof that stays with the house and helps the resale value and/or time on the market.

Green Building Standards

Many people are interested in buying or renting an NGBS certified home because it is a healthier home since it is built with products that reduce pollutants and moisture is managed. The built-in durability and lower maintenance means the home lasts longer and needs less time to take care of. NGBS Green Certified homes can help build equity faster and be a better investment.

And then there is the “Happiness Factor” since NGBS Green Certified homes are more comfortable, in good locations with services and transit, landscape considered and you have peace of mind with a home with not worrying about moisture, having lower utility bills and a better resale value.

We spend a lot of time indoors and our home is our refuge. So it only make sense that our home should be comfortable and support our needs, no matter whether you call it green or something else.

Green homes are just a better place to call home!

To learn more the building, buying or renting a home built with the National Green Building Standard, visit

For information about certifying your home, project or product, visit Home Innovation Research Labs

You can reach Michelle Foster at Home Innovation Research Labs