Green Certifying Your Renovation Project

by ‐ Tags: alternative energy, building science


If you own a residential building and are planning a renovation, you may have considered getting it certified as a green building.  While information on certifying new construction projects is easy to find, the same can't be said for renovations.

What Programs Are Available

There are numerous green building and energy efficiency programs around the country, ranging in scale from national to just serving a city.  The better known national ones include LEED for Homes, Energy Star, and NAHBGreen.  There are an array of regional ones, such as EarthCraft House in the Southeast and Earth Advantage in the Northwest.  Numerous city and county ones can be found in every state.  

Most of these programs focus on new construction buildings, but some also have a renovation-specific certification.  Almost all of them will allow gut-rehabs to participate in their new construction programs.  LEED for Homes and Energy Star are two such programs.  Neither offers a specific certification for renovations, but buildings undergoing extensive work may be able to meet the programs' new construction standards.  NAHBGreen is the only national program to offer a renovation/remodel certification.  

Regional programs follow the same trend, with most only having new construction focused certifications.  EarthCraft House offers a renovation program for multi-family properties and EarthAdvantage has one in pilot.  GreenPoint Rated, a program that covers California, also has one.  

Which to Choose

Which program you choose depends largely on your needs and the scope of the project.  If you are doing a gut-rehab, you essentially have your choice of programs.  Less extensive renovations will need to pursue a renovation-specific certification.  

At their core, each program is seeking the same end goal--energy efficient, sustainable buildings.  Their largest differences tend to be in how recognized the program name is and how much support throughout the process is offered.  Large programs usually have wide recognition that can be useful in marketing.  Smaller programs tend to have regional credibility only, but offer more personalized and responsive support to technical questions throughout the design and construction process.  

Does Certification Matter?

Having your project third party certified provides tremendous value on several fronts.  Before construction, you'll gain advice on what measures make the most sense for your project.  During construction, you'll gain an extra set of eyes on site, helping to ensure that efficiency measures are properly installed.  And once renovations are complete, you will gain a marketing advantage since there are still relatively few existing buildings that have been certified.