To get certified through LEED for Homes, a contractor needs to work with a LEED for Homes provider, go through several inspections throughout the building process, accumulate the desired number of points, and then submit the project for certification.
Concrete contractors working on green projects can earn points through their choice of materials, Kredich says. For example, using concrete for hardscapes can help reduce local heat island effects. Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) are also a good green resource. "Insulated Concrete Forms are called out specifically in LEED for Homes as possible strategies to meet insulation prerequisites and potentially earn points," Kredich says.
Using fly ash or slag mixes in place of straight Portland cement can earn points in the materials and resources category, Kredich says. Sealed and decorative concrete floors can also earn points in this category, as long as they contain low VOCs.
Not all residential green building is done on new homes, and with the current economy, remodeling existing homes seems to be a popular option. Even if the home wasn't built green that doesn't mean contractors can't remodel green.
REGREEN is a program created by the USGBC and the American Society of Interior Designers. The program consists of a set of guidelines, or best practices, for remodeling, Kredich says. The 180-page document is available free and provides contractors with a basis on how to remodel in a sustainable matter. You can find the guidelines at www.regreenprogram.org.
Concrete contractors may find the guidelines useful. For example, decorative concrete contractors can benefit from following the VOC content guidelines.
REGREEN is not set up as a rating system similar to LEED because remodeling can be a complex process. "Because the house is really just an entire system onto itself, we chose to think about remodeling in an element point of view," Kredich says.
REGREEN was launched in March 2008 and will continue to be enhanced as the program grows, Kredich says.
For example, he says they have seen interest in learning programs around core green remodeling practices, and they are looking to develop more programs based on these practices.
Defining "Green" Building
When it comes to green building, one question contractors and their customers might ask is, "What is green building?" The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) along with other organizations have taken steps to clear up the confusion. They created the National Green Building Standard for residential construction and development as well as renovation and remodeling which received ANSI (American National Standards Institute) approval in 2009.
The standard was created to define "green" building, says Kevin Morrow, program manager for green building standards with NAHB. The nearly 100-page standard is fairly comprehensive, Morrow says. "The standard was created by a consensus committee of various interests groups representing a broad array of industry interests," Morrow explains. This included people from the building side as well as the energy efficiency side of things. "The idea was that if we could get all these parties together - each with their own idea of what green building is - that we could hammer out what would be a generally recognized standard," he says.
The standard defines six categories and four different "thresholds" for a green building point-based rating system, Morrow says. A contractor must achieve a minimum amount of points in each category to reach the different threshold levels, which are bronze, silver, gold and emerald. Contractors are also asked to acquire extra points to ensure their projects qualify as green. But Morrow says these extra points can come from any of the six categories of the standard.
The six defined categories in the standard are lot design, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and operation maintenance and building owner education. "There's also the general site development," Morrow says. "That is its own entity within the standard that has its own set of criteria, just to make sure the specific best practices for doing a more environmentally concerned project from a site development standpoint are taken into consideration."