Arlington Designer Homes is committed to green building for the health benefits, energy savings, and reduced environmental footprint it provides for our buyers and our community. With constantly changing regulations, technologies and products, buidling a new green home from the ground up isn't always easy - but it's always interesting!

Welcome to our behind-the-scenes blog about green building and remodeling, where you can watch a green home go up step-by-step and learn about using green building techniques for your own home. And visit our website at to learn even more about green building and remodeling.

May 19, 2011

The Green Building Certification Process

As you know, Arlington Designer Homes just recently certified another Gold house to the National Standard (see our last blog post). After certifying the first Gold NAHB Research Center house in Arlington, we have been lucky enough to work with our customers to certify the first NAHB Research center Gold home in Falls Church too. This is 1 of the 3 Gold homes by Arlington Designer Homes, Inc. and only the 5th certified home in the entire state of Virginia (3 of which are by Arlington Designer Homes).

Certifying a home to the National Standard is a complicated process that involves three distinct stages. The first stage is the research and planning phase, the second stage is construction of the house and the third and final stage is the third party inspection and certification. All are critical and important aspects of not only certifying a house but also being able to prove that it performs to the highest standard that we expect from all the homes we build.

In the planning stage it is important to select appropriate materials that qualify for points in the categories that you will need to collect points in. The National Standard has 6 chapters. Chapters 1-4 deal with the now phased out National Guidelines. The National Standard chapters are:

            5- Lot design, preparation and development;
            6- Resource efficiency;
            7- Energy efficiency;
            8- Water efficiency;
            9- Indoor air quality;
            10- Operation, maintenance and building owner education.

Each chapter has a required number of points that you must achieve to be able to claim Bronze, Silver, Gold or Emerald. If you fall below a certification in any category, your whole project drops to that lowest certification. You must keep your eye on the goal throughout the entire project because it is a complicated process.

During construction you must make sure that all aspects of the design are being incorporated and document the whole process. We take pictures, get signatures, bills of lading, certifications from owners, arborists, supervisors, all sorts of things that we will be required to document in the final phase of the process. It is important to make sure that all parties involved in the project are aware of the end goals in the certification of the house. Each member of our team plays an important role in every aspect of the green certification process.

Blower door test during green building certification process
The final phase of the process is third party certifications. This entails calling in a HERS rater to do duct blower tests on our HVAC systems and a whole house air leakage test. As luck would have it our HERS rater is also our NAHB Research center certification expert as well. So my rater and I conduct extensive tests on the system to determine the HERS score and then we go even further, and get into more detail to analyze all the documentation we must provide to become certified.

To become NAHB Gold certified my rater and I spend hours going over every point of the house, from recycled content in the drywall to how our HVAC ducts are run. I show up with my files and am prepared to explain how every aspect of the house that I built performs to the standard I claim it does. While all aspects of this process are extremely important I think that this one is especially important. Many people say that they are building green, but can they prove it? That is what third party verification does. We have two third party entities, our HERS rater and NAHB Research center independent monitor, that oversee our green ratings. To me this is the mark of a true green builder, someone who is able to prove how their house performs and back up all of their claims with hard evidence.

Arlington Designer Homes is proud to be a part of the process and particularly proud to certify another Gold home in Northern Virginia.