Builders Tell Congress Ways to Make Housing Green

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) on June 11 testified before Congress on ways to improve sustainability and energy efficiency in housing while simultaneously supporting housing affordability.

Jerry Howard, NAHB executive vice president and chief executive officer, spoke at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on H.R. 6078, the Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhood Act of 2008, also known as the GREEN Act.

"Because federal housing programs are such a critical component of the nation's housing system, NAHB believes that it is important to ensure that the incorporation of sustainable building practices for these programs is accomplished in a thoughtful and practical manner," Howard said. "Also, it is important to maintain a balance between the goals of affordable housing development and maximizing energy efficiency."

Overly stringent or unrealistic goals for energy efficiency compliance could boost the cost of building affordable housing to a level that is not sustainable over the long term, he added.

As the committee moves to adopt green criteria that would apply to federally assisted housing programs, Howard urged lawmakers to consider the following principles:

• Recognize and plan for a variety of green building rating systems to help increase the sustainability of federally assisted housing and allow for regular review and updating of these standards and criteria. Congress should avoid naming specific green criteria in federal legislation that may seem sufficient today, but that could become quickly outdated or unworkable in the very near term, Howard said.

• Provide necessary resources, including the additional staff and technology needed to implement the programs, as well as appropriations to help support the additional costs of building green.

• Structure new programs in a manner that allows them to be used easily with other housing programs, avoids duplicative rules and regulations, and supports funding timelines in concert with other program rules.

• Provide financial and other incentives to developers and builders of affordable housing to help them meet and even exceed green building goals.

• Work with builders, lenders, government-sponsored enterprises, nonprofits, community groups, appraisers, and others to develop attainable goals for the development of supportive financing mechanisms such as energy-efficient and location-efficient mortgages as well as appraisal standards that appropriately recognize the value of green building.

• Develop educational materials that can be used by the various stakeholders to learn and communicate best practices and promote sustainable federally assisted housing.

Currently, the association is working with the International Code Council to complete a rigorous standards-developing process that will produce the first standard approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for green residential construction and remodeling – the National Green Building Standard™.

"The development of the National Green Building Standard™ is the most recent and most robust effort undertaken by the industry to encourage green building in residential construction," said Howard. "When completed, it will be the only ANSI-approved standard for residential construction."

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