The Green Picture with Erin Brereton: Green Building’s Appeal Has Inspired Education—But Not Always Certification

It’s no secret that green building is becoming more popular. And, as a result, green building training and certification programs are becoming more fashionable, too.

With good reason: As green building gains popularity in the multifamily sector–and in the overall building industry–there is an increased need for information about what green building entails and how to actually do it.
The industry is responding by offering grants, training and more information.

•    New grants mean new training funding: Consider, for example, the upcoming green building program at the Technical College of the Lowcountry in South Carolina.

Funded by an $86,000 grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation that was awarded just last week, the college’s green training program will teach students about environmentally sustainable construction next year, according to the Beaufort Gazette.

The program also will certify alternative energy construction technicians.

•    Training makes green building more possible: NeighborWorks America, an organization providing access to homeownership and affordable rental housing, just launched a new Web site–www.nw.org/green–to help the housing and community development industry create greener housing and communities.

The site features examples of green homebuilding efforts and community projects and include links to education and training courses for professionals, according to Thomas P. Deyo, NeighborWorks America’s Senior Advisor Green Strategies and GulfRebuilding.

NeighborWorks America offers a total of 16 green building and related courses, including courses in how to make multifamily housing greener.

•    More educational opportunities offer encouragement: Other entities–such as Mich.-based J.S. Vig Construction Company–are working to make green building a simpler choice for developers and builders.

Noting that LEED certification can be expensive (and to some, confusing and time-consuming), J.S. Vig recently announced that it has formed Project Green, a green building think tank.

The think tank will initially have a staff of five and be headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich.—in a building that will also house a resource library devoted to sustainable construction as an additional green resource for builders.

Selling Green

Builders and developers aren’t the only ones trying to make going green easier. Real estate agents are also getting involved.

In October, a group of Exclusive Buyer Agents received certification for completing the Green Building for Real Estate Professionals Level One Course offered at the annual National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents convention.

The Green Real Estate Education course was designed to help real estate professionals learn what green building is and what it means for consumers. The course included green facts, initiatives, green materials, financing tools, tax incentives and energy rating information.

That makes sense—if we’re going to take the extra effort to build green, having some qualified to sell something green should be part of the process.

Still, as lending becomes harder to obtain for large projects, the additional cost of building green is likely to prevent some builders from adding sustainability to their design plans.

And—while the extra education and training is all good—certification can be an issue.

The Burden of Certification Costs

Some regions have local green certification guidelines builders can use; yet many in the industry still feel
that the only certification or standards worth pursuing are the LEED guidelines because they’re the biggest and most widely recognized.

They are, however, also expensive. (LEED certification costs vary per area but can be more than $3,000 per project.)

Paying to get some general green education probably isn’t a bad idea. But in terms of certification, the extra cost to pursue LEED status makes the various smaller local certification programs seem like a decent idea. The New York Times ran an article suggesting as much on Halloween.

Would you consider getting your projects green certified if your area had a reasonably priced program? Or would you prefer to just use LEED guidelines and pay more for certification?

Tell us what you think.