The Great Housing Debate: Which Green Process to Choose

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The Great Housing Debate: Which Green Process to Choose

Right now, in California there are two competing systems designed specifically for single and multifamily projects: LEED for Homes and GreenPoint Rated. As more California municipalities integrate LEED for Homes and GreenPoint Rated into local building code, the participation in Green Building rating systems is at an all-time high. While LEED for Homes has more widely known brand recognition, GreenPoint Rated has greater flexibility and a more streamlined process that saves project teams time and money.

We’re here to help you understand each one’s implications for project teams so that you can opt for the right fit for your new residential community.

Option One: LEED for Homes

LEED for Homes utilizes a third-party verification program that consists of LEED for Homes Providers and Green Raters. LEED for Homes Providers are local and regional organizations chosen by the USGBC to provide LEED for Homes certification services. Green Raters are individuals that work under a LEED for Homes Provider and perform field inspections and performance testing.

The project team is also required to engage Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rater to meet many of the energy performance minimum requirements. This approach give users of LEED for Homes the ability to take credit for more advanced or complex systems and also allows for more options in terms of baselines against which to assess performance.

In terms of price, soft costs for LEED for Homes tend to be on the higher side due to more extensive documentation requirements and additional verification that may need to occur, pending the results of HERS testing.

Option Two: GreenPoint Rated

The GreenPoint Rated system is solely for projects in the state of California and is administered by Build It Green, a nonprofit membership group based in Oakland. The system was developed by a group of general contractors, so the process is intended to integrate seamlessly with the construction timeline. Greenpoint Rated, like LEED for Homes, also utilizes a third-party verification program that consists of GreenPoint Raters, who are trained and certified by Build It Green.

The Greenpoint Rater submits an initial checklist to Build It Green for an initial application and then coordinates with the construction team to provide third-party documentation and site verification of measures and construction practices achieved. The Rater compiles all completed documentation, including photographs of as-built features to ensure all design strategies were actually incorporated into the final building, and communicates the results to Build It Green.

While more streamlined and simple, this approach limits the technologies for which a GreenPoint Rated project can take credit and requires the project’s performance to be assessed against the latest Title 24 code.

Let’s Review

Now that you have an eagle eye view of each system, here’s what the users are saying.

GreenPoint Rated is considered a more practical, user-friendly and affordable rating system. Projects experience a faster and more flexible certification process, and all documentation is done through the Rater. That cuts down on the amount of paperwork completed by other project team members. On the other hand, GreenPoint Rated restricts the types of technologies that users can take credit for.

An example of GreenPoint in action is Station Park Green in San Mateo, a 12-acre transit-oriented, mixed-use development that includes 599 residential units. The green village will be adjacent to the Hayward Park rail station, allowing residents to connect directly to San Jose and San Francisco. The project also scored a Gold LEED stamp under the Neighborhood Development program.

While LEED for Homes is part of a well-known entity and has high marketability due to larger scope of project locations, keep in mind it has a very structured and rigorous certification process. LEED for Homes requires more documentation in the form of paperwork, and certification fees are more expensive than GreenPoint Rated. And projects have typically experienced a longer timeline in receiving certification than GreenPoint Rated counterparts. The upside of this is that LEED for Homes projects can get credit for more complex and advanced systems and have more flexibility for showing the impact of advanced designs.

A real-world LEED for Homes project is the Hive in Oakland. The hip shopping, working, and living space consists of brick and timber buildings stocked with retail, multi-use office spaces, converted lofts, and 96 new walk-up apartments.

Do you have an upcoming residential project and need further guidance on the right rating system to best suit your project’s needs? Reach out! stok is here to help you make the right decision for your needs.