(855) 321-7473

M-F 9am-5pm Eastern

Dwell Developments Built Green House

Built Green Certification Program: Everything You Need to Know

By Tobias Roberts Rise Writer
Oct 19, 2018

When most people think about green building standards or certification, the first thing that comes to mind is the LEED program, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is the most widely used green building rating system globally, with over 94,000 projects in 165 countries relying on this sustainable and flexible green rating system. LEED's framework is applicable in different areas globally and has become the most widely recognized symbol of sustainable construction.

While having a national or global standard for green construction certainly has its merits, several areas across the country have developed localized green building standards designed to reflect the specific environmental, climatic, and contextual considerations of the bioregion where they are developed. Built Green is one of the most advanced regional and sustainable building certification programs in the country. It provides a helpful example of how other communities and regions can design their accreditation programs to reflect how green buildings interact with the local environment and society.

built green logo

What Is a Certified Green Built Home?

Built Green is a green home certification program started in 1999 by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties in Washington. This voluntary program sets for a holistic array of green building standards that encourage homeowners, contractors, and other real estate professionals to build multi and single-family residential housing alternatives that maximize energy efficiency while limiting the adverse effects on the surrounding environment.

Besides being the leading green certification program for Washington, Built Green also brings together a network of building companies, architects, contractors, and other professionals in the real estate industry involved in green building. The Built Green program is also dedicated to proving the economic and environmental benefits of green building by researching and documenting the best green building practices in the region.

As of 2018, the Built Green program had certified over 32,000 residential housing units, mainly in the Puget Sound area of Northwest Washington and other regions across the state. In 2016, over half of all new homes built in the Seattle area received some level of Built Green certification.

The Built Green Checklist

The Built Green Certification program includes hundreds of varied criteria related to overall home sustainability. These criteria have been developed precisely for the specific climatic, environmental, and social context of the Pacific Northwest. The categories included in the Built Green Checklist include:

  • Site and Water Considerations: Specifically, Built Green homes must opt for water-smart home landscapes with plants with low irrigation needs. Built Green also demands that homes save water through the most efficient faucets, showerheads, and toilets on the market. Higher levels of Built Green certification also require porous pavement for stormwater management and rainwater catchment systems.
  • Energy Efficiency considerations: While the Built Green certification program has different levels that require different intensities of energy efficiency, all of the levels need some efficient lighting and appliances within the home, advanced framing, and high-quality insulation, and advanced air sealing.
  • Health and Indoor Air Quality Considerations: Built Green certification requires home builders to use only low VOC (or zero VOC) paint and varnish for all interior home finishing. The program drastically reduces the amount of formaldehyde that is present within the home. Mechanical ventilation solutions are also required for homes that obtain high-quality building envelopes.
  • Materials Efficiency Considerations: The Built Green program also requires homes to achieve at least a minimum recycling rate of 50 percent by weight. In practice, this means that home builders and homeowners are encouraged to purchase recycled, salvaged, or upcycled products for their homes, such as recycled plastic lumber.

What Do the Built Green Star Levels Mean?

As we mentioned above, the Built Green Certification program has several different levels of certification. While all of the certification levels significantly improve over the state of Washington’s building and energy codes, there are significant differences in each level, specifically related to energy efficiency considerations.

  • 3-Star Built Green: This is the lowest certification level attainable and only requires a 10 percent energy use improvement above the current Washington state code.
  • 4-Star Built Green: This level requires a 20 percent energy use improvement above the state code.
  • 5-Star Built Green: This level requires a 30 percent energy use improvement above the current state code and also requires either solar-ready wiring for single-family homes or a completely installed solar PV or solar thermal renewable energy system for multifamily homes. A single-family 5-star Built Green home that installs a solar PV system will achieve much more than the required 30 percent energy use improvement in practice.
  • Emerald Star Built Green: This highest certification level is reserved for net-zero energy use in the home. These homes can opt for either wind or solar power, but the energy they rely on must come from either on-site or within a quarter-mile of the home site. You can see the sustainable characteristics of the first Emerald Star Built Green home in the Seattle area here.

What Are the Benefits of the Built Green Certification?

Several benefits come with Built Green Certification, both for the homeowner, the builder, and real estate companies. Firstly, because of the rigorous requirements of the higher levels of the Built Green star levels, homeowners might find that they are eligible for several types of incentives and rebates that come with Built Green certification. All Built Green certifications require a third-party audit and verification process, allowing homeowners to trust the independent and honest certification process.

Of course, Built Green homes will also save homeowners money by drastically reduce electricity and water bills. At the same time, Built Green certified homes have a marketing advantage for real estate agents and homeowners who are selling, especially in the competitive Seattle market where over half of all homes receive some level of this certification. Unlike LEED, Built Green Certification is also available for remodels and retrofits of older homes. If you want a more sustainable home but don’t want to build new, Built Green certification will ensure that your existing home becomes as energy-efficient and sustainable as possible.

Built Green Certification Process

For homeowners in the state of Washington who want to either build a new house that achieves Built Green status or retrofit their existing home for maximum energy efficiency, the certification process for Built Green accreditation follows a simple course that we detail below.

  1. First, you need to Join Built Green which you can do here.
  2. Secondly, you need to enroll in your project and subsequently receive a project ID number. You can do this here.
  3. Next, you will need to hire an independent, third-party verifier who will accompany you along with the certification requirements. You can find a list of third-party verifiers here. Your verifier will then help you decide on green building strategies and features that follow the Built Green checklists and also back up your checklist claims with receipts and an energy model for your home. You and your verifier will also take pictures of all pertinent processes during the construction process to document and prove what you have claimed.
  4. When you are done with your verifier, you will sign the checklist, and your verifier will submit the certification packet for review by Built Green.
  5. Once Built Green reviews all of the pertinent documentation (usually in about two weeks), you should be awarded a certificate for the Built Green Star Level that you achieved.

This Built Green certificate is a great tool to share with your neighbors and real estate agents if you are trying to sell your home. It will prove that your home has achieved certain levels of energy efficiency and sustainability. It is also a guarantee that you will be living in a healthy, sustainable, and environmentally friendly home.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-10T04:06:56+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.