Regional and State Programs
Climate considerations may also come into play, especially if other certifications don’t take regional needs into account. If your area has special needs compared to the rest of the U.S., consider looking into programs tailored to its weather patterns.
EarthCraft, for example, specifically targets climate zones 2A, 3A, and 4A within the Southeast. These three zones, which together sweep from Texas to Maryland, share moist, humid climates that can tax HVAC systems if the envelope isn’t tight.
“Regionally, air leakage is a problem,” Jones says. “You incur major energy penalties if your HVAC has to dehumidify in addition to cooling. Older buildings especially won’t have great air sealing.”
Some states have their own green building organizations formed as a sort of state-based version of the USGBC. These groups develop standards around that state’s climate, offering a close match to your building’s needs.
One of these, the Florida Green Building Coalition, launched its commercial arm in 2006 to encourage sustainable practices, which are no small feat in a hot, humid state where cooling is a must.
“National standards are based on a typical heating climate, but Florida is primarily a cooling climate. Our buildings have to do things like avoiding intake of humid air, which can cause moisture problems and mold,” explains Suzanne B. Cook, executive director of the Florida Green Building Coalition. “Windows need to reflect solar heat, whereas in a colder climate you’d want to bring in solar heat.”
Can’t decide? Consider pursuing multiple certifications to highlight different aspects of your sustainability practice – for example, combining a national certification with a local one to demonstrate your environmental commitment while optimizing your building around your climate.
Many certification bodies post their requirements online as well, making it easier to compare their demands. One isn’t necessarily better than the others, but one or two might be better for you.
“Do your homework and understand what your goals are,” Jones advises. “If your goal is to reduce energy consumption, you may not need certification. If you’re looking at the building more broadly, maybe you should certify. There’s no silver bullet for sustainability.”
Janelle Penny firstname.lastname@example.org is associate editor of BUILDINGS.