Inspect and verify to follow through on your commitment to green. Make sure that contractors get the essential details right by integrating green into permitting inspections and the funding disbursement process. Emphasize performance verification with proven testing methods and encourage architects and engineers to make frequent site visits and to use the project as a learning experience for the development team's future work. Consider the advantages of third-party review and commissioning for green building policy goals.

Performance from day one
Test design and construction
An integrated review process
Putting the pieces In place
Policy evaluation

Performance from day one

A green building proves itself with better performance: lower energy bills and maintenance costs, stormwater runoff that is under control, and clean indoor air that helps residents stay healthy. To achieve these green payoffs, make performance the goal from day one and stress strong evaluation practices as essential to the project's success.

  • Encourage developers to incorporate performance standards into theirarchitect's, engineer's, and builder's contracts to set expectations and guarantee performance.
  • Suggest employing a commissioning agent to help designers and contractors (and later, building operators) meet performance goals. Consider creating incentives for third-party commissioning such as streamlined inspections.

Test design and construction

Inspection is important, as are checks on specifications, but performance requires continual evaluation and testing.

  • For significant changes proposed during construction, designers should modelthe effects on building performance. (See the Measure Up page for details on models).
  • Use permitting and funding distribution processes to encourage architects and engineers to visit the job site often to help the builders get the design built right.The owner's representative on the construction site should understand and have a sense of ownership for the green goals of the project and be trained in the techniques used to meet them.
  • Require a certain standard of performance. Energy Star homes, for example, must achieve a score of 85 on a Home Energy Rating examination. Consider requiring blower door and duct blaster tests and the use an infrared camera to identify leaks and poorly-installed insulation. These test can identify problems during construction or renovation so that mistakes can be fixed.

An integrated review process

Evaluation will be much easier and effective if it works with the design and construction process. A review process that is coordinated with the development process and among the reviewing government agencies will work best.

  • Inform integrated design with holistic review for building codes, zoning codes, environmental controls, and utility connections. Allow for meetings between the development team and all of the permitting agencies to work out issues.
  • Coordinate permitting and funding agency reviews; they may have different requirements for green. Funding disbursement requests may be a good place for green building benchmarks, but take care to avoid redundancy in reporting requirements.
  • Allow the integrated design charrette to satisfy certain review requirements. Create a single reporting mechanism to translate charrette objectives into action items that can be monitored throughout design and construction.
  • Train building code inspectors in green practices and new energy code provisions. The IECC 2006 building energy code requires many efficiency improvements, and DC and Montgomery County, MD are considering code amendments that would improve performance by approximately 30 percent.

Putting the pieces in place

Simple monitoring tools like checklists keep attention on a project's green details. While not performance-based, they play the important role of tracking objectives. The Green Communities Criteria Checklist (download with criteria here) is an important first step. Alameda County, California offers a great checklist to accompany their extensive green building guidelines for affordable housing. (Get it here.)

Policy evaluation

Well-conceived green building policies will put green buildings on the ground, but it is important to evaluate the effects of policy changes.

  • Is green building performing? Is it enough? To answer these questions in terms of stormwater runoff, resident health, or air quality, work to develop neighborhood and city-wide environmental metrics. While each building may perform better, larger scale improvements may be needed to address environmental problems. (See the Sustainable Future page.)
  • Has the development industry effectively adopted green design and construction practices? It will be important to track the effects of green building requirements on small businesses that may find it more difficult to learn new techniques. It will also be important to monitor the effect of green requirements on the building process and the availability of quality affordable housing. Incentives or investments in training programs may be necessary to make green building a success.