If you’re a remodeler, you might think that green certification programs aren’t really designed with your business in mind. After all, many certification guidelines focus mainly on new construction and include site-specific requirements that are difficult to meet when you’re only working on one part of a home.
But those are site-level certifications, like LEED, which are different from professional programs. Individual certifications — such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s REGREEN program — often qualify contractors to perform work towards site-level certifications. And they also come with multiple competitive advantages. There’s the technical known-how and credentials, of course, which both work to increase consumer confidence. And most of them include continuing education requirements, so you’ll stay abreast of new technological developments as they happen.
But there are also clear marketing benefits. Certifications typically add your name to a client-facing database, giving your business wider reach. Some even include logos, stickers and other materials that can be displayed on your business’ website or advertisements, so you can make green a clear part of your branding. Here are the most well-known programs, and the differences between them all:
NABCEP is currently one of the only certification programs in existence for solar installers. As such, their list of providers often serves as an important resource for homeowners hoping to connect with a reputable contractor. That’s important because solar is still a relatively new technology; many companies haven’t been vetted for longevity, and the turnover rate remains high throughout the industry. So it’s helpful for homeowners to locate an installer that’s made an obvious commitment to the profession by choosing to become certified. NABCEP’s certification program is divided into two tracks: one for PV Technical Sales and one for PV Installation Professionals. There are also separate courses for Solar Heating and Small Wind Systems Installation, as well. Certification puts you in the NABCEP’s searchable database of certified providers and, in some areas, may even be a requirement to perform solar installations. If you’re an electrician thinking about making the jump to renewables, this is where you should start.
NARI’s program is one of the few directed specifically at remodelers, rather than taking new construction as its main focus. Their program attempts to educate participants on greener building methods across six different channels: building science, indoor air quality, renewable energy, deconstruction, energy conservation and green process associated with building trades. The program takes a holistic approach to homebuilding — instructing certificants to view the house as a complete unit, rather than a collection of various rooms and systems. That’s a useful position for green building, since overall energy efficiency is affected by not only a home’s HVAC or wiring, but also its windows, insulation, appliances, ventilation and various other factors. That means you can make recommendations for related repairs that will help your customers meet their energy and savings goals. Your name will also be added to searchable lists on nari.org and greenremodeling.com.
The NAHB’s certification serves a wider range of professionals than NARI’s. CGP recipients include remodelers, home builders, and even appraisers and real estate agents. Their coursework also addresses cost concerns associated with green building, an ingredient that’s absolutely necessary to move green homes to the mainstream. Another difference lies in water conservation — the program includes a portion on water and resource efficiency. The certification complies with the guidelines outlined in the ICC 700-2012 National Green Building Standard. Familiarizing (or brushing up) on this code gives you an edge over other remodelers, since it’s commonly invoked by local building departments in order to secure permits or apply for efficiency programs and rebates.
Supported by both the U.S. Green Building Council and the American Society of Interior Designers, REGREEN follows the fundamentals of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) home certification program, which is quickly emerging as the gold standard for environmental homes. The program’s curriculum, with sections titled “Client Education and Stakeholder Involvement” and “Integrated Project Design and Delivery Format,” is exceptionally consumer-oriented. It seeks to keep firm footing in the real world work of managing client expectations and designing projects with the added challenge of integrating green principles into the job. That focus helps participants better interact with clients to fulfill the educational role required to help homeowners select green products — and form better relationships for additional work in the future.
Green Advantage’s arena is the contractor and tradesperson world. They welcome professionals at all levels of training: tradespersons, apprentices, construction students and even entry-level construction workers. Their certification is useful for small businesses and teams — having multiple Green Advantage-certified workers on a job can make a site eligible for an LEED Innovation credit. Those who get certified through the program are also entitled to use the program logo on advertising and business cards, as well as a listing in their online directory.
The public’s demand for green services isn’t likely to slow down any time soon — especially with a new generation of younger, more environmentally-concerned homeowners entering the housing market. Adding green programs to your repertoire through training broadens your professional knowledge base and helps you deliver higher quality work — plus, it just happens to be where the industry is going as well.
Blog written by Erin Vaughan.Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner, whose work can be read on Modernize.com. She lives in Austin, Texas, where she writes full time.
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