Intimidated by the alphabet soup of sustainable building certifications? You’re not alone. In the absence of an overarching standards board, there are a lot of competing green organizations and programs. Some certify buildings, others the contractor. “Most of it’s marketing,” says consultant Carl Seville, a.k.a. the Green Building Curmudgeon. “It’s good to get educated and certified, but it’s ... how well you design and build, not whether someone blesses it, that makes it green.”


  • USGBC U.S. Green Building Council focuses on the way buildings are designed, built, and operated; offers “guiding principles” and education, including the Greenbuild conference/expo, advocacy, and chapter membership.

USGBC rates and certifies buildings through its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. Homes are certified through the LEED for Homes program, a third-party–verified voluntary rating system that promotes design and construction of high-performance green homes. Individuals are credentialed through a variety of LEED AP programs. Residential remodelers would likely be most interested in LEED AP Homes.

In conjunction with the ASID  (American Society of Interior Designers), USGBC also has REGREEN, which offers online education, hands-on workshops, and the “REGREEN Trained Certificate of Completion.”

  • NAHB National Association of Home Builders partnered with the International Code Council (ICC) to create the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard, the only residential green building rating system to receive approval from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It defines green building for single- and multifamily homes and residential remodeling projects. For individuals, NAHB offers the Certified Green Professional (CGP) designation.
  • NARI National Association of the Remodeling Industry offers the Green Certified Professional (GCP) designation, which teaches about green practices as well as assesses and measures an individual’s level of knowledge.
  • International Living Future Institutehas the Living Building Challenge, probably the most rigorous green building standard with just a handful of certified buildings. It also offers education and resources.

State & Local

  • Build It Greenpromotes resource-efficient homes in California.
  • EarthCraft,  headquartered in Atlanta, bills itself as “the Southeast’s standard for green building, pairing building science with regional know-how.”
  • Minnesota GreenStar  certifies home­owners and builders in that state.
  • Environmental Protecion Agency (EPA) offers a list of state-run programs, incentives, education, and financing options.
  • is a source for sustainable products and ideas and has a link to a list of green building programs by state, as does the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Other training

  • BPI Building Performance Institute developed standards for buildings and certifies professionals in “house-as-a-system evaluation, diagnostics, and installation.”
  • ACI Affordable Comfort Institute offers training in building performance best practices.

Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.

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