Grand Teton Eco-Smart Home goes LEED Platinum & Zero Energy Capable in IL

7 Free Tools from the Sustainable Building Advisor (SBA) Program

Sustainable building is changing. Green Home Institute is proud to announce along with Earth Advantage, BuildingGreen, HeatSpring, NESEA, and many of the industry’s top thinkers, that we are teaming up to relaunch the Sustainable Building Advisor (SBA) Program . The course launches in Fall 2015 with room for just 30 professionals. (click to learn more about becoming an SBA). GreenHome Institute will be serving as your feet on the street, in person project mentors to help you build greener and better and complete your SBA.

Here are 7 powerful free tools and lectures you can start on right now:

  1. Free Tool: Sustainable Building Advisor Student Guide
  2. Free Tool: Sustainable Building Advisor (SBA) Practice Test
  3. Free Lecture: “Integrative Design Process” with Bill Reed
  4. Free Lecture: “Life-Centered Design” with Carol Venolia
  5. Free Lecture: “Electrical Loads in High Performance Buildings” with Chris Calwell
  6. Free Lecture: “Low Carbon Building” with Bruce King
  7. Free Lecture: “High Performance Building Assemblies” with Peter Yost

Sustainable Building Advisor Program Starts October 19th!

You’ll meet great people, master new skills, and learn to see buildings in a new way. The course culminates with a capstone that offers real-world project experience.

Sustainable Building Advisors are architects, planners, builders, engineers, consultants, and building operators who value resilience, whole system thinking, and sustainable practices.

Becoming a Sustainable Building Advisor (SBA) is a three step process:

  1. Core Curriculum, including full membership at and instruction from some of the world’s top sustainability experts.
  2. Project Experience, delivered within your local community by an approved field provider. – View a List of Current Providers
  3. Exam, which can be taken any time, at your own computer.

Continuing Education – CEUS – 10+ hours in 

  • GreenHome Professional (GHP)
  • Pending
    • GBCI
    • AIA (HSW)
    • NARI Green
    • NGBS
    • AIBD
    • State design or contractor liscences may apply

Registration includes full 1-year membership at You’ll use BuildingGreen’s tools, research, and data as part of your core SBA learning experience. Read more about each SBA program component.

Star Residence Goes GreenStar Silver in Wilmette, IL

TStar Residence Insidehe client is an empty nester who sought to build a green home in Wilmette.  Previous homes she had built in the Northeast included green ideas and concepts, but she desired to expand from those restricted builds and create something for her current lifestyle, while planning ahead for future physical challenges if they were to occur.

This home includes a passive solar, double wall construction, low E windows and doors, light colored shingles, and a detached garage. The home also features paneling installed by Hardie, sun shades, spray foam insulation, energy star appliances, high efficiency furnaces and water heater, reclaimed finishes, low VOC cabinetry, and clean burning fireplaces. Tremendous amounts of passive solar heating and lighting pulse through double wall construction for a tight home. Reflective color shingles were installed to reduce heat gain, while sun shades were implemented to control the lighting, giving the home a remarkable atmosphere. The home was also pre design and wired to be solar pv ready if the homeowner chooses to add solar. Water efficient fixtures, toilets and valve control kitchen sink were installed to conserve water and energy. Milwork, doors and windows contain FSC certified wood and/or 25% post consumer recycled content and are low emitting.

The home has an impressive Air Changes per Hour at 1.4 with a HERS index rating of 51 making it 49% more energy efficient. Native/drought tolerant landscaping made up about 60% of the added landscape and veggie garden raised beds give the ability to grow local food.

GreenStar Homes Points 

  • Energy 170
  • Materials 105
  • Health 106
  • Water 38
  • Place 83
  • Total 502

SIZE: 2,400 square feet

PROJECT TYPE: Single Family- New Construction


Coda Design + Build
600 Waukegan Rd. Suite 129, Northbrook, IL 60062
Providing the Chicago Metropolitan area unprecedented residential real estate consultation, design services, construction services and home concierge services.


Intro to LEED for Homes V4 – What is the difference? Webinar

LEED Building Design and Construction for Homes version 4 (V4) is in many ways different than the previous 2008 version. Come learn about the changes LEED4Hversion4-01that will take place and be ready for the October 31 2016 release before it comes. LEED for Homes v4 applies to new construction and major rehabs single family homes, neighborhoods, multifamily low, mid, high rise and mixed use buildings. Learn how you can use the program and now and be ahead of the game before the launch date.  We will discuss what’s new, what stayed the same and answer questions to help you understand V4 better.


Builders, Designers, Architect, Developers, Remodelers, Researches and Policy Makers who have past LEED for Homes experience and understanding.

Lessons Learned

  • Know  the basics of the new credits or credit changes in V4 vs 2008
  • Understand what credits remained the same
  • Know where to find more resources on LEED v4
  • Know who can help you in your market achieve V4 LEED

CEUS – 1 hour

  • AIA (HSW)
  • GBCI – LEED H Specific
  • NARI Green
  • CGP
  • AIBD
  • State design & contractor licence may apply

Presenter & Developer – Jay Hall, Ph.D, LEED APH “Jay has 30 years experience in market transformation, sustainable design of buildings, and energy efficiency. He is an expert in building energy modeling, and green building verification. Jay earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Duke University. In 1989, he began with ICF International as a consultant working on EPA’s Jay HallENERGY STAR market transformation programs. Since 2004, Jay has provided independent consulting services to the US Green Building Council in developing the LEED for Homes program. Jay was Acting Director for LEED for Homes for two years. He is also the lead programmatic and verification consultant for the Green Communities Offset Fund. Jay has served on the Home Depot Foundation Awards of Excellence Selection Committee; the Habitat for Humanity International Partnership for Sustainable Buildings Advisory Committee; and, The Healthy House Institute Advisory Board. Jay is also a LEED Faculty member.  Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, for the past 25 years, Jay and his wife, Kim, have resided with their two sons in Annapolis, Maryland. Jay Hall & Associates.

 Steps to access the program and get your completion certificate

1. Download the PPT Slide Handout Guide

2. Watch the recording here.

3. Complete the quiz below

4. Pay the non member ce submittal fee (Members get free submittal) – PAY HERE

Choosing Sustainable Insulation

* Guest post by Emma Pritchard – “Updates by Brett Little in Captions”

Good insulation is an important part of creating a sustainable home design, and of retrofitting an existing home to include more sustainable features. If you’re working with an existing home, there’s a lot you can do to make it more sustainable, and replacing insulation is perhaps the most effective method. Whether you’re doing a remodel or just fitting new insulation, it’s a great opportunity to replace old and outdated materials with new or recycled sustainable ones, or alternatively, those made from natural materials. The initial outlay might set you back a few dollars but since good insulation makes it much less expensive to heat your home, over time, lower energy bills mean you’ll recoup the costs and more.

 The concept of sustainability integrates several different themes:

  • Using renewable energy sources instead of non-renewables like fossil fuels
  • Using non-toxic chemicals in production and processing of goods and services
  • Avoiding practices that harm the environment
  • Adopting practices that conserve resources to ensure they are available in the long term.
  • Maintaining acceptable levels of comfort (for example, in terms of home heating) while keeping to these standards.
  • “Air sealing prior to insulation and making  sure it is appropriately installed too ensure maximum effectiveness cannot be overlooked either”
  • “Insulation affordability is also important to ensure budgets are met”

In terms of insulation, a product is “environmentally” sustainable if it’s made using at least partly-recycled materials via sustainable methods, and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals. Preferably the insulation should also be recyclable, or the material it’s made from should be recyclable. Another important factor to consider is where materials are produced: to be truly sustainable, insulation should be made locally, relative to where you live. Depending on where you live you may be able to source materials made in your city or state.

 Removing Old Insulation

If you are working with a home built in the 1970s or earlier, or if the current insulation was fitted in that period, it’s important to be aware of the possibility that asbestos might be present either in the insulation or in other building materials. Asbestos is an excellent insulator, but it’s also highly toxic. If your insulation upgrade involves the removal of asbestos, it’s necessary to take precautions to prevent exposure. If you’re not sure whether asbestos is present in your home, and it was constructed or remodeled in the relevant time period, you may want to consider having your home professionally evaluated for asbestos. It may even be necessary to have any asbestos-containing materials removed by professionals to eliminate the risk of exposure.

You may also have other problems to contend with, like exposure to lead paint, or the chemicals present in certain older types of insulation. As well as these issues, most types of insulation have the potential to release particulate matter that can causes irritation when inhaled, so a protective dust mask should be worn whenever working with insulation, even if it doesn’t contain any toxins.

Types of Sustainable Insulation

When you’re replacing old insulation in favor of sustainable insulation, you’ll generally have two main objectives in mind: to use materials with better insulating capability, and to use materials that are free from chemicals that negatively impact the environment. Other considerations will include the production methods used to manufacture the insulation, where it was produced, whether it’s reusable or recyclable, and whether it contains recycled materials.

Loose fill cellulose contains at least 75% recycled newspaper, and it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals. It’s also made via production methods that use much less energy than most other options, and it can be made locally. “Blown in cellulose can be added wet or dry and can be easy to put in behind the siding of existing homes, this can be done by a professional or DYI interested person who rents a machine”

Cotton is made from a renewable resource, and is typically at least 75% recycled too. It can be recycled, and it’s not treated with toxic chemicals. The flip side is that cotton farming is resource-intensive, with a high level of dependence on pesticides, and climatic requirements that make it difficult to grow in many parts of the world. In addition, cotton insulation picks up moisture very easily and can develop mold. *”Cotton has been associated with fire control problems”

Fiberglass is typically at least 50% recycled material, with some brands achieving 70% to 90% recycled material, and it’s made from silica, which is a naturally abundant substance. However, it’s made using energy-intensive production methods, and some types contain the toxic gas formaldehyde. As well as this fiberglass typically has lower R values than other types of insulation, meaning it’s less effective at resisting heat flow. “Fiberglass tends to get installed poorly on average and in cold weather climate regions has thermal convection looping which means more air loss compared to other insulation” – Brett Little, edit * “Also note that there are blow in fiberglass methods that are easier to install, have higher r value and can be less likely for toxic exposure”

Foam insulation can be tricky—some types are recyclable but some aren’t, and some are treated with highly toxic flame retardants. Most types of foam insulation are made using non-renewable petrochemicals, however, so regardless of any other factors, these can’t be sustainable. However, some types of foam have replaced the petrochemical component with renewable alternatives that include formulations made from sugar beets, sugar cane, and corn, creating products that are less expensive, and more sustainable. “If foam is installed poorly it can be a danger to the installer and occupant as well reduce it’s effectiveness, foam can also off gas during it’s life time, loosing it’s heat resistance properties and reduce indoor air quality in the home.”

 Mineral wool (also called rock wool) is made from rock or steel slag—both abundant natural resources—and typically contains at least 75% recycled material; however, it releases low levels of irritants that can cause problems for people who are sensitive to airborne particles. It’s naturally highly fire-resistant so it doesn’t need extra chemical treatment.

“Strawbale & Strawclay are products made from waste materials from farming and from digging up the ground for new construction builds. These products are mostly used for new homes and/or additions and are natural, non toxic, fire and pest resistant materials if installed properly with appropriate moisture control levels. These products can be more labor intensive but often can result in community building parties that overall improve your fun score! These products tend to be more popular in dryer climates with larger temperature swings as moisture can be damaging to them and they are good at holding heat and letting it off at night when the temperature cools down”

Sourcing Sustainable Materials

When it comes to insulation, it’s relatively simple to buy sustainable, since so many products are made from partly recycled materials. Any home store that carries a large product range should have at least a few that fit the bill. It’s usually easy to tell whether products contain recycled materials, as most labels include this information.

“It’s also makes it easy if you specify only insulation products with 3rd party certifications, look for

Another option is stores like Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore chain, which deal mostly in used building materials, fixtures and fittings, and home accessories. Stock in these types of stores tends to be highly variable, but you might be able to score a great deal and support a great cause at the same time.


American Planning Association. “Policy Guide on Planning for Sustainability.” Accessed April 4, 2014. APA sustainability guidelines.

Earth 911. “Green Fiber Turns Recycled Paper into Insulation.” Accessed April 4, 2014. Sustainable insulation made from recycled paper.

Environmental Protection Agency. “Asbestos Containing Materials.” Accessed April 4, 2014. List of construction materials that may contain asbestos.

 Environmental Protection Agency. “Choosing Green Materials and Products.” Accessed April 4, 2014. Advice on finding sustainable building materials.

Foive. “Asbestos Testing Companies.” Accessed April 4, 2014. How asbestos testing works.

Habitat for Humanity. “Habitat for Humanity ReStores.” Accessed April 4, 2014. Store finder for Habitat ReStore locations.

North American Insulation Manufacturers. Fiber Glass, Rock Wool, and Slag Wool Have High Percentage of Recycled Content.” Accessed April 29, 2014. Recycled content in fiberglass insulation.

LEED AP Homes Credential to still remain under version 4

I just got this news in an email from the Manger of USGBC Education Partners, Sabrina Morelli – Fantastic news for the residential greenbuilding industry!

Email screenshot below


Hi Brett,

Well turns out the LEED AP Homes is not retiring and will be updated with the other v4 exams. The LEED AP Homes as well as the Green Rater certificate are good options for residential focus.

Sorry for any confusion. Let me know if you need anything else.


Sabrina Morelli, LEED Green Associate
Manager, USGBC Education Partners
U.S. Green Building Council
Direct: 202-828-1152
Mobile: 202-378-0297

Further proof – Read the comment section 

V4 LEED APH Stays!

USGBC certifies 50,000th LEED Homes

Quoted text from ” ”

“Since its start in 2007, 50,000 housing units have been certified under LEED for Homes and 44 percent of those homes were classified as affordable housing.” “As one of the most rigorous green residential rating systems in the world, LEED for Homes is the standard against which all other such programs are measured,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “Despite its demanding technical aspects that set a high bar for green residential construction, LEED for Homes has also seen the broadest adoption among its peers — indicative of its position as the rating system of choice to guide the design and construction of healthier, high-performance homes.””

“Since the launch of the LEED for Homes rating system in 2007, the growth trajectory of the world’s most widely used residential green building program has been dramatic. From 392 housing units LEED-certified in 2007, the figure jumped to nearly 900 units certified within the year 2008 and nearly 3,000 certified within 2009. In 2012 and 2013 alone, USGBC certified more than 15,000 and 17,000 housing units, respectively.”

“Of the 50,000-plus certified units, 74 percent are within multifamily buildings, while 44 percent are classified as affordable housing. In addition, nearly 65 percent of the total units were certified in the past two years, a strong indicator of the continued momentum of the rating system. There are also more than 82,000 units under construction and in the pipeline for LEED certification.”

is excited to be apart of this movement. As an ordinal LEED for Homes provider we have certified nearly 4,000 of these homes with another 3,000 in the pipeline. Learn why LEED excites us. 

“The continued growth of LEED for Homes is attributable to its many proven benefits, including enhanced property value, healthier indoor environments, and energy and water savings that average 20 to 30 percent. LEED-certified homes are third-party inspected, tested and performance-verified, offering homeowners and renters piece of mind that their places of residence are efficient, saving them money and also better for the natural environment.”

“In December 2013, USGBC also announced the LEED certification of its 20,000th commercial project.”

GreenStar Residential Remodeling Certification is Here.

and Minnesota GreenStar (MNGS) have teamed up to deliver the GreenStar remodeling & new homes certification to the Midwest and North East. The program is backed by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry(NARI) as part of their Green Certified Professional (GCP) program and is incorporated into the training.GreenStar CGH&R CMYK-600

Why GreenStar Remodeling ? 

Many looking for authentic 3rd party verification/certification on their home remodels find  local state program within the Midwest & North East can be cost prohibitive, require major guts, are exclusive based on membership and/or are lacking any remodeling components.

Not anymore  – GreenStar can certify without requiring expensive energy modeling for kitchen, bathroom, whole house or landscape remodeling projects that can qualify under the program. Remodeling projects tend to be in phases and so you complete your phases through out the years as you have more revenue and time. From there you can submit documentation to get to certain stages of certification in the program.

Become Qualified to register your project!

Take 1 hour to learn about the program navigation, case studies, requirements, qualification/credentialing, up coming courses and how you can get involved locally to jump start GreenStar in your city or State.

Learning Outcomes 

  1. Basic Knowledge of How to get started with the GreenStar program locally in your state
  2. Introduction to the GreenStar Checklist, Manual and Online Submittal Process
  3. Run through an actual certified Green Retrofit from Start to Finish
  4. Know where to get more knowledge for education, training, membership in your state or how to be a local champion

CEUs  – GBCI – AIA LU/SD – NARI Green and Local Contractor Credits

Up coming Courses & Webinar Schedule 

Green Expo 365 – Introduction to GreenStar Remodeling Free Webinar.

Part 1 of 3 back to back webinar GreenStar Online Qualification Course 12/3 – 12/5 10 am to 12 pm – 2 hour segmants

– Demystifying GreenBuilding Certification Options & State Codes*

– Learn about local / state and regional green building programs and how they compare/contrast

– Understand basics of Green Remodeling Opportunities & Challenges

Pt 2 – 12/4 Understanding GreenStar Remodeling Certification

Pt 3 – 12/5 Navigating the GreenStar Checklist & Documentation Requirements

* This course can be skipped if you are a Green Home Professional (LEED APH, Green Rater/Verifier, GCP, Master Green Builder (NGBS) or comparable accreditation. )

Sign up Today!

Full & Half Day Qualification Courses / Webinars – TBD – Email for interest 

GreenStar Full Program Manual! Free!

Get the checklists! IL MI MN OH

Other ways to qualify: In House or Webinar Design Charrette Half Day Meeting – Qualify multiple team members for extra points! Email for details.

Find Qualified Contractors, Remodelers, Builders, Raters and/or Consultants: MI IL MN 

Founded in 2007, Minnesota GreenStar is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, has developed a leading residential building standards and certification program created to promote healthy, durable, high-performance design and construction for both new and existing homes.  An objective, third-party verification system assures consumers that the new home or remodeling project meets the program requirements and is constructed as designed. A whole-systems approach applies the five (5) key concepts of green building programs – Energy Efficiency, Resource Efficiency (including durability), Indoor Environmental Quality, Water Conservation, Site and Community – to the traditional building process.  The MNGS program improves the impact of green building programs on individuals, their families, the community, and the environment.

Volunteer of the year 2013: Danny McGee

Danny McGee approached after talking to the director at the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, who pointed him our way.. Danny came to our office in Grand Rapids MI asking how he could help get involved in our many initiatives. After our ED, Brett Little explained to him the several new initiatives is hoping to launch, Danny dove into assisting us with many of them and showed up several times a week to work in our office and get to know our staff.
Danny Mcgee

Danny hails from the East Coast where he got his feet wet with green building by interning with Sasaki Associates and overseeing the LEED Documentation of a commercial project & worked on a street corridor plan in Boston. Danny went on to seek his Masters Degree of Architectural Engineering at Colorado University of Bolder. While there he served as an Energy Solutions Provider for Sustainable Tribal Housing in Wyoming and sought his BPI Accreditation.

Danny took his BPI to the next level by becoming a MI GreenStar Qualified Rater and is working on the certification of the Man up House with Bethany Christian Services Youth Build for the Urban Transformation Ministries. Danny has also assisted with our new MPG for Existing Homes label by testing it out, learning how to use the tool and giving us feedback on what works.

When Danny learned about the new non profit forming, Homes of Hope, he loved the idea of helping with a veteran house build and West Michigan’s first Living Building Challenge registered home. He has showed up to every meeting to help with project management, website set up, building science & product research, volunteer recruitment and management and community engagement.

Lastly, Danny has just recently become Srinergy’s West Michigan Solar Community Rep to help reach out to local residents and business to get solar up and to help with performance energy analysis before projects move forward with solar. Learn More

We are very grateful for Danny’s time, talent and just overall being a great and exciting person to be around. is making Danny our Volunteer of the Year. Thank you Danny!

Learn More about Danny McGee Here