Tools and resources for project teams working on a LEED for Homes project.

Rural Homes can be Green too!


Thanks to our in kind sponsor Building Efficiency Resources to make this possible!

Sometimes in the Green Building world we look to the urbanization of homes and buildings to improve location efficiency and give the benefit of community connectivity. Often times we may view homes that are suburban or rural to not be green because of the dependence on the automobile to access resources that are often times miles apart.  We know of course that when purely looking at energy, a more rural built home still can meet or even surpass an existing urban home by taking a few more extra energy additions to offset the use of vehicle miles. We also know that more energy is used in homes vs the average consumer vehicle and so there are many opportunities to build better and make up for this.

When MI’s first GreenStar Certified Gold Home was completing their certification they found that their site and community impact score was just a few points shy of gold, mostly due the fact their home was located in the middle of the woods in the Manistee National Forest. In contrast we found the energy score of the home to be surpassing gold requirements greatly. The team made a request to see if their energy score that resulted from a HERS 16 and both solar pv / thermal could be a justified trade off for the energy the average family would need to access resources in a more rural area. The GreenStar tech committee and review (Marc Sloot) got to work right away investigating the opportunity.

The goal of the research was to determine what the average family in the average vehicle travels per year in an area identified as rural and then determine what the predicted energy usage of the HERS index is per point and find a way to offset a better HERS index for a trade in SC (Site & Community impact) points.

Researching data on energy used in vehicles for rural families was easy but determining energy usage per HERS index point was not. The HERS index score is not meant to necessarily be something that predicts energy use directly but rather something to compare differently built to code homes. We reached out to Building Efficiency Resources (The BER), one of the leading HERS providers in the country to see if they would help us extrapolate data. This data would includes HERS index, square feet, climate zone, remrate predicted energy usage and number of bedrooms. Eurihea Speciale, founder and principal was gracious enough to provide 550 sets of data for Midwest homes and the Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC) in St Paul MN provided another 50 but was skeptical we would find a correlation between HERS and energy usage.

Marc Sloot and the Tech Committee were able to come up with somewhat of a comfortable number that showed a reasonable energy usage prediction per verified HERS Index point and while there were many outliers it served the purpose we needed. After some deliberation the team was able to determine a good set of rules for more rural projects who achieve advanced energy scores and low HERS ratings.

GreenStar Exchange of HERS index points for SC points:
—> People can exchange 3 HERS index points for every 1 SC point on the GreenStar checklist up to 10 SC
—> SC points gotten in exchange like this plus SC points they already have for measures 1D-3 + 1D-4 + 1D-5
cannot exceed 13.
—> Actual HERS index + HERS index points given in exchange cannot exceed 75.

This request can be submitted any time before certification via the greenstar waiver form on the checklist.

Interestingly enough because of this research the tech committee thought maybe utilizing the HERS index score as their energy performance pathway may not be the best approach. The next goal of the committee is to instead utilize energy (KWHe)/year/square foot/bedroom to determine a more fair score. This would also open up the use of more tools such as REMrate (without HERS), Passive House modeling and the use of existing home tools such as the DOE: Home Energy Score and Cake System Systems – Residential Energy Performance Score.  Thanks to the tech committee for their flexibility and understanding. Anyone using greenstar is open to work with the committee to find something that makes sense because the idea of a greenhome is evolving and should not be a set of rigid and unchanging principals.

Stay tuned in 2015 for more on this research and an update to the energy performance pathway in GreenStar.


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.

Making Sense of GreenHome Certifications and Labels 101

Banked & Recorded Green Home Webinars – Free! CEUs

The webinars below are a summary of educational offerings that is prepared to deliver upon request or are recorded and accessible for free.  Many are approved for AIA and GBCI continuing education credit.  Contact us to schedule a presentation or if you would like to present through our network.

  1. Demystifying LEED for Homes Version 4 webinar featuring lead LEED home reviewer Jay Hall – 1 hour – CEUS
  2. Rosemarie Rossetti from the Universal Design Living Laboratory has 1 hour recorded webinar that takes you through her ZeroStep Certified Gold Home in Columbus Ohio and explains the thought behind the design and construction. This is a free webinar worth 1 AIA/GBCI/Nari Green & Potential State Contractor CEU. 
  3. Introduction to the GreenStar Remodeling Certification Program – 1 Hour Webinar (AIA/GBCI/NARI Green)
  4. Materials Matter- Design Trends for a Sustainable Future – (AIA/GBCI) 
  5. How I made Million Dollars as a Green Remodeler – GreenStar Remodeling Certification Kick Off 
  6. Energy Star Version 3 for HOMES – Lessons Learned for HVAC Contractor Design/Install AIA/GBCI CEs
  7. Selecting Appropriate Natural Building Materials in Cold & Wet Climates 5/7/13 on Demand AIA/GBCI CEs
  8. PHIUS + Passive Building Certification – Webinar Recorded 3/18/13 – 1 AIA/GBCI on demand
  9. Journey to Passive House & LEED – A Homeowner’s Tale – Record Feb 2013 (1 hour)
  10. Making Green with Green – Introduction to Green Remodeling for Homes – 1 AIA/GBCI
  11. LEED for Homes Post Occupancy Report – Recorded Jan 2013. GBCI Only
  12. Achieving Success in Education & Awareness – LEED for Homes – 2012 Recording 1 AIA/GBCI (LEED Specific)
  13. LEED Multifamily Certification Options (1 AIA/GBCI)
  14. Overview of LEED for Homes (1 AIA/GBCI)
  15. 10 tested tips for LEED for Homes Gut Rehabs – (1 AIA/GBCI)

As a 501(c)3 charitable organization (view our details), we deliver green building education courses throughout the Midwest at minimal cost and at no profit. Please support us to help keep these going. Your donation to the Green Home Institute may be tax-deductible. Please check with your accountant or tax attorney for details.

Thank you for your support!

By USGBC – FREE webinars on Affordable Housing:

  • Affordable Green Multifamily Retrofits
  • Operations & Maintenance of Green Affordable Housing
  • Data Collection and Analysis of Green Affordable Housing

West Michigan Solar PV – 0 Down in Upfront Costs – Qualification Form

MI Solar Works is collaborative across the state to lower the barriers of financing and funding of  solar PV projects by offer no up front cost loans.

We are shifting the debt from the utility company  to affordable & low cost solar loans.

                               MI SOLAR Post Card

Our Goal: 6,000 solar roofs in Michigan with 1,000 in West Michigan by the end of 2014.

Who can participate?

  • Existing Homeowner’s
  • Existing Business Owner’s
  • Planned building and home renovations & rehabs
  • New Construction of residential, commercial or industrial buildings.

Residential New Construction & Existing Homes 

3 – 5 KW Systems Available – Learn more

Commercial New Construction & Existing Buildings 

5 – 100 KW Systems Available – Coming Soon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Financing – MI Saves – 7% unsecured loan available* Learn More

*Other Options for Financing do existing with potentially lower rates, ask your local bank or credit union, refinancing under 203k Loans and/or home equity loans or lines of credit.

Everyone is doing it.  Renea Hesselink, VP Sustainability at Nichols –  5kw Solar Pv Installed in Muskegon

Pyramid Scheme & Meanwhile Bar – Grand Rapids Tami VandenBerg – Grand Rapids

Program in the News. – MIBIZ

Please sign up below for a free assessment to see if you qualify.

Green Building & Remodeling Tax Credits

There are currently 2 Federal tax credits for energy efficiency and 1 commercial tax deduction. Information on the forms needed to claim these are in bold below. Most LEED for Homes or GreenStar projects will also meet the eligible requirements of the tax credits

Tax Credits for Energy-Efficient Home Improvements

What: Tax credits equal to 10% of the material costs paid by the taxpayer for qualified energy-efficient improvements installed from January 2012 through December 2013.

Who: Homeowners

Limits: Improvements installed in 2012 and 2013, can get a maximum credit of $500. If you have claimed more than $500 in energy-efficient tax credits since January 1, 2005—you are not eligible to make a tax credit claim in 2012 or 2013.

Claim: Use IRS Tax Form 5695 (version 2009).

NOTE: For insulation to qualify, its primary purpose must be to insulate. It must be expected to last five years OR have a two-year warranty. Installation costs are not included. GreenStar Remodeling Certification Can help!

Builder Tax Credit for Energy-Efficient Homes:

What: $2,000 tax credit for new, energy-efficient homes that achieve 50% heating and cooling savings over a comparable dwelling unit constructed in accordance with the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and supplements. LEED for Homes certified projects with applicable HERS scores will qualify.

Who: Home builders

Limits: The credit is retroactive to January 1, 2012 and covers homes built through December 31, 2013 for homes sold or leased in 2012 and 2013.

Claim: Eligible contractors should fill out IRS Form 8908.

Commercial Tax Deduction:

What: Tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot for new or existing commercial buildings that save at least 50% of the heating and cooling energy of a building that meets ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2001.

Who: Owners or designers of new or existing commercial buildings.

Limits: Available for systems “placed in service” from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2013.

NOTE: Partial deductions of up to $.60 per square foot can be taken for measures affecting any one of three building systems: the building envelope, lighting, or heating and cooling systems. LEED for Homes Midrise Certified Buildings will help to achieve requirements 

Claim: Check with your accountant to claim this deduction.

Will this be renewed in 2014?​

No word yet. Most of them have been renewed for several years. But with all that’s going on, I don’t think it’s at the top of the agenda. Usually if it’s renewed it happens at the very end of the calendar year or the first couple of months of the next.


You also can find a list of local tax incentives at

If you only attend one conference this year

If you can only attend one conference this year—the Better Buildings: Better Business Conference is the one

The residential, multifamily and small commercial building and remodeling community will come together December 10-11, 2013 at the second annual Illinois Better Buildings: Better Business Conference®. The conference has a new convenient location at the Crowne Plaza near Chicago O’Hare and attendees can expect to get the latest information on building technologies, strategies, techniques, financial incentives, code requirements and more.

Whether you’re looking to obtain continuing education credits (more than seven hours of continuing education for builders, remodelers, contractors, architects, building performance consultants, home inspectors, raters, LEED APs, LEED Green Associates and more are available), stay ahead of the latest trends, increase your technical skills and code knowledge, find new business opportunities or learn new ideas—the Illinois Better Buildings: Better Business Conference is a not-to-be-missed event. The conference will feature 42 sessions and 44 topnotch local and national experts who will share their knowledge in various platforms to fit different learning styles.
You’ll start off the conference in the newly designed expo to experience the general session. This action-packed session will host industry leaders who will make their best predictions about what the future may hold and help to prepare you for what’s to come. Sessions and live, for-credit demonstrations will be in full swing following the general session. You can choose from 12 different tracks and attend an entire track or mix and match the sessions that interest you most. You’ll definitely want to check out the demos at some point. These reality-based learning experience will give you the chance to challenge the technology and talk with those who know their products best. Finally, after taking in all that learning you’ll need some time to unwind. The social highlight of the conference—the reception on Tuesday night—will give you a chance to mingle with exhibitors and catchup with like-minded colleagues. There will even be a chance to participate in a friendly competition. Then, you’ll start it all over on Wednesday morning.

Hope to see you there. Visit, take a look at the complete session program and register today.


Consumers Believe Green Certified Homes have More Value

“This Consumer Green Preferences Survey, conducted by Green Builder® Media, is aimed to understand the sustainable lifestyle preferences, attitudes, behaviors, and purchasing patterns of adults aged 35-55 with an active and healthy lifestyle who are interested in sustainable living. The survey was fielded from March 11-31, 2013, with a sample size of 582 adults. Respondents were 67% female/33% male; 85% between the ages of 31-60, spread equally throughout the country; 81% are homeowners, 60% of whom believe they live a green life. ” Certified Green Homes are More Valuable

“Respondents also realize that a green home is more valuable: 85% of respondents thought highlighting the energy efficiency features of their homes would help their house sell faster and 87% thought showcasing the durability of the products in their home would positively impact a home sale.”

Looking for practical advice on how to value you a green home?  Complete this form and give it to the appraiser! Youtube video explains Green Appraisals

If you are looking to learn more about Green Certified Homes in the Midwest and how you can get involved, give us a call 616 458 6733 ext 1 or has 7 years of over 1,500 certified green homes in the Midwest.

Both of these charts and quotes come from a big thanks to Green Builder Magazine.  Learn more–Green-Life-Wanted#.UXVeVbVHSSp


Bathroom Wallboard Requirements for Green Building

LEED for Homes, Enterprise Green Communities and Energy Star have certain requirements for wallboard installed in moisture prone locations such as bathrooms. All of these programs prohibit the use of typical “green board.”
LEED and Enterprise require either a paperless product or one meeting mold-resistant standard ASTM D3273(with score of 10). Energy Star also allows products meeting ASTM D6329. These requirements do not apply to powder rooms.

There may be other products available, but here are a few examples:

Georgia Pacific’s DensArmor Plus

National Gypsum’s Gold Bond XP

Certainteed’s ProRoc

Mold Tough 

If using a product other than the above, please supply a cut sheet showing that it meets the applicable standard.
Enterprise Green Communities has additional requirements for installation as follows:
 Criteria 7.9c: To be in compliance with the criteria we require that projects use a non-paper-faced backing material such as cement board, fiber cement board, or equivalent in portions of the bathroom in the following areas that are susceptible to bulk moisture damage (i.e. splash-prone and puddleforming
areas), including:
o 4” surrounding the entire perimeter of the tub/shower enclosure,
o 4” up from where the floor meets the vertical wall throughout the entire bathroom (creating a
band around the bathroom floor).
For the rest of the bathroom wall and ceiling surfaces, projects can use an ASTM D 3273 compliant
board with a score of 10.

Article by 

Janice Romanosky, LEED AP BD+C, Green Rater 

Principal, Pando Alliance


Direct: 443-852-5969

PHIUS+ Passive Certification for Building – Recorded Webinar – CEUs

PHIUS+ Certification for Building Projects is the only voluntary certification program on the US Market at an affordable cost that requires both: a thorougPHIUS_low resh third party review of the design and energy/hygrothermal modeling of a project as well as a third party verification of the actual implementation on site through expert trained PHIUS+ RESNET Raters. A successful project earns the PHIUS+ Certified passive house or building plaque/certificate as well as the DOE Challenge Home and Energy Star labels.

GBCI / AIA – Recorded webinar instructions below 

Learning Objectives:

1) Understand why Quality Assurance is essential to verified performance

2) Learn about the pre-certification process and what is required for the design review

3) Learn about the onsite verification performed by a Certified PHIUS+ Rater

4) Learn about the collaboration and endorsement by the DOE challenge Home program

Review the Webinar here 

Presenter Katrin Klingenberg

Co-founder and Executive Director of the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS)
Katrin Klingenberg

Katrin Klingenberg is Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS). PHIUS promotes the wide adoption of passive building principles in North America through specialized consultant training and certification, project and product certification, and educational efforts for building professionals and the general public.

Ms Klingenberg designed and built the very first home built in the United States using the European standard and design specifications in 2002-2003. She has designed and consulted on numerous passive projects since across North America’s varied climate zones and has made proposals for the possible refinement of current passive house standards to North American climate zones. In addition to her executive role she is the lead instructor for PHIUS Certified Passive House Consultant training. In that role she directs curriculum. She also directs the technical and research programs of PHIUS. She holds a Masters Degree in architecture from Ball State University and is a licensed architect in Germany.

In order to be approved for GBCI/AIA you must follow the below steps

1. View the Audio/Visual Recording Here 

2. Complete Survey + 10 Question Quiz and get a passing score of 80% 

3. In order for CEUs to be processed we will need a  small donation based on what value you found on the course. As a 501(c)3 charitable organization (view our details), we deliver green building education courses throughout the Midwest at minimal cost and at no profit. Please support us to help keep these going. Your donation to the Green Home Institute may be tax-deductible. Please check with your accountant or tax attorney for details.