Vermont Built Green

The Building for Social Responsibility and Vermont Energy Investment Corporation prove how easy building green can be.

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We’ve all heard it’s not easy being green. In Vermont, they really mean it. The Vermont Built Green (VBG) program, created by Building for Social Responsibility and the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, challenges developers, builders, and designers to create homes that are healthy, durable, and have less impact on the environment and global resources.

“We wanted to make sure Vermont Built Green really meant something and that a home that received the VBG designation was truly green in all respects,” says Richard Faesy, project manager at Vermont Energy Investment in Burlington. Some programs around the country have relatively lax requirements, he points out. “VBG requires anybody building to the standard to go the extra mile. It’s not a shoe-in.”

The program requires 54 sustainable approaches and offers points for another 226 green features, for which some 430 points can be earned. To become VBG certified, a home must meet all requirements and earn at least 100 points. This program’s pivotal feature is its emphasis on house size. Compact dwellings earn extra credit, while points are docked for large homes. For example, a three-bedroom home kept to 1,150 square feet earns 100 points. A three-bedroom that rambles more than 4,600 square feet loses 100 points, thereby having to make up 200 points in green features, which range from lighting and appliance choices to landscaping, orientation, and building materials.

Vermonters have greeted the program enthusiastically. “VBG is so comprehensive that it forces people to carefully weigh how they’re building,” Faesy says. One home didn’t make the grade because the builder couldn’t source non-arsenic, pressure-treated lumber for the mud sills. The good news is the situation forced a change. “The builder spoke to his supplier, which now carries some of the alternative lumber as a direct result,” he adds.

A VBG certificate serves as a third-party green designation. “Municipalities, institutions, government agencies, and even private homeowners know that all parties bidding on the project or building on a site have strict green standards to comply with,” says Faesy.

In the program’s pilot phase, a University of Vermont dormitory, twenty single-family homes, and a ten-unit housing project are working toward certification. Faesy expects the program to officially launch early this year.