Healthy Building Practices within Building Certifications
More than 20 residential building certifications were reviewed to develop a wide ranging list and mapping of the various healthy building practices that are mandated or incentivized by the certification programs. This analysis focuses on the healthy building practices that have a direct impact on occupants, without any intervention by the occupant, and are considered permanent features of the building or the ongoing quality control of healthy building features. Numerous healthy building practices are included, such as environmental site assessments, pollutant source control best practices, post-construction air flush, smoke-free policies, air filtration, indoor air quality testing, ventilation best practices, low-VOC materials and products, low-formaldehyde composite wood, materials and products free of the most harmful substances, water quality best practices and testing, and cleaning products.
We hope that this comprehensive tool will facilitate a broader consideration of healthy building practices among building professionals (developers, owners, architects, engineers, and contractors), the energy-efficient building community, and the green building community, governmental affordable housing officials, affordable housing organizations, community advocates, and us all as home-owners or tenants. It provides stakeholders with a wide spectrum of healthy building practices that they should consider when building or renovating. In addition, the tool includes lesser common healthy building practices that go beyond standard practices.
The spectrum of potential healthy building practices can be broad depending on the definition used. This is not an exhaustive list of healthy building practices— as there are many ways that buildings can affect the health of their occupants. Each included healthy building practice was mandated or incentivized by at least one residential building certification within this analysis. This analysis did not include practices such as physical activity features, fresh food availability, on-site health resources, increased accessibility, injury prevention, universal design, whole-building commissioning, and furnishings such as plants or other biophilic elements, although they are all important features of a healthy community. Exclusion from this list of healthy building practices does not mean that these items are not important and should not be incentivized or mandated through building standards. It should be noted that a building that incorporates many or even all of these healthy building practices can be un-healthy for occupants if the building is not properly designed, built, or maintained.
Each building certification was analyzed based on its requirements for residential dwelling units, with typical types of “finishes” (flooring, cabinets, etc.) installed, within a multi-family new construction residential building in the United States, certified under that building certification program. While reviewing each building certification, the list of healthy building practices was developed, consolidated, and mapped to each relevant building certification. This consolidated mapping of healthy building practices also identifies the differences between the various building certifications and highlights the various degrees to which they promote the This technical transparency displays the gaps that exist within building certifications and allows stakeholders to evaluate and address these gaps as they see fit.
There is a growing movement to incentivize green and energy-efficient building within different sectors and at different levels of the government. The lack of clarity related to health in building certifications creates a barrier in fully integrating health considerations into the framework of work in the built environment.
Buildings that are healthy for the environment and are healthy for occupants will benefit every community and the availability of a tool allowing occupants, owners, architects, engineers, builders, and building managers to discuss and integrate these principles into their projects is instrumental in fulfilling this.
The Key to the Analysis
For each healthy building practice that is mandated or incentivized by a building certification, you will find an “M” for mandatory or an “I” for incentivized by awarding points towards certification. “M + I” signifies when a building certification mandates the achievement of a healthy building practice to a certain degree and additionally incentivizes a higher level of achievement or performance. Lastly, “M or I” signifies when a healthy building practice is mandated or incentivized in parts or based on the project location by the building certification.
Independent, third-party on-site verification of healthy building practices are highlighted within this analysis by the shade of rectangle. A black rectangle denotes that independent, third-party on-site verification is required, a grey rectangles denotes the required on-site verification will be performed by the builder or an independent third-party, and white rectangles mean they do not require on-site verification of that practice for certification. An independent third-party would be a rater, commissioning agent, testing consultant, or other independent parties that are not employed by the building owner, manager, architect, engineer, or contractors.
Residential Building Certifications
BREEAM International New Construction 2016 2.0
Southface EarthCraft Multifamily v2
ENERGY STAR Multifamily New Construction v1.1
Enterprise Green Communities 2020
Fitwel Multifamily Residential v2.1
Green Globes Multifamily for New Construction v1.0
Indoor airPLUS Rev4
LEED v4 BD+C: New Construction
LEED for HOMES v4 Homes and Multifamily Lowrise
LEED for HOMES v4 Multifamily Midrise
LEED v4.1 Residential BD+C Multifamily Homes
Living Building Challenge 4.0 Living Certification
Living Building Challenge 4.0 Materials & Health + Happiness Petals Certification
Living Building Challenge 4.0 Energy Petal Certification
Living Building Challenge 4.0 Core Green Building Certification
Living Building Challenge 4.0 Zero Carbon or Zero Energy Certification
National Green Building Standard 2015 New Construction
National Green Building Standard 2020 New Construction Multifamily
PHIUS PHIUS+ 2018 Passive Building Standard
WELL Building Standard Certification v2
Zero Energy Ready Home Rev6
Find Out More About Residential Building Certifications We Analyzed
Use the link below to view short descriptions of the more than 20 residential building certifications found within this analysis, along with a link to their website where you can learn more about these residential green building and energy-efficient building certifications.
Building Clean would like to thank Michael Miranda, Lauren Asplen, Linnea Morgan, Caila Prendergast, Eric Steen, Matar Gueye, Abby Harvey, and Justin Jackson for their work. Building Clean would also like to thank the building certification programs included within this analysis for their leadership in promoting energy-efficient, green, and healthy building practices. We would also like to thank the majority of building certification programs within this analysis that also took the time to review and provide comments on this analysis.
This document reflects the building certification criteria at the time of analysis in late 2020—early 2021. Unless specifically stated, low-VOC refers to either low-VOC content limits or low-VOC emissions certifications. Building certifications sometimes offer multiple pathways or options to meet certification mandates or to be awarded points toward certification. In situations where a building certification offered one pathway or option that achieved an equivalent scope and quality of a healthy building practice included within this analysis, but also offered other pathways or options that did not achieve an equivalent scope and quality, then that healthy building practice was not listed as being mandated or incentivized by the building certification within this analysis. A future update of this analysis might evaluate expanding the list of practices and the addition of practices that are advised, but not mandated or incentivized by building certifications. Any errors in this document or the interpretation of equivalent scope and quality of practices within the building certifications are the sole responsibility of Michael Miranda.
The information provided within this analysis on which healthy building practices require independent, third-party on-site verification was provided for the most part by the certification programs themselves and was not independently reviewed. For the few programs that did not provide this information, it was determined using publically available certification documents.
Building Clean is an initiative of the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation that works at the intersection of energy, health, and housing within a larger national initiative to accelerate the retrofit of multifamily affordable housing. Building Clean promotes the use of healthier and American-made building products. Building Clean engages partners in coalition building, in addition to offering healthier product consultations to non-profit affordable housing builders. We also engage with industry to remove substances of concern from building products.