The National Association of Home Builders' national green building standard is officially open for business.

The initiative, which was announced in February 2008, was approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) last week. This means that developers can now certify their projects under the first and only green building rating system to offer ANSI's seal of approval.

"ANSI [approval] demonstrates through a third party the fact that we went through great lengths to include a broad cross-section of stakeholders [in the certification process], and those stakeholders were able to bring a variety of views to the table," says Dominic Sims, chief operating officer at the International Code Council (ICC), which helped produce the standard. "They were able to discuss and debate the technical merits of the standard, which assures through an ANSI-accredited process that it's open, it's transparent, and there's due process to the various interest groups."

As part of the stringent process required by ANSI, NAHB and ICC gathered a fully inclusive and representative consensus committee composed of a broad spectrum of builders, architects, product manufacturers, regulators, and environmental experts.

The green building standard defines green building for single-family and multifamily homes, residential remodeling, and site development projects, while allowing for the flexibility required for regionally appropriate best green practices. A developer or remodeler must incorporate a minimum number of features in these categories: energy, water, and resource efficiency; lot and site development; indoor environmental quality; and homeowner education. An innovative interactive calculator allows developers to score their projects' green design.

"The national green building standard has been a top priority for the apartment industry," says Eileen Lee, vice president of environment and energy policy for the National Multi Housing Council and the National Apartment Association. "Until now, apartment firms wanting to do green building have had to follow guidelines designed for either high-rise commercial properties or single-family houses. The national green building standard now offers them uniform guidance on green building practices that are appropriate for low-, mid-, and high-rise apartment construction."

Developers are optimistic that the new standard will make going green easier for the multifamily industry. "Even though we have a LEED-certified high-rise underway in Dallas, fitting the LEED standard to what we build has had its challenges," says Patrick Dennis, senior design and construction manager at Atlanta-based Wood Partners. "The strength of the new green standard is that it's tailored to multifamily. We are looking forward to utilizing the standard on future projects that fit within the parameters of our green program."