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Do green contractors need a green certification?

Home Construction Pictures With so many contractors claiming to be green, it's a good idea to check for certifications. See more pictures of home construction.
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Does a contractor need to be certified to offer green construction? The short answer is no. Any contractor may advertise green design and construction on a Web site, business card or other advertisement. A contractor offering green services without certification may be self-taught, learning green best practices from books or publications. Or a self-titled green contractor may not have been taught at all and may purely take advantage of the positive marketing gained by calling a company green.

To help homeowners distinguish among green contractors, a number of organizations now provide green certifications to different types of contractors to offer proof of their expertise. So why is certification so important when considering a green contractor?

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A contractor seeking green certification can be certified by many different organizations, and the requirements for achieving these certifications vary. For some, contractors must invest weeks of study and pass a rigorous exam. Other certifications require passing grades from several courses or securing nominations and recommendations.

Below are just a few of the better-known national certifications:

  • National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) - Green Certified Professional (GCP)
  • National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) - Certified Green Professional (CGP)
  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) - LEED Professional Credentials
  • Green Advantage (GA) - Green Advantage Certified Practitioner (GACP)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) - Certified Green Contractor

In addition to national certifications, a number of regions around the United States offer certifications for their local contractors.

What do these various certifications mean to a homeowner? One considering specific contractors can research these credentials to see if the contractor's certification pertains to the type of construction that's needed. Then, the homeowner can tell if the contractor has what it takes to design and complete the project. For example, a certification in commercial construction lighting systems may not be much of a match to a homeowner's needs, but home lighting certification would be. The homeowner can also check the certifying body's Web site to be sure the contractor is indeed listed as one of the organization's certified green contractors.

Another way to inspect a contractor's green certification is to research the organization offering that credential. Is the organization well-established, with a long track record of offering certifications? Are the certification requirements lax, or are the certifications hard to achieve and therefore more indicative of commitment? The type of certification your contractor holds can be a helpful clue as to whether or not he's the right one for the project.

A certified green contractor should know all about the latest eco-friendly products and technologies.
A certified green contractor should know all about the latest eco-friendly products and technologies.
Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

Most of us agree that practical experience is more important than a piece of paper when it comes to using a contractor for our homes. Green certification, however, signifies a lot more than simple proficiency. Contractors that are certified in green design and construction separate their companies from others in ways that are important to homeowners. For example, if contractors invest in certification, it probably means they take green contracting seriously. It takes time, money and a lot of devotion to receive many of these certifications.

The fact that contractors have green certification typically means they're members of professional organizations that promote green contracting. The value to contractors will therefore be having a network of other green professionals to call on if they have questions, or to hire to assist with the project.

Green certification usually ensures continuing education, too. In order to retain certifications, most contractors understand they'll need to study the latest research, technologies and techniques on an ongoing basis in order to become recertified. Therefore, a green-certified contractor is more likely to be current on best practices for green construction.

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Sources

  • Green Building Certification Institute. "LEED Professional Credentials." (Dec. 26, 2010)http://www.gbci.org/main-nav/professional-credentials/credentials.aspx
  • Lima, Dina and Michael Strong. "Thinning the Herd." GreenBuildingAdvisor.com. 2009. (Dec. 17, 2010)http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/system/files/sites/default/files/Thinning_the_Herd.pdf
  • National Association of Home Builders. "Certified Green Professional (CGP)." (Dec. 18, 2010)http://www.nahb.org/page.aspx/category/sectionID=1174
  • National Association of the Remodeling Industry. "Certification Programs." 2009. (Dec. 26, 2010)http://www.nari.org/certify/
  • Patel, Nina. "Going Green: A review of national training and rating programs." Ecohome. Feb. 6, 2009. (Dec. 24, 2010)http://www.ecohomemagazine.com/green-remodeling/going-green-a-review-of-national-training-and-rating-programs.aspx

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