The National Green Building Standard (NGBS) was developed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). The certification program is now administered by Home Innovation Labs, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NAHB. There are four levels of certification — Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Emerald — which are based on the number of green building practices and products implemented. 

The NGBS program applies only to residential buildings, so any commercial units in a mixed-use development are excluded from certification. Within the residential sphere, the majority of NGBS certified homes are multifamily. No differentiation is made between lowrise and highrise construction. 


Irrespective of the level of certification (i.e. Emerald), all projects must score a minimum number of points in the following categories:

  • Site Design 
  • Resource Efficiency
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Indoor Environmental Quality
  • Building Operation & Maintenance

Like ENERGY STAR, the NGBS mandates that accredited verifiers (a.k.a. raters) be used to certify projects. 


Step 1:  The building team scores the project using a downloadable Excel spreadsheet.

Step 2: The building team hires an accredited verifier to register the project with NGBS/Research Innovation Labs. 

Step 3: The building team sends the design information and scoring spreadsheet to the verifier for his/her review.

Step 4: The verifier conducts pre-drywall inspection. Simultaneously, the builder needs to sign a Builder's Agreement with Home Innovation Labs. 

Step 5: The verifier assembles a “rough verification report” and submits it to Home Innovation Labs.

Step 6: Once construction is completed, the building team schedules a final inspection and performance testing with the verifier, and signs the final verification report. 

Step 7: Home Innovation Labs reviews the report and issues a certificate, usually within 1 business day.


  • Registration Fee : $0
  • Certification Fee: $700
  • Rater Fee: $2,000 to 4,000 (Based on market rate and size/type of construction)
  • Builder Partnership Fee: $0
  • Estimated Team Increase: Low

*Does not include travel for certified verifier. 

Market Recognition

  • Certified Single Family Homes in San Diego County: 0
  • Certified Multifamily Units in San Diego County: 2,000* 

*Currently under construction


Overall, the cost of the NGBS certification is competitive whereas the certification process is straightforward and relatively short. The depth of coverage is slightly stronger than ENERGY STAR, which, in turn, increases the hassle and cost factors. The brand equity is not as strong as ENERGY STAR, as the standard is fairly new and has not gained much traction in the San Diego market. As mentioned above, there is just one large project comprised of 2,000 units that is under construction. 

The largest drawback, though, appears to be a lack of certified verifiers. No California based verifiers were found when searching the online database in February 2015. Beyond paying travel costs, using an out of state verifier makes it harder to coordinate the certification process without face-to-face meetings. In speaking with raters from different programs, it was apparent that working with a local rater/verifier is important - especially on larger more complex projects. Having a rater who can easily swing by a construction project without incurring significant expense is essential. 

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