What's it take to get the best in the best for green building? There's a new alphabet in town, and it doesn't go ABCD. It's HERS, RESNET, BPI, LEED AP and various other acronyms that contractors need to know, but homeowners should know about too, specifically if creating an energy conscious home is on your mind. "LEED Certified" is probably the most common thing that you'll hear among contractors, since only buildings can be LEED certified. People are "accredited with "LEED AP" – which allows them to be an accredited professional. Contractors need to know the differences between these two terms because otherwise, it just comes across as incredible newbie to the world of remodeling.
LEED AP designation sets apart the green professionals from the rest and it has been a common practice for over a decade now. The accreditation means that these contractors have studied and passed a test, but it does really only help with marketing your services, proving that you have one more qualification than the next day—though the next guy may know more than you. True expertise comes from experience and those who have just recently earned LEED AP are not always the best in choice for a contractor.
Building Performance Institute is the nation's leading certification organization and most recognized acronym because of it. BPI actually has designations and certifications that are interchangeable through its website. BPI is mostly concerned with building performance and combustion safety. The institute offers training to home performance specialists, i.e. contractors who want to work on commercial and residential homes. Designations from BPI include Building Analyst, Envelope, Whole House Air Leakage Control Installer, Manufactured Housing, Heating, Air Conditioning and Heat Pump; and Multi-family. BPI is another thing that you'll see among contractors, whether the certification is posted on their website or business card. It does mean that the contractor has received training, but you also want to note when they received that training. They could still be very new to safety procedures and building performance.
HERS, HESP and HIM are other acronyms to look out for. RESNET is also like BPI and is involved in testing, training and providing quality assurance of Home Energy Rating Systems (HERS). HERS raters need to take a six to eight day training course and pass field and classroom tests in order to be certified. RESNET has focused more on new home building, and hasn't really gone into commercial and existing buildings. RESNET has HERS Rater and Field Inspector designations, recently also offering Home Energy Survey Professional (HESP) designations, which can just be achieved by passing their test—no training required. HERS is the one to look out for if you are looking for someone to judge your home's energy numbers and give you ideas on how to make it more energy efficient.
Some others that you may see are NARI and NAHB. NAHB as you may know stands for National Association of Home Builders. NARI stands for National Association of the Remodeling Industry. NARI awards Green Certified Professional (GCP) and NAHB awards Certified Green Professional (CGP) and Master Certified Green Professional (MCGP). These do requiring training and passing tests.
Contractors who have all of the above certifications are the most qualified to work on your projects, specifically if you need to work on your home's performance and energy rating. A home in Tennessee recently achieved a net zero rating with the help of a HERS rater. That will allow the homeowners to actually get paid by the power company for their energy.