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Affordable and Certifiable

Posted by Laureen Blissard

Apr 30, 2013 2:48:00 PM

The intent of creating EGC was to provide a clear, cost-effective framework for all affordable housing development types anywhere in the country. An organization called Enterprise Community Partners (www.enterprisecommunity.com) headed up the effort, with a team comprised of many different stakeholders within the sustainable community. Some of the program criteria were actually based on portions of LEED for Neighborhood Development, LEED for Homes and Energy Star. The development types that could be considered include new construction and rehabilitation of multi-family projects, as well as single-family homes.

For 2011, EGC had $480 million invested in 5,640 affordable green homes. This dollar amount comprises almost 45% of the total for Enterprise loans, grants and equity in 2011 alone. Since 1982, EGC projects have received over $1.8 billion in grants, loans and equity invested for a total of 27,000+ affordable green homes overall.

How It Works
Before we delve into the particulars of the EGC program, it is important to note that the certification and registration of projects is free. However, only certain projects are eligible. It is open to all entities engaged in the development of qualified affordable housing. Enterprise defines qualified affordable housing as the following:

- Projects serving residents at or below 60 percent AMI for rental projects and at or below 80 percent AMI for for-sale projects. For NSP-funded projects, this definition extends to 120 percent AMI.

- Projects must designate a minimum of 80 percent of the units for affordable housing (e.g., no more than 20 percent can be market-rate housing).

- Projects must designate a minimum of 80 percent of the square footage of conditioned space for residential use (e.g., no more than 20 percent can be commercial or common space).

There are two steps to the EGC certification process. The first step, also called pre-build, involves applying online during the design phase, but before construction starts. The second step, also called post-build, calls for submitting the final documentation online within 60 days of completing construction.

Prebuild—Step One
EGC heavily emphasizes integrative design and beginning the program long before construction starts. A charette must be conducted as part of this process. Integrative design means bringing as many of the project stakeholders as possible together at the same time to discuss sustainable strategies, their implementation and financial impact. Typical participants are:

  • - Housing development professionals
  • - Residents (may not be typical for projects that are being developed as rental properties)
  • - Technical experts (architects, engineers, etc.)
  • - Funders
  • - Policymakers
  • - Community stakeholders


Enterprise can provide grants for either the Charette or Pre-Development Design. The Charette grant, of up to $5,000 per project, is meant to help fund the charrette, which can incur costs for advertising, meeting space, attendance, etc. The Pre-Development Design grant, of up to $20,000, is only for 501(c)(3) community development corporations (CDCs), community housing development corporations (CHDOs), tribally designated housing entities and for-profit entities participating through joint ventures with qualified organizations. The grant is meant to cover only the following reimbursable costs:

  • - A fixed fee for each of the four architects to develop and present an approach and design ideas related to the development project. The grant cannot be used to cover technical feasibility studies or full schematic design.
  • - A consultant fee and travel costs for the facilitator to collaborate with the grantee on the pre-development design process: this includes developing a design brief, reaching out to architecture firms, moderating the presentation day, and completing progress reporting.
  • - Program support costs incurred by the CDC for the pre-development design process and the progress reporting.

Once the charrette is completed, the called a “Green Development Plan.” This is a document that chronicles the credits being attempted and their subsequent strategies as discussed during the charrette. Along with the “Green Development Plan,” the project team will submit a context map, appropriate energy-modeling information and a site plan online to apply for the program before construction begins. Additionally, the project team will fill out the online registration form. A 30-day review period is needed by Enterprise before they can grant approval to move to step 2.

Interestingly enough, the initial four documents that are submitted for pre-build are more than sufficient documentation for quite a few of the mandatory credits. The “Green Development Plan” should be completed during or right after the charrette. The context map essentially just shows the project site in relationship to the rest of the community, along with transit and amenity locations. The energy modeling would have to be done by a qualified outside consultant. Also, it should be noted that a site plan would typically be required as a part of a project’s construction drawings, and would not be a special expense to meet EGC requirements.

Postbuild—Step Two
Within 60 days of construction completion, the project team will need to complete the online final certification form and submit the final documentation. This includes a revised and finalized “Green Development Plan” that documents any changes from any of the intended methods of compliance that were originally submitted as a part of step 1.

Additional final documentation includes: a utility release form, project photos with a subsequent image release form, the Energy Star certificate and cost reports. A final energy performance report is also required, unless the project is following an approved prescriptive energy performance path. Many of the specific items provided as proof of criteria compliance are portions of the project documents, which would typically consist of construction drawings, specifications or scopes of work. The project team only needs to indicate where in the project documents a particular strategy for criteria compliance is located. Enterprise then reviews and determines whether the project will be certified, and issues notification via email within 30 days.

EGC Program Particulars
All projects must achieve compliance with the mandatory measures applicable to their construction type as defined in the 2011 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria. Overall, for a project that’s classified as new construction, there could be potentially 41 mandatory measures that must be implemented. Additionally, new construction projects must achieve an additional 35 optional points.

Substantial rehab projects would have approximately 36 mandatory measures and moderate rehab projects would have approximately 31 mandatory measures. Mandatory measures may also only be applicable based on the scope of work. Both substantial and moderate rehab projects must achieve an additional 30 optional points beyond the mandatory measures. Substantial rehab or gut rehab is defined as a project that includes the replacement and/or improvement of all the major systems of the building including its envelope. A moderate rehab is defined as a project that does not include major systems or building envelope work as described for a substantial rehab.

EGC relies heavily on Energy Star directly for the Energy Efficiency category and indirectly for the Healthy Living Environment category. In addition to completing the “Thermal Enclosure System Rater Checklist,” the project will also need to complete the following:
- HVAC System Quality
- Installation Contractor Checklist
- HVAC System Quality
- Installation Rater Checklist
-Water Management System Building Checklist (or the Indoor airPlus Verification Checklist)

Standard inspections and testing must be performed. Sampling protocols are also allowed for large volume projects. For a brief synopsis regarding the current version of Energy Star, please refer to the Coalition Quarterly Industry Report from March 2012.

Market Effect and Relevance
Some developers see the value in certifications, especially when it’s tied to funding. There is also value in certifications, as they have the ability to create market differentiation. Consumer awareness has been translated into consumer demand, since consumer awareness of green homes has increased dramatically over the past five years. (See: “The Green MLS”—CQIR Q1 2011)

Because the EGC program relies heavily upon Energy Star standards, product manufacturers may want to consider establishing or maintaining a partnership with the Energy Star program. Providing products that clearly fit within the Energy Star program make it easier for green developers to build green. The Energy Star label has high recognition and through the Energy Star website, a product can receive excellent exposure since it is well known to both consumers and developers.

Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC): http://tinyurl.com/awyvcl8
New Markets Tax Credits: http://tinyurl.com/bcqn8fk
Enterprise 2011 Annual Report: http://tinyurl.com/askgf4m
2011 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria guidebook: http://tinyurl.com/aepcbbx

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