If energy saving is one half of the green building equation, occupant health is the other.
It's a distinction that many people find confusing—including professionals who are new to the "green" market. And green certification programs such as LEED for Homes often don't help. They reward points across a broad spectrum of home aspects. For example, they include points for non-toxic paints and caulkings, better-than-code ventilation systems, as well as durable roofing and locally quarried stone.
One way to quickly separate the IAQ aspect of green building from the resource conservation angle is to ask, what do the future occupants get out of it? If the answer is, they get a chance to live in a healthy space, without inhaling toxic particles and getting sick, then it's an IAQ feature. If the answer is "they get to save money on utilities, or do less maintenance over the years," I'd put it in the green building camp.
Does the distinction really matter? Yes, because clients often tend to arrive at your doorstep from one camp or the other. In other words, you're saying "green home," and all they are thinking about is Low-VOC paints and vent fans. For another person, the words may mean insulation and solar panels.
Why not lay out the groundwork from the start, separating IAQ and green building into two distinct aspects of sustainable living? That's what we've done in our brand new campaign on indoor air quality. We think it will lead to better educated clients and pros, who know their way around a healthy home. GB