Watch NAHB in the ANSI Process
At some point in the development of a standard like one for green building, a trusted organization needs to provide independent and unbiased oversight. At American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), for example, there is proven balance to the memberships of standards developing committees, so no one entity can grasp the process and totally control it. LEED® for Homes has been developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in a process that has been open and unbiased.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI), however well meaning, may be manipulated by large trade groups. There is a rich history of standards that get ANSI approval after being developed behind closed doors, or with special hand-picked “stakeholders,” and very limited access to background information by outsiders. A key issue for green builders is whether National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)—the largest trade association in the construction industry—is an independent and honest enough broker to take a full-nelson hold on the definition of a green home for American consumers [see “NAHB Seeks ANSI Accreditation for Green Guidelines,”
In my experience serving on ASTM committees, I have witnessed how effectively NAHB can hijack standards and codes development processes. In ASTM Committee E.50 between 1993 and 1998, I saw NAHB block a green homes standard guide several times despite the near consensus in balloting among the actual experts on the topic. The very group involved in developing the current NAHB Guide, the NAHB Research Center, sent representatives to ASTM E.50 meetings claiming that “too little is known about green building,” and such a standard guide “would cause economic damage to the housing industry.” They offered no data to support their generalizations while repeatedly making claims that they were “going to get federal funding to properly study green building,” and ASTM needed to wait for “credible information.” Their tactics worked, even though the ASTM standard guide format is the least binding of ASTM documents and is not designed to foster codes language.
NAHB is interested in green building now to profit from the hard work of others toiling since the late 1980s to bring a vital transformation to the marketplace. Now, once the early-adopter risks and hard work are largely over, NAHB members will benefit by skimming off high-profit greening approaches. Clearly it will be in the best interests of real green building to keep a very watchful eye both on the process within ANSI and on public claims NAHB may make that it has miraculously become the font of all knowledge on green homes.
Bion Howard, President
Building Environmental Science & Technology
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Howard, B. (2006, August 29). Watch NAHB in the ANSI Process. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/op-ed/watch-nahb-ansi-process