Moving from Equivalency to Certification
Managing Risk & Reputation
What does it mean to build to an “equivalency”? An equivalency is using a program’s tools in an attempt to meet a requirement without it being certified—and likely, without actual testing being done. This could be a BUILT GREEN® checklist that is used and submitted to a municipality to meet their compliance requirements of building to a Built Green standard.
Sometimes, when a project has been built to meet a standard, it may have been unintentional—some builders are not familiar with the certification process and don’t realize they’re doing this; however, there are unintended consequences that result from building to an equivalency standard. The implications can be far reaching, and it can have a snowball effect…
Compromised reputation, legal implications, and a loss of income.
The builder’s reputation, at the very least, may be compromised. A homebuyer may think they’re buying a BUILT GREEN® home, and with that, they’re expecting a level of performance and quality associated with the brand. And, they’re also expecting other benefits that go with certification, including rebates that they won’t be eligible for without proof of certification.
When we’re faced with a project heading down a path of equivalency, we want to work with all those involved to move the build forward for certification.
Further risk may include the builder’s reputation with their peers: other builders—especially those certifying their builds… equivalency standards undermine their efforts. While there are builders that are certifying their builds, others aren’t, yet claim to be, and this can influence negative attitudes about the builders involved as well as the residential building industry.
For the program provider—whether Built Green Canada or another—this can be very damaging. The tools are proprietary and intended for the purpose of certification; using them is exploitation. Also, because a potentially inferior product could now be associated with the brand, hurting Built Green as well as those certifying their builds.
And as for the municipality, if equivalencies are happening in their community, it becomes more difficult to gauge success and leadership around climate mitigation.
Unfortunately, we have received calls from homeowners who thought they’d purchased a BUILT GREEN® certified home only to learn it isn’t. Unhappy homeowners have gone to their builder and even gone directly to the municipality, whether that be administration or city council.
For the builder, and all involved, there’s risk of damaged reputation.
Beyond this, there are possible legal implications associated with an equivalency standard. There is risk a homebuyer may sue a builder if they believe they were misled. And so, a compromised reputation, coupled with legal implications lead to lost earnings.
Value of certification: validation, legitimacy, and transparency.
Third-party certification programs authenticate and legitimize a home as being sustainably built. In the case of our certification, we are a two-in-one with the EnerGuide and BUILT GREEN® labels, which are usually affixed to the electrical panel or furnace of the home. These labels increase the builder’s credibility and offer peace of mind to the homebuyer, as well as rebate eligibility.
Put a label on it.
There are builders who say they are building a higher performance home, and they may be… and there are builders who say they are, which may not be—we don’t know, and neither does the customer. Without certification, it’s difficult to know whether or not requirements were met. And so, certification removes perceptions of greenwashing.
As for the benefits of certification, this is about your competitive advantage. It’s about the pass-along benefits to the customer, increased durability in your builds, verification of your green builds, staying ahead of regulations, being a builder that goes beyond the status quo, and demonstrated leadership.
Increasingly, we receive calls from customers asking if a home they’re considering has been certified. Homebuyers are becoming increasingly discerning about “green feature” claims and the legitimacy of these.
** As building code now addresses energy efficiency, many are now looking at other components of sustainability—building materials, waste management, etc. We’re receiving calls from municipalities considering some of these other areas.