A good way to track a building’s environmental impacts is to participate in a certification program.  Many jurisdictions mandate green building performance to some degree.  For example, at its most basic every project in California must prepare ‘Title 24’ Energy Performance documentation. 

At one end of the spectrum are the CalGreen Checklist and GreenPoint RATED programs.  Like most certifications, these feature mandatory measures, and then options for meeting other metrics.  Categories typically include Site Development, Energy Efficiency, Water Conservation, Resource Efficiency, and Environmental Quality.  Nearly all ATA projects meet these standards, and our GreenPoint RATED projects are amongst the highest point totals; the Santa Cruz Straw Bale Residence tops our projects with 241 GreenPoints.

The most widely used certification program is the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. It includes a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods that aims to help building owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently.

Buildings and homes can qualify for four levels of certification based on the total number of points earned: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.  There is also an accreditation program for professionals.  ATA currently has several LEED projects, including the Carmel Green Classroom. Two projects have or are slated to achieve the highest Platinum level certification: Project Green Home and the Canyon Road Bridge House, pending; This Canyon Road Leed Certifications page outlines the LEED categories and the details of how points were achieved for the Canyon Road Bridge House.

Passive House is a building energy performance certification program that emphasizes the building envelope, with high insulation levels, air tightness, solar orientation and control, all working together to minimize energy usage for heating and cooling.  While these principles are applied to all of our projects. This High-Performance Courtyard Home is a good example of Passive House in action.

Widely considered the most rigorous certification, the Living Building Challenge requires projects to recycle all of their water waste on site, generate all of their own energy, and avoid any chemicals or compounds found on their ‘Red List’.  One can achieve one or more ‘petals’ (categories), or all of them for full certification.  To date only a few dozen projects worldwide are certified Living.  Vida Verde is ATA’s first project pursuing LBC Certification.