The report also notes a major discrepancy between the two programs’ requirements for higher certification levels. The NGBS requires higher point totals within each division as
higher certification levels are sought, while LEED does not require higher point totals within each division when seeking higher tier certification, allowing for a project to possibly be very strong in several divisions and weak in others, according to the report.

“The committee applauds the NGBS requirement for higher point totals within
each division as higher certification is sought, thus creating a more balanced project,” it reads.

Furthermore, the committee found that on average, NGBS certification costs about $800 less per project than LEED certification, and NGBS approval takes a lot less time. While NGBS projects often are certified in days, Corn notes that some LEED projects in Cincinnati have taken up to six months for final approval.

“For a builder who has a spec home that’s going to be sold on contingency of LEED approval for the tax abatements, that’s a long time to wait,” Corn notes.

The committee discussed the ease of use of both rating systems, and interviewed several people who have reviewed and implemented both rating systems. There was no clear consensus as to which rating system is easier to use.

People familiar with LEED preferred LEED. Those familiar with NGBS preferred NGBS. The committee was also split as to which rating system was easier to use. In the end, it may come down to which rating system the project team is familiar with and chooses to use.

In light of its findings, the committee recommended that if the city decides to adopt the NGBS as a rating system for the city’s tax abatement program, Energy Star certification should be required as well for new construction.

“This says that at least for the energy part of it, houses built to the green building standard will be the same level of minimum performance and proof as LEED homes,” Corn says.

For remodels, the committee recommended that a post-construction HERS rating of 85 or less be required along with NGBS certification.

The results of the study were presented to the Office of Environmental Quality in January; the city council has yet to comment on it or vote on the NAHB’s request.

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory and city council members enacted the Community Reinvestment Area tax abatement program in January 2008 to benefit owners of new and retrofit sustainable homes, according to Eric Denson, senior community development analyst. All city, county, and school board taxes are waived for qualifying homes.

“The impetus was really to combat energy costs,” he says. “The main concern was dealing with rising costs, at a time when gas prices were through the roof.”

Projects do not have to demonstrate financial need to be approved for tax abatement, Denson adds.

To read AIA Cincinnati’s full report comparing the two systems, click here.