Drew Smith was the founding President of the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) and has been a certifying agent since 2000. Since that time Drew has certified over 10,000 homes to the FGBC standard. He is the Chief Operating Officer of FGBC member Two Trails, Inc., a Sustainable Building Consulting firm established in 2001 with offices in Florida, Nevada, Georgia, and Illinois.
What propelled you help create FGBC standards?
I started off in the building industry and as a builder/contractor I understood the building process and the need for a Florida based third- party sustainability standard. I wanted to be a resource to other builders to help them build to a sustainable standard.
Being that I was a builder this gave me the insight to provide meaningful changes within the standard that make sense from a building perspective and work in conjunction with the academic insight to create a standard that would make sense to builders in the field.
There is a difference to sit at a desk and theorize about what can be done to a project to have a significant impact to the project and to have the hands-on knowledge to implement the theories into a logical implementation that makes sense. It is all about getting everyone on the same page.
Working on the standard it was important to get stakeholders together to offer a standard that would succeed. It is the same in the field as well. All stakeholder’s or subcontractors all need to be on the same page to understand what a sustainable project is trying to accomplish.
A third-party certification program gives them that. In the beginning this was probably one of the bigger challenges because building green was foreign to many, but now as the years have progressed, it is delightful to see FGBC and the industry progress so far into the core doctrine of sustainable building for Florida.
How has Two Trails adjusted to meet the challenges of the COVID-19?
I think all business’ have had to access their work environment, procedures, and personnel safety during the pandemic. At Two Trails we have a mixture of in office, field, and remote employees. Safety for all is at the upmost.
Our office has invested in technologies that allow for remote work as we have had employees remotely working before the pandemic. During the COVID-19 spikes, it was easy for us to transition back and forth between in person and remote work.
Currently for in office personnel we take all state and national mandates seriously. Masks, temperature checks, and testing are all key components to keep all our staff safe and healthy. Our field personnel also follow the procedures when in the office, but new practices have been put in place as well out in the field. For our work we coordinate with our clients to be on site when there is little or no one on site.
Our work can be compiled and then shared with our clients vie email with the results we find in the field. On many days our field personnel never see another person with them at the same site.
From a certifying agent’s view why should a client consider building green and what financial benefits does energy efficiency provide?
I think from a logical perspective, clients and consumers understand building green is smart and good for the environment. The part that some fail to see is that the cost is very minimal if at all.
A builder that builds and certifies their homes, will see the benefit, and that the cost difference is minimal and in return they are providing a higher quality product to their customer. The customer will see that they are getting a better built project that in the long run will save them money (Lower utility bills and operating costs). It will also provide value down the road for resale.
Many realtor MLS (Multi listing Services) now recognize there is a difference between a code-built home and third party sustainably FGBC certified home. In turn this distinction has trickled down into other parts of the real estate transaction. Appraisers now understand that a sustainable green built home provides more value than one that is not and will appraise accordingly.
The same goes to lenders as well. Many lenders now provide special rates for residential, multi-family, and commercial projects that achieve a third-party certification. The value in building green is there for all parties involved, you just need to look at it from a big picture standpoint.
In your work what are some of the main features that make a home qualify to be “Florida Green”?
Florida itself has a different climate than the majority of the United States. The FGBC standard takes those unique factors such as temperature, humidity, natural disasters, and vegetation into consideration for their certifying parameters.
What does the FGBC rating process involve?
To use the Florida Green Building Coalition Standard, the project design team determines which credit points will be pursued. Two Trails can serve as the Certifying Agent or Designated Professional.
Two Trails compiles the appropriate documentation for each achieved credit point as the design process evolves and serves as the communication contact with FGBC during the certification review process. The certification process includes these steps:
Initial registration of the project submitted with deposit to FGBC. An FGBC Project Evaluator is assigned as a technical resource for the project team.
Two Trails, along with the project team, determine which credit points will be pursued.
Two Trails then works with the contractor during construction to compile all necessary FGBC required credit point documentation.
Some of that documentation may be in the form of submittals, some is in the form of photographs taken by the Certifying Agent at two phases of Construction:
Once home is 100% complete and all documentation is in place, the Final Application with credit points indicated and supporting documentation are submitted to FGBC for review.
FGBC reviews the submitted documentation.
FGBC issues certification of the project.
What are some of the most memorable projects you certified?
The most memorable home I have certified would have to be a home in Sarasota designed be Solstice Architects and built by NWC Construction. The home earned a FGBC Platinum certification.
The homeowner was 100% engaged in the entire project with sustainability as his main focus. The home had a HERS index of -26 due to the number of solar panels installed and efficient envelope. Water conservation was another focus with its multiple tank cistern system used for all irrigation and pool refill. No stone was left unturned and no FGBC point was left unexplored in getting this 4000+ sq.ft. home to FGBC Platinum.
This home has now won several Regional and National awards for its design and sustainability efforts. A couple more of the most memorable projects I have certified have been several of the show homes for the International Builders Show known as The New American Home. These projects are designed and built as a showcase of the latest and most innovative designs and current products and technology available.
The homes take all aspects of building into account from location to design to resource efficiency to materials selections. We are also currently working on certifying the 2021 New American Home with a target of FGBC Platinum.