Sharing Green Building Standards in Delaware

By Sarita Sen

Posted December 12, 2019


Governor Carney has challenged the First State to adhere to the Paris Climate Accord despite federal withdrawl. The Delaware Community of Green Building United is taking on that challenge by creating more resilient, efficient, healthy, and ecologically sound spaces to live and engage in.

On November 7, the Delaware Community hosted an event to share knowledge on green building certifications. Despite the rain, a good crowd gathered to discuss how best we could use current sustainable building standards - beyond Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) - in our state. Speakers Kim Ilardi from Whiting-Turner and Scott Kelly from Re:Vision Architecture, in their inimitable style, gave us a breakdown of the basics of three standards - Passive House, Living Building Challenge, and WELL - and how each of them could be applied to the work we are involved with every day.

So, what were the takeaways?

The Passive House standard is primarily focused on a super insulated envelope, sealed to perfection with well controlled fresh air intake and air quality. The intention is to create highly comfortable, low impact building envelopes that require little to no space heating or cooling.

The WELL Building standard focuses on the human occupants within and not just on the building envelope.  Rooted in medical science, the WELL standard approaches building design as it relates to the human body, its concepts relating to the use of air, water and materials in the building but also to the mind, movement, nourishment and community.

Living Building Challenge (LBC) takes the focus away from one aspect of a building and looks at designing the ideal  built environment. LBC uses a flower as a metaphor – implying that the ideal built environment could function as efficiently and beautifully as a flower.  The categories considered (appropriately called petals) are water, energy,  materials, health and happiness, equity, place, and beauty.

One cool thing I took away:

LBC, with its exceptionally high standards, has admittedly far fewer buildings certified than either Passive House or WELL. Understanding that it is so hard to achieve, and not wanting to discourage anyone from trying to attain this high standard, there is the option of aiming to be “LBC-ready”.

Beyond that, Scott Kelly encouraged us to think outside the box. If our clients don’t want the “certification” or to adhere to all aspected of a certification program, use the principles of these standards to build healthier, higher performing and better buildings.  

The best thing I heard:

Scott spoke of how, in the last ten years, none of his buildings have cost more to be at least 50% more efficient than code. That hit home and can give every firm something to strive towards.


We discussed ways in which we could look at implementing these standards in Delaware and ended a great evening with networking, and socializing, and idea sharing. Participants provided some great ideas for ways to incorporate what they've learned into their work and the state!

  • Advocate for energy efficiency, public transportation, renewable energy and suite of GHG-reducing programs and policies
  • Advocate for all new schools to be aligned with the WELL standard
  • Pick the right rating system
  • Bring the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon to Delaware
  • Create local clean charging stations for electric vehicles 
  • Use best managment practices as opposed to a rating systems motivate the client and prioritize sustainable design features


If you're interested in getting involved with Delaware Community of Green Building United, let us know! We need more folks to take part to meet the challenges ahead!

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