HBN Helps Guide New Green Communities Materials Criteria

HBN | January 2020 | Newsletter

New Enterprise Green Communities Criteria

Enterprise Community Partners has just released the next generation of their Green Communities Criteria. The only national green building standard designed specifically for affordable housing projects, the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria has a major impact on how affordable housing properties are constructed.1 The Criteria is integrated into the funding process for affordable housing projects in 28 states and dozens of cities.2 Since first launched in 2004, the Criteria has “impacted more than 130,000 units across 43 states and the District of Columbia.”3

The Enterprise Green Communities 2020 Criteria covers eight categories: Integrative Design; Location + Neighborhood Fabric; Site Improvement; Water; Operating Energy; Materials; Healthy Living Environment; and Operations, Maintenance, + Resident Engagement, each with mandatory and optional criteria. The 2020 Criteria are now available for projects to use and will be the mandatory version for projects started after October 2020.  

Raising the Bar on Material Health 

Healthy Building Network (HBN) has a rich history of lending our expertise to standard development efforts. The greatest compliment to our work is when it is adopted by organizations and individuals into their own thinking on material health. As with the new LEED Safe & Circular credit discussed here, HBN is proud to have contributed to the development and evolution of the Green Communities Criteria for 2011, 2015, and now, 2020. 

HBN participated in the 2020 Criteria Technical Working Group and Advisory Group, providing extensive recommendations and guidance on the Materials category. Krista Egger, senior director of initiatives at Enterprise Community Partners, acknowledged HBN’s contribution, saying, "Significant improvements were made to the Materials section of the Green Communities standard thanks to the leadership of HBN." These improvements include:

  • A new criterion for ingredient transparency, rewarding the use of products that publicly disclose product content,
  • A modified recycled content criterion that encourages the use of recycled content while raising awareness about the potential for hazardous contaminants in recycling streams and requiring certain disclosure or screening,
  • A new criterion for chemical hazard optimization, rewarding products at various stages in the optimization process that have been verified to have relatively low levels of hazardous content, and
  • An expanded chemical avoidance criterion to include several new mandatory and optional chemical avoidance criteria.

Many of HBN’s resources are incorporated as references throughout the Materials category, including HomeFree recommendations and education, our Optimizing Recycling series of reports, the Making Affordable Multifamily Housing More Energy Efficient report, and Pharos compound groups. 

The HomeFree Campus online courses include descriptions of how the HomeFree guidance can help you meet the 2015 Green Communities Criteria. Be on the lookout for updates on the 2020 Criteria in the coming months.

A Bright Future

As we reach the end of January, and some New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside, the resolution for healthier materials in affordable housing shines on. The updated Green Communities Criteria help to raise the bar on the minimum requirements for healthier materials in affordable housing projects across the country. They also highlight significant opportunities for pushing even further. Reflecting on the criteria updates, HBN is inspired both by the real progress made thus far and by the promise of an even better future. The new criteria would not have been readily achievable just five years ago. This progress is a testament to the engagement of so many, including manufacturers and consumers of building materials, in a shared vision of more transparent, healthier materials - not just for some, but for all. Just imagine what we can accomplish in the next five years. The future is indeed bright.




[1] “Next Generation of Enterprise Green Communities Criteria Will Deepen Commitment to Health and Equity.” Enterprise, September 7, 2018. https://www.enterprisecommunity.org/news-and-events/news-releases/green-communities-criteria-update-deepens-commitment-health-equity.
[2] “2015 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria Highlights.” Accessed December 16, 2019. https://www.enterprisecommunity.org/sites/default/files/media-library/solutions-and-innovation/green/2015-criteria-highlights.pdf.; “2020 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria Open for Comment.” National Housing & Rehabilitation Association, August 14, 2019. https://www.housingonline.com/2019/08/14/2020-enterprise-green-communities-criteria-open-for-comment/.
[3] “2020 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria Open for Comment.” National Housing & Rehabilitation Association, August 14, 2019. https://www.housingonline.com/2019/08/14/2020-enterprise-green-communities-criteria-open-for-comment/.