Standards and Rating Systems

 

The terms “codes” and “standards” are often used interchangeably, however there is a distinct difference. Codes generally refer to the building regulations and laws adopted by a jurisdiction; i.e., what must be done, such as homes must have indoor plumbing with a working toilet (see separate section on codes). Standards provide guidance and set the bar for how codes should be implemented (for example, toilet flush rates should be no more than 1.6 gallons/flush). Frequently, standards inform or serve as the future generation of building code regulations. Rating systems are most often just that: a way to rate or determine how well a building performs based on myriad criteria. Evidenced-based standards for healthy housing, such as the National Healthy Housing Standard, can help guide codes, repairs, home assessments, and more.

National Healthy Housing Standard 
These science-based minimum performance standards for safe and healthy homes feature healthy home standards in seven key categories, with explanations for each provision about its public health rationale. The Standard integrates public health information into housing code parlance and is a tool for property owners, elected officials, code staff, and anyone concerned about housing’s interaction with health. [url; NCHH]

HUD Housing Quality Standards (HQS) 
The HQS identifies the basic standards units must meet before assistance is paid on behalf of a family using housing choice vouchers (HCV), also known as Section 8 vouchers, and establishes the minimum criteria for the health and safety of program participants. Regulations cover housing quality for both single- and multifamily housing as well as specific requirements for housing types, such as manufactured homes, congregate housing, single-room occupancy, shared housing, and group residences. HUD is developing a new inspection standard for the housing choice voucher (HCV) program; see information on UPCS-V below. [url; HUD]

HUD Healthy Home Rating System (HHRS)
The HHRS is a method of evaluating risks from conditions within the home. It rates hazards according to their potential to harm residents and their level of seriousness. It also addresses the housing structure and associated outbuildings; garden, yard, and/or other amenity space(s); and means of access. A comparison of risks associated with various hazards is also provided. [url; HUD]

Enterprise Green Communities (EGC)
Enterprise Community Partners is a national intermediary supporting preservation and development of affordable housing. This document provides an overview of the technical requirements found in the Enterprise Green Communities (EGC) Criteria, which is specifically geared toward affordable housing development and rehabilitation with an emphasis on health. [url, pdf; Enterprise Community Partners]

EPA Indoor Air Plus
This voluntary labeling program, designed to improve indoor air quality, builds on the foundation of EPA and DOE’s Energy Star new homes requirements, specifying construction practices and products to minimize exposure to airborne pollutants and contaminants. The specifications address moisture control through HVAC (heating, ventilating and air-conditioning) and combustion-venting systems, as well as radon-resistant construction and low-VOC-emitting building materials. [url; EPA]

U.S. Green Building Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
This page details information on U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED Homes V4, including specific healthy home requirements, such as indoor air quality provisions. It also offers guidance to jurisdictions about how to build better codes and provides a large Green Building Codes Resource Center with information about where and how green codes are adopted. [url; USGBC]

Additional Resources

Building Healthy Places Initiative
The Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Building Healthy Places Initiative helps make the link between human health and development. The site provides evidence-supported opportunities to enhance health outcomes in real estate developments. [url; Urban Land Institute]