In a white paper released last week, Michelle Kaufmann Designs, a California-based firm, laid out the case for a “sustainability” labeling system for houses that mimics the labeling system for packaged food. Just as nutritional labels have changed the way consumers perceive and buy food, housing labels would heighten homebuyers’ awareness of electricity use, carbon emissions, and insulation efficiency, among other factors, argues Michelle Kaufmann, AIA, known for her line of eco-friendly modular homes. “We must begin holding the houses in which we live to the same standards as the food we consume,” she says, “since our habits concerning both are vital to the well-being of the environment, as well as our own physical well-being.”

The proposed labels would make it easy for consumers to evaluate a house’s sustainable features and long-term costs, Kaufmann says, noting that the proliferation of green labels and classifications in the construction industry make it difficult for homebuyers to compare benefits between two green dwellings.

In regards to the U.S Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes program, launched in 2007, Kaufmann says “it is vitally important to the green residential building industry and will one day be recognized by all Americans as the hallmark of a truly green home.” Her labeling system could “hasten that day by noting the distinction of LEED certification on a house’s label if it has earned it.”  Kaufmann further cites that the LEED program targets only “the top 25 percent of new homes with best practice environmental features.” She emphasizes that her labels would cover all homes.

For more information, read Kaufmann’s white paper.