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LEED for Homes - U.S. Green Building Council

The Green Building Council has created a set of standards for sustainable buildings. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is intended to encourage adoption of sustainable green building practices through the use of universally understood performance criteria. Their goal is to make LEED the primary standard in this area.

LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health.  There is a rating scale in each area and points are assigned to the building in each category. The overall score determines the LEED rating of either Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum.

The LEED Green Building Rating Systems are consensus-based, market-driven programs that are intended to be voluntary.  LEED is a whole building rating system, looking at the environmental impacts of the building from design through occupancy.  There are five main categories to the LEED  rating system and they include;

  • Sustainable Sites
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy & Atmosphere
  • Materials & Resources
  • Indoor Environmental Air Quality

LEED for Homes has added two additional categories, Locations & Linkages and Awareness & Education.  LEED for Homes is geared toward single-family homes, low-rise residential, production homes, affordable homes, manufactured & modular homes as well as major (gut) rehab projects on existing homes.

A building must meet certain prerequisites in each of these categories to earn points in each category.  Once all of the prerequisites have been achieved, the total number of credits earned determines if a building is LEED certified and at what rating.  There are four levels of certification, each signifying a higher level of sustainable design; certified, silver, gold and platinum. 

A special addition to the LEED for Homes standard is an adjustment based on home size.  A neutral size has been determined by the USGBC (900 sq. ft. for 1 bedroom and ~ 500 sq ft per additional bedroom).  As the size of the house goes over or under this size, the threshold for achieving a given certification level will increase of decrease. This is the means by which the USGBC hopes to influence the building industry to build smaller, more sustainable homes.

The process by which a home achieves the LEED for Homes certification level is a tiered process.  While the contractor/builder is responsible for the proper installation and construction of all green features and measures, it is the responsibility of the LEED for Homes Provider and Green Rater (third-party verification) to determine the home's compliance with any given prerequisites or credit.  After construction has been completed, the Provider and Green Rater will determine if the home achieves LEED standards and to which level.  After review by USGBC, the home is granted LEED certification and can be marketed as a LEED certified home.

As with any green building initiative that a homeowner chooses to accomplish, LEED for Homes is not without its costs.  For starters, registering and certifying a home costs from $375-525 depending on the whether the contractor is a member of the USGBC.  In addition, a homeowner may run into extra costs regarding material choices, appliances, finishes and in rare cases, specialized installers.  This cost increase may seem daunting at first but the reduction in operating cost over time, will pay back the extra costs of construction.  There are also up-front cost saving that are often overlooked.  For example, a more efficient home with proper insulation and air infiltration measures in place will require a smaller HVAC system, saving money on what is normally a big ticket item. 

To participate in LEED for Homes, you have a few avenues.  The first is to contact an experienced builder who has completed a sustainable or LEED home in the past.  If the builder is not a participant in the LEED for Homes program, they can contact the LEED for Homes Provider that is geographically closest to them.  The link to the provider locater can be found in the resources section.  Another route is to contact the LEED for Homes provider directly to find a local builder who is familiar with the program or has experience in the industry.

As has already happened with the LEED Green Building Rating Systems, it can be expected that LEED for Homes will grow and mature as the times change and the trends in the building industry become more commonplace.  At this point, LEED focuses on reducing the use of energy through efficiency and waste reduction.  There are measures addressing sustainable energy and in the future, these should play a much larger role in the LEED standards.

 

Resources

United States Green Building Council - http://www.usgbc.org

LEED for Homes Main Site - http://www.usgbc.org/leed/homes

LEED for Homes Rating System (pdf) - http://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=3638

Green Home Guide from the USGBC - http://www.greenhomeguide.org

LEED for Homes Provider Locater - http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=1554

LEED for Homes Fact Sheet - http://www.morrconstruction.com/downloads/leed/facts.pdf

Canadian Green Building Council w/ programs based on and linked to USGBC - http://www.cagbc.org

LEED for Homes Project Profiles - http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=1721#homes

 
  
 
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