What is LEED for Homes, and How can I get involved?

Posted by Steve Kleber on Oct 22, 2009

Welcome to the Kleber & Associates blog! What is LEED for Homes, and How can I get involved? Here’s the latest.


With the increasing popularity and new mandates for green architecture and interior design, reliable third-party rating systems ensure that there is a consistent and quantifiable measure for what constitutes a ‘green home’ for both homebuilders and home buyers.  LEED for Home is a voluntary rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to promote the design and construction of high-performance green homes. Applicable dwellings include affordable housing, mass-production homes, custom designs, stand-alone single-family homes, duplexes and townhouses, suburban and urban apartments and condominiums and lofts in historic buildings. A LEED certified green home is healthy and comfortable for its occupants, durable, energy efficient and environmentally-responsible.

With 136 total points available, entry into LEED for Home certification begins at 45 points with the Certified level. Silver, Gold and Platinum are the additional performance tiers.

Categories for Points/Products
The rating system for LEED for Home is divided into eight different categories to include:

  1. Innovation & Design Process – Innovative design strategies and techniques take long-term durability into account as well as performance and regional best-practices that are beneficial to the environment and human health.
  2. Location & Linkages – The chosen home site efficiently reduces the acreage utilized and should encroach minimally upon farmland, forests or other natural areas. Infrastructure such as roads, water and power lines is minimized, and sustainable transportation methods such as walking and cycling are encouraged and easy to use.
  3. Sustainable Sites – The home is integrated into the site in a manner that minimizes the long-term impact on the local and regional ecosystems. Normal rainfall should not cause soil erosion, and landscaping should contribute to aesthetics of the site without the burden of excessive watering or harmful pest control.
  4. Water Efficiency – The home will include methods to reduce water use and/or the reuse of water through rainwater harvesting or gray water plumbing systems.
  5. Energy & Atmosphere – Put simply, the home uses less electricity and produces less CO2 emissions.
  6. Materials & Resources – Responsible choices for sustainable building materials include reclaimed, recycled-content, local, third-party certified and low-emitting materials. Waste management at the job site also contributes to this credit.
  7. Indoor Environmental Quality – Paints, furniture and other materials are evaluated to ensure that harmful chemical compounds are not used in the building or furnishing. Air-handling systems circulate pollutants out of the home and use fresh outside air to ventilate the home.
  8. Awareness & Education – The home buyer, tenants or building managers are educated about the features of their new home and the maintenance necessary to keep it operating efficiently for years to come.

Household products, materials and appliances are not actually LEED certified, but they can “contribute” to the LEED points that are awarded to a building or home that leads to a LEED certification of Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. Using native plants, environmentally-preferable building products, 3 Star energy-rated appliances, diversion of waste from the construction site, and even opening the home to a green home tour upon completion are just a few examples.

Benefits
There are currently more than 2,500 LEED certified homes. A LEED certified home is a more efficient and healthier environment in which to live – for the human health of the occupants and for the environment. Energy efficiency and long-term durability are also added benefits. The money spent to build a green home, which does not have to be an excessive investment over a traditional home, will pay off in the cost savings from water and electricity bills. There are also incentives available to the owners of green homes from many local and state governments, utility companies and other entities offering rebates and tax breaks.

Builders of LEED certified homes will experience greater customer satisfaction among their clients and fewer call-backs for repairs. Fulfilled homeowners provide word-of-mouth advertising and referrals for more business. Pursuing green building practices during a tough housing market can only benefit builders as they try to differentiate themselves professionally to retain and attract business.

To date, there are 36 organizations in the United States that are known as LEED for Homes Providers. They work with potential LEED certified projects and all parties involved to ensure that the homes are built to the standards of the LEED for Homes certification program. Builders interested in participating in this certification program should contact the organization closest to their geographical area.

Architects and designers can become LEED for Homes Accredited Professionals through the USGBC provided curriculum and testing to demonstrate that they have a thorough knowledge of green home building practices and principles. Having this accreditation also allows architects and designers to market themselves as ‘experts’ and provide services to an increasing environmentally-conscious population.

For more information about the LEED for Home rating system, visit http://www.usgbc.org or http://www.greenhomeguide.org.

This entry was posted by Steve Kleber on Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 at 3:44 pm and is filed under Green Initiatives, Home Building & Design, Housing Market. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

No Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. DJ Lein says:

    Great writeup, Steve! I like the detail on the 8 categories for points.

    In your opinion, who benefits most from LEED for Homes: home builders or buyers?

    As a side note, we did a similar LEED for Homes summary last month at http://www.timberlake.com/green/leed-for-homes.asp.

    Keep putting out the good content!

    DJ Lein
    Timberlake Cabinetry
    http://twitter.com/timberlake

  2. Steve Kleber says:

    DJ: I believe that homeowners benefit the most from the LEED for Home program. A LEED certified home allows a homeowner to reside in a healthier living environment and experience measurable energy savings. A home should be a haven from everyday stresses, and having a home with even greater benefits for its occupants and the environment is an added bonus.

    However, builders should take advantage of this growing market by connecting with a local LEED for Homes Provider or USGBC chapter for more information. Being a knowledgeable advocate for clients and the environment will be crucial for builders in the years to come.