LEED for Homes is a rating initiative created by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) to help transform residential buildings into sustainable homes.
The USGBC is a non-profit organization with the goal of transforming the built environment within a generation.
USGBC developed the LEED program, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, to rate buildings for their incorporation of sustainable building features not only in their design, but also in the construction and operation of the home.
The building must meet a minimum standard to carry the LEED certification, but if they incorporate more sustainable features than the minimum required, they may earn a higher rating of silver, gold or platinum.
For a building to gain LEED certification, it must undergo a strict review process and be verified by an independent third-party inspector. The thorough certification process ensures that the LEED for Homes certification is not simply a green washing marketing technique, but a reliable standard that ensures you are purchasing a building that has met rigorous sustainability standards.
The eight categories LEED covers:
The sustainability standards consider everything from the initial design of the home, through the construction, and finally through to the operation of the home. There are eight categories that the home is rated against:
- Innovation and Design – This considers special design methods that have made the most of green innovations. If you are considering building your own sustainable home and might be interested in LEED certification, start communications with a LEED rater early in the design process.
- Location and Linkages – This category takes into account where the home is built in relation to the larger community. Proximity to work, public transit, grocery stores, and green spaces is taken into consideration. The closer you are to amenities, the easier it is to maintain a healthier and more environmentally friendly lifestyle. There are also standards in this category that ensure homes are not built in endangered species habitats or other sensitive ecosystems.
- Sustainable Sites – This category minimizes the impact of the building on the site and encourages natural landscape design.
- Water Efficiency- Standards in this category seek to reduce water use inside and outside the home. Rain water collection, grey water systems, and low water use fixtures are all taken into consideration.
- Energy & Atmosphere– This category looks at the energy efficiency of the home including the use of renewable energy, reduction of energy loss, and reduced production of greenhouse gases.
- Materials & Resources – With the construction of the home, this category considers the efficient use of materials, the incorporation of environmentally sustainable materials, and the waste produced during construction.
- Indoor Environmental Quality – A sustainable building doesn’t just have to be friendly to the environment, it needs to also be a healthy living environment. This category considers this by rating the indoor air quality and exposure to pollutants. This includes things like the proper venting of appliances and the installation of carbon monoxide monitors.
- Awareness and Education – This final category gives value to the fact that with every sustainable building there should be proper awareness and education about how to maintain the home and achieve the most efficiency out of your green design. This would include the development of a manual, just as you would receive with a new car, as well as walk-through training on how to use the green features of the home.
For an example of a LEED certified home, have a look at this video that tours the first Platinum level certified LEED home in Arlington, Virginia. It shows that being green and sustainable doesn’t mean you have to compromise quality and comfort. In fact, quite the opposite I would say.
If you are interested in building your own sustainable home, consider applying for LEED certification as this accreditation may help in the resale of your home in the future. The USGBC highly recommends getting LEED raters involved as early in the design process as possible. You can find out more about this on their website here.
If you aren’t building yourself, but you are in the market for a new home and you are interested in reducing your energy bills and your ecological footprint, consider looking for the LEED for Homes logo. It is assurance that the building has been rigorously assessed for its sustainable design, construction and maintenance.