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LEED for Homes

What is LEED for Homes?

LEED for Homes is a measure of the performance of a home. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is based on multiple categories including:

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Each of these categories has a predetermined list of prerequisites that must be met and additional items with various levels of flexibility depending on the direction the project takes. Each item achieved gains points that once combined determine which certification level can be awarded. The four levels include: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

LEED for Homes includes new single family and qualifying multifamily housing construction and major remodels that qualify as a gut rehab. Gut Rehabs require that the exterior walls have either the siding or interior finish removed to expose the wall construction and insulation or lack of. The ceiling or roof also needs to be removed to reveal the hidden components. Affordable housing has the opportunity to receive grants.

The process begins with determining if your project meets the prerequisites set forth by LEED for Homes. You will then select and meet with a LEED for Homes Provider of your choice and set your goals including the level of certification you wish to achieve. At this point your project will be registered.

The next step leads to the integrated design process where your LEED for Homes certification goals will be cross examined with the site, budget, existing conditions and program. This is effectively done in a design charrette. The design charrette is full day workshop where the owner, the design team and consultants meet to develop a schematic design based on the design guidelines defined by LEED for Homes. The contractor may even attend this event. This process allows many ideas to be presented and accepted or rejected relatively quickly. The design charrette is a platform for clear open communication between all parties involved with the ultimate goal of a well designed healthy efficient home. Construction documents are drawn, a building permit is obtained and construction begins. The entire process is documented for verification.

Documentation and verification are critical to the LEED for Homes process. This is a time consuming task; you may wish have your design team complete this for you. Once the project and documentation is complete your Provider will submit your final LEED checklist to the USGBC for verification. Upon acceptance of the checklist the USGBC will award final certification.

Why choose LEED certification over other green homebuilding practices?
LEED for Homes requires third party inspection and verification. This practice ensures the systems are installed and function as intended by the design. Often times building systems are installed improperly; these systems may function, but not at their optimal capacity thus creating an economical impact to the homeowner and an unnecessary environmental impact on natural resources.

Examples of LEED for Homes techniques to help achieve the benefits of LEED
The economic, environmental, and health benefits are a direct result of controlled construction methods. The design of the home is important, but the execution through construction can undo what the design intended. Construction techniques are critical to the final efficiency of a home. It is common for contractors to build as they always have without third party inspection; without this verification there is no quantifiable method to determine if the construction techniques built an energy efficient home. It is important to have a team of professionals to guide this process effectively and efficiently.

What are the benefits of LEED homes?

Economic Benefits:

  • Construction costs should be comparable or less than conventional design.
  • Daily living requires less energy consumption and less demand on our natural resources.
  • Energy consumption can be reduced by an average of 30% over conventional construction.
  • Healthy indoor air quality can lead to less illness and more productivity and the potential to minimize childhood illness and serious illness due to extended exposure to chemicals.
  • Sustainable homes are gaining value in the real estate market.
  • An increase in demand for sustainable homes will demand more of manufacturers and product suppliers to be more efficient with their choice of materials and resources.
  • LEED encourages infill development which leads to neighborhood improvement and an increased sense of community. Local business will feed off this dynamic.
  • The return to compact and efficient design will leave more room for farming and natural open space for recreation.
  • Materials sourced from a 500mile radius or less will help support local business.

Environmental Benefits:

  • Managed construction materials will reduce construction waste, landfill waste, and unnecessary waste of natural resources.
  • An increase in the implementation of natural heating and cooling systems reduces the demand on natural resources.
  • The reduction in combustion of natural resources leads to cleaner air and less toxic emissions.
  • A decrease water usage will help to conserve this natural resource.
  • Materials sourced from a 500mile radius or less will reduce emissions produced from shipping.
  • Living in a compact efficient home encourages occupants to conserve more energy and resources.

Health Benefits:

  • Increased indoor air quality leads to healthy occupants.
  • Specific design criteria minimize the opportunity for mold, mildew and other indoor toxins.
  • Materials with low VOC content may help reduce allergy and asthma related illness.
  • Implementation of proper ventilation can lead to indoor air quality that is higher than outdoor air quality.

Useful websites:
www.usgbc.org
www.usgbc.org/LEED/homes 
www.greenhomeguide.org 
www.greenhomeguide.org/affordable

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