If you are interested in building a high performance green home you are in the right place for two reasons.
- LEED for Homes is the gold standard for the design and construction of green residential structures.
- The first step in the LEED for Homes process is selecting a LEED Green Rater to partner with, and EAM Associates has the credentials and experience to take you all the way through from registration to certification.
Continue reading below for an outline of the LEED for Homes process or contact us for a consultation today!
What is LEED for Homes?
More than a decade ago the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) saw the need to transform the way we build, buy, and sell buildings. To that end, with the help of countless industry professionals they began formulating and implementing the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Rating Systems. Over the years they have been tested and refined through the construction of thousands of LEED projects around the world, and because in all our lives there is perhaps no building more important, the home has a rating system all its own. LEED for Homes is the green building rating system specifically designed to make your home the best it can be for you and yours.
Is My Project Eligible to Participate in LEED for Homes?
The vast majority of newly constructed homes fit into the scope of LEED for Homes. Below is a list of the most common construction types addressed by the rating system:
- Single Family Homes
- Low-Rise Multi-family (up to 3 stories)
- Production Homes
- Affordable Homes (either single or multi-family)
- Manufactured and Modular Homes
I addition to the construction types covered above the LEED for Homes system can also accommodate two other special cases:
- Existing Homes*
- Mid-Rise Multi-family**
*Major “gut” rehab projects can participate. In order to qualify the work scope must include completely stripping away the materials on at least one side of all exterior walls and ceilings.
**Multi-family buildings over 3 stories can participate in LEED for Homes through the LEED for Homes Mid-Rise Program. This special rating system addresses buildings with 4-6 above grade occupiable stories. Mixed-use buildings can participate, but must be at least 50% residential space in order to qualify.
Why Should I Want My Home to be a LEED Home?
As a new homeowner you have the option to build to code, or go beyond it. In making that decision it might be helpful to think about the code home in a way you might not have before. A code home is quite simply the lowest standard to which your local government will legally allow you to build, and programs like LEED for Homes would not even exist if building codes truly represented what today’s construction professionals can produce given the opportunity. You and your family will spend a lot of time in your new home so no aspect of its design is insignificant.
- Save money through lower energy and water bills.
- Have less impact on your community both during and after construction.
- Create a healthier more comfortable indoor environment for you and your family.
- Are being embraced by the real estate market through higher and faster re-sales.
- Command trust throughout the industry because their performance is third-party tested and verified.
How does LEED for Homes accomplish all this?
The rating system breaks the certification of the home down into 8 credit categories. Each category deals with one facet of the home’s design development & construction, however many opportunities for synergy exist between the categories and credits.
Innovation & Design
- Encourages an integrated approach to project planning and design in order to improve the coordination and integration of the various elements in a green home.
- Requires the assessment and mitigation of durability risks; because a home cannot be truly green if it does not last.
- Rewards innovative and region specific strategies that demonstrate benefits beyond the LEED for Homes Rating System.
Location & Linkages
- Promotes environmentally responsible land-use patterns and neighborhoods through assessment of the site location.
- By building within or near existing development the home does not contribute to the continued fragmentation of farmland and other natural spaces.
- Benefits to the homeowner include; less required infrastructure (i.e. roads, water, sewer, and utility lines), access to open spaces, nearby community resources, and convenient public transit options.
- While the built environment typically receives the bulk of attention during the construction of a home; the design of the site and its natural elements can have a significant impact on both the local environment and homeowner’s eventual enjoyment of their new home.
- Promotes responsible integration of the home into the site; benefitting the environment and homeowner through reductions in resource demand (water, chemicals, pesticides), heat island effects, pest problems, and stormwater run-off.
- Encourages thoughtful selection of plant species, and proper overall landscaping design. For the homeowner this results in an outdoor environment that is attractive, easy to maintain, and contributes to the health of local and regional habitats.
- Clean water is a finite and costly resource which this credit category seeks to conserve for the homeowner and the larger community by rewarding various strategies under the two main avenues to water efficiency.
- Water Reuse: rainwater harvesting systems, graywater reuse systems, and municipal recycled water systems can all drastically reduce a homes need for fresh potable water.
- Water Demand Reduction: high efficiency irrigation systems and indoor fixtures & fittings minimize water use while providing the homeowner with a better end-use experience through enhanced design and proper equipment selection.
Energy & Atmosphere
- While all the credit categories are important, it is the EA section that contains the most available points. This is not an arbitrary selection however, but one which reflects the substantial impact these components have on the performance of the home.
- Addresses the areas of the home which have the greatest effect on utility bills, the quality of the indoor living experience, and which are in general are the root cause of most homeowner complaints in poorly constructed homes.
- Air Infiltration
- Heating & Cooling Systems
- Water Heating
- Renewable Energy
Builders and homeowners can choose to follow either the Prescriptive or Performance Path for the EA section. In the Prescriptive Path the components above are addressed individually, and are required to meet certain predetermined standards. When utilizing the Performance Path, EAM as a qualified HERS Provider (Home Energy Rating System) will create an energy model of your exact home. Using this model and our experience we will then bring the design up to the proven performance level of an EPA Energy Star Home, and if you so choose well beyond it. While both paths can lead to eventual LEED certification, the Performance Path offers builders and homeowners more flexibility in the design process, and maximizes the value of having EAM on your LEED for Homes team.
Materials & Resources
- The construction of a new home has long been the least green activity a typical person was like to engage in. Home site development and building raw material extraction alter natural landscapes, and make use of finite resources. Building raw materials must be processed and transported, often involving the production of pollutants and useless waste by-products. Construction and demolition wastes produced at the home site itself account for approximately 40% on the total solid waste stream in the United States.
- The rating system encourages good design decisions and waste management practices. When implemented properly these lead to the reduced impact of materials at both ends of the construction process. Fewer materials purchased and/or disposed of means resources and natural spaces will be conserved for future use, and construction costs kept to only what is actually required.
- Promotes the use of environmentally preferable products. In support of the green building movement, manufacturers of construction materials are producing an array of outstanding products that will not only contribute to the “greening” of your new home, but to its aesthetics and performance as well. These days green products generally cost the same or less when compared to traditional materials. They often work better, last longer, and can be even more visually appealing.
Indoor Environmental Quality
- Along with the EA section this area of LEED for Homes deals with the issues which are vital to a comfortable and healthy indoor living experience for you and your family. Why is this so important? Because of the simple and inescapable fact that people spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, where levels of pollutants can run anywhere from two to 100 times higher than outdoors according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Homeowners are just now discovering what scientific researchers have long suspected; there is a direct link between the quality of our indoor environments and illnesses like allergies and asthma.
- The rating system provides for a healthy indoor experience by utilizing a three pronged approach of source removal, source control, and dilution. Installation of known sources of contaminants such as unvented combustion appliances is forbidden. Naturally occurring but hazardous materials like radon are mitigated, and the home is designed with proper fresh air ventilation and exhaust systems. Finally because it is impossible to keep all pollutants out of the home, the rating system ensures a high level of indoor air quality through proper balancing and filtering of the HVAC system.
Awareness & Education
- Because the environmental impact of a home does not stop when construction is completed, the homeowner plays a major role in the continued functionality of the LEED Home. Their habits and activities are important not only for continued minimal impact to the environment, but also so that their LEED Home performs year after year at the high level to which they have become accustomed.
- This credit category promotes awareness among homebuyers and tenants that LEED Homes need to be maintained and operated differently than standard homes.
- Requires training of the homeowner at handover from the builder, and generation of a LEED Home Operations & Maintenance Guide for the homeowner’s future reference.
Is LEED for Homes really complicated? Does it cost a lot more than building a standard home?
Prospective homeowners today have a great advantage when it comes to the design and construction of a LEED Home. While you will still be building a cutting edge home, you get the benefit of all the thousands of LEED Homes that have already been built across the country. Green materials used to cost more because there were few options, and development costs were high. In the beginning contractors may have charged premiums to work on LEED Homes because they were unsure of the process, and what was expected of them. These days green materials are the norm, and more and more contractors understand that building green isn’t so hard. Yes there are some forms to be filled out, checklists that have to be completed. These tasks are not just busy work however, each part of the process is there to further the goal at the heart of the LEED for Homes process; to get home owners, designers, and construction professionals to really THINK about the home building process in a way the code construction process simply doesn’t.
If by now you’re sure that a LEED Home is the home for you, contact EAM Associates and our experienced LEED staff will get you started today!
Still unsure? Have some questions? Give us a call, and we’ll make sure you have all the information you need to decide. There’s no charge for initial project consultations.