LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally-recognized green building rating system based on standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
The LEED system is voluntary and offers homebuyers third-party verification that a home is sustainable, water efficient, and energy-saving; is designed to conserve construction materials and reduce pollution; and has clean indoor air.
Homes that are candidates for LEED accreditation are rated on a 100-point scale. The home must satisfy all minimum requirements and earn a minimum number of total points. Key areas of evaluation include:
- Sustainability of Building Site. The home’s impact on ecosystems and waterways must be minimized, as must erosion, light pollution, and construction-related pollution.
- Water Efficiency. The home must have water-efficient appliances and fixtures and regionally appropriate landscaping.
- Energy and Atmosphere. The home must have energy-efficient design, appliances, systems, and lighting. More points are awarded for use of clean and renewable energy and other innovative strategies.
- Materials and Resources. The home must use sustainable materials, and construction and operating waste must be minimized.
- Indoor Environmental Quality. The home must have high indoor air quality, good indoor acoustics, and access to natural daylight and views.
- Locations and Linkages. The LEED standard promotes building in previously-developed, “infill”, or “brownfield” sites and away from undeveloped and/or environmentally-sensitive sites. Points are also awarded for building near existing retail and transit infrastructure and outdoor recreation areas.
- Awareness and Education. Home builders are encouraged to teach new homeowners about the green features of their home so that they can be maximally utilized.
- Innovation in Design. Points are awarded for home design that is innovative and goes “above and beyond” existing LEED requirements, and for including a LEED certified professional on the design team.
- Regional Priority. Bonus points are awarded for taking into account the regional environmental concerns that have been identified by USGBC’s regional councils.
LEED accreditation doesn’t just make sense from an environmental standpoint. It also makes good financial sense:
- LEED accreditation offers great ROI for new construction – some studies have shown that an upfront investment of 2% in green building design can result in long term savings of 20% on total construction costs.
- LEED-certified homes generally have lower operating costs.
- LEED-certified homes are more attractive to buyers and renters (according to studies, commercial LEED-certified buildings have higher occupancy rates, higher rent-per-square foot, and higher per-square-foot sale prices than comparable non-LEED buildings).
- LEED certification may provide some protection against indoor air quality lawsuits.
LEED accreditation can only be granted to new construction or major remodeling projects. To apply for LEED accreditation, contact a LEED for Homes Provider organization in your area. The LEED for Homes Provider organization will work with your builder to ensure that your home qualifies and will guide you through the accreditation process.