You may have heard of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a third-party green building certification system established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). But you probably assumed that it applies only to large scale building projects such as museums or office buildings. However, the USGBC has also developed a green certification system for homes.
LEED for New Homes
Like the rating systems established for commercial and retail buildings, among other types, LEED for Homes requires a registration fee and adherence to guidelines governing energy and water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, site selection and development, materials selection and design innovation. Eligible projects include new single- and multi-family homes as well as extensive renovations that involve demolition down to the studs on at least one side of each exterior wall. The design and construction process must be overseen by a LEED for Homes Provider, who verifies that the project meets these rigorous guidelines.
Obviously, you may not want to undertake the design and certification process on your own. If you are interested in building a green home or are in the market to purchase one, consider working with an architect, contractor or realtor who specializes in LEED certified homes.
But what does LEED means for your existing house?
LEED-Worthy Remodeling Resources
According to the USGBC, "Americans spend about $200 billion a year remodeling their homes." If you're only making small-scale renovations, LEED certification is not a viable option. You can, however, borrow from its compendium of green building strategies to make your home LEED-worthy, and the USGBC has provided two websites to help you begin.
USGBC's Green Home Guide
Learn the basics of green home remodeling with the Green Home Guide. "Greening" your home can be as simple as choosing a low flow toilet, low VOC paint or replacing that bulky water heater with a sleek and efficient tankless version. However, some remodeling projects are challenging even for do-it-yourself gurus, especially if you're unfamiliar with green building techniques. This site allows you to ask a pro your most pressing green remodeling questions or enlist hands-on help by searching for green home professionals in your area.
The USGBC, in conjunction with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), has launched the residential remolding program REGREEN. The website provides case studies for green remodeling projects, interactive tools and basic guidelines written with the layman in mind. View green building strategies for a variety of project types, from full home remodels to specific room renovations, such as kitchens and baths, or targeted efforts like home weatherization. Test out the REGREEN Strategy Generator, a widget that delivers tailored tactics for your green remodeling project. For example, if you enter the parameters "bathroom" and "water efficiency," the widget might suggest the installation of faucet aerators and low-water-use showerheads.
Green Home = More Green for You
The acronyms and regulations involved in LEED certification might seem intimidating and expensive, but USGBC's resources will guide you through the process and help you stay within your budget. In the long run, green homeowners save on energy and water bills, avoid allergy and mold-related health problems and potentially qualify for lower insurance rates and government incentives. As more people become eco-conscious, LEED certification or meeting its equivalent may even increase your home's resale value, and it certainly contributes to your peace of mind.
USGBC: LEED for Homes