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What is the LEED Certification Process?

LEED for Homes Talking Points for Builders

Key messages

LEED for Homes is a voluntary third-party certification system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes.

  • LEED homes are safer, healthier, more comfortable and more durable
  • Green homes perform better than the average home. LEED-certified homes provide a healthy place to live, produce lower utility bills and have a smaller environmental footprint.

LEED certification is something that consumers can look for to identify homes that have been third-party inspected, performance-tested and certified as truly green homes that will perform better than conventional homes. Homebuilders using LEED are able to differentiate their homes as some of the best on the market.

Homebuilders work with local LEED for Homes Providers in their area to oversee performance testing and compliance with the rating system, and to:

  • Learn about the checklist and apply the rating system to the project
  • Complete the required HERS rating and onsite green inspections
  • Submit documentation to USGBC for certification.

Supporting messages

As a homebuilder, building a LEED certified home recognizes and celebrates leadership in high-quality homebuilding, and distinguishes their work from the vast market of new homes.

Working with the LEED rating system provides access to many resources, from Reference Guides to online and instructor-led workshops and courses.

Overall, the net costs of owning a green home is comparable to that of owning a conventional home – and is sometimes even less. Green homes save money compared to a conventional home by:

  • Using less energy – between 30% and 60% less in homes case studies
  • Using less water – in case studies, as high as 50% less
  • Using non-toxic building materials that lower exposure to mold and mildew, reducing healthcare costs
  • Making owners eligible for advantageous home financing options with some lenders
  • Lowering home insurance premiums

LEED-certified homes deliver:

  • Energy bill savings that have been reported as high as 60% in case studies.

o      According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the residential sector accounts for 21%, or 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

o      The energy efficiency ratings at the Carsten Crossings project in Rocklin, CA are 35% higher than California’s Title 24 standards require, contributing to the homes’ utilities savings of $1,400 per year.

o      The Panishes were able to make their home in Freeport, Maine 45% more energy efficient by implementing several strategies, including installing a 3-megawatt photovoltaic array on the roof; choosing Low-E, argon-filled windows that allow sun to enter in the winter; and installing high-efficiency appliances. As a result, energy bills have gone down and the home is cool in the summer and warm in the winters.

o      According to the 2005 Building Energy Data Book, energy usage in the home is comprised of:

o      Space Heating: 34%

o      Appliances & Light: 34%

o      Water Heating: 13%

o      Electric A/C: 11%

o      Refrigerator: 8%

  • Construction sites that proactively aim to reduce the waste sent to the landfill.

o      Construction wastes constitute about 40% of the total solid waste stream in the U.S.

o      Making good design decisions, particularly in the framing of homes, can significantly reduce associated waste.

o      Morrisania Homes in New York diverted 96% of its construction waste from landfills.

  • Cleaner, healthier air.

o      The levels of pollutants run 2 to 5 times higher — and occasionally more than 100 times — higher than outdoors (U.S. EPA).

o      Many of the pollutants found indoors can cause health reactions in the estimated 17 million Americans who suffer from asthma and 40 million who have allergies, contributing to millions of days absent from school and work (World Health Organization. Air Quality Guidelines for Europe, Second Edition).

o      Morrisania Homes were built without fireplaces and garages and used low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, cabinet finishes, sealants and adhesives to keep air quality high.

  • Reduced water usage that has ranged from 20-50% in case studies.

o      Landscape irrigation and other outdoor water usage accounts for 30% of the 26 billion gallons of water consumed in the U.S. (U.S. EPA, Office of Water. Water-Efficient Landscaping.)

o      In a typical home, savings of 30,000 gallons of water a year can result in average water utility savings of $100 annually.

o      Morrisania Homes were able to reduce their water usage by installing dual flush toilets, 2-gallon-per-minute shower heads and 1.5-gallon-per-minute sink faucets in all bathroom areas.

o      In Pasco, Washington, the Tepeyac Haven home was able to reduce water usage by designing smaller lawn areas, which reduces potable water consumption.

LEED defines green building: there are well over 540 certified homes and over 13,000 registered homes as part of the LEED for Homes program. 30 LEED for Homes Providers from all over the country are administering the LEED for Homes program at the local level.

LEED for Homes includes affordable housing, mass-production homes, custom designs, stand-along single-family homes, duplexes and townhouses, suburban low-rise apartments, urban high-rise apartments and condos, and lofts in historic areas. LEED for Homes may also be applicable to major home renovations.

LEED for Homes addresses the whole home through eight credit categories, including:

  • Innovative & Design
  • Location & Linkage
  • Sustainable Sites
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy & Atmosphere
  • Materials & Resources
  • Indoor Environmental Quality
  • Awareness & Education

According to the 2007 McGraw-Hill SmartMarket Report on Attitudes & Preferences for Remodeling and Buying Green Homes, the value of the “true” green home market was $2 billion in 2005. Given forecasts of the housing market and other trends, green homes are expected to be worth $60 billion by 2010, making up 10% of the overall housing market.

The built environment has a profound impact on our natural environment, economy, health and productivity. The average size of new homes has doubled in the past 50 years.

  • There are 120 million homes in the U.S., and 2 million new homes are constructed each year (U.S. DOE).
  • The residential sector accounts for 22% of total energy consumption and 74% of water usage

o      The average American consumers 5 times more energy than the average global citizen (U.S. DOE).

While the built environment is part of the problem, it is also part of the solution. Building green is a way to have an immediate and measurable impact on the health of the environment.