How does LEED for Homes work?
The LEED rating system promotes sustainability in all aspects of the building process by measuring the performance of a home. LEED takes into consideration the following environmental categories:
1. Innovation and Design – LEED encourages attention to sustainable home design and performance shown to produce quantifiable human and health benefits and improve long term durability.
2. Locations and Linkages – Credits in this category are awarded for sustainable land-use, which includes: minimizing forest and farmland fragmentation, constructing with a need for fewer infrastructures, and discouraging dependence on personal automobiles.
3. Sustainable Sites – This category supports responsible site design. Points are given for erosion control, minimized soil disturbance, native landscaping, surface water management, and pest control.
4. Water Efficiency – LEED promotes the installation of water efficiency measures in new homes, which can reduce water usage by at least 30%. This can be done through water reuse, attention to irrigation systems, and the use of low flow, high efficiency fixtures.
5. Energy and Atmosphere – This category aims to minimize energy use in the home and emission release into the air. This is done by encouraging builders to improve the energy performance of their homes and to invest in energy-saving and climate friendly technologies.
6. Materials and Resources – Building material choice affects the environmental footprint of a home due to the extraction, processing, transportation, and disposal that they require. This category directs builders in the selection of environmentally-preferable materials, utilizing material-efficient framing, and responsible waste management.
7. Indoor Environmental Quality – LEED strategies aim to prevent indoor air quality problems from arising and improve the air quality and comfort of the homes they build. This is done through source removal, source control, and dilution. It is generally much less expensive to take this approach than to identify and solve them after they occur.
8. Awareness and Education – Green construction training of homebuyers, building managers, tenants, and the public body is a necessary component to ensure that the full benefits of LEED measures are achieved.
What Are Some of the Features and Benefits of a LEED Certified Home?
Durability – The LEED for Homes program requires that durability strategies are a key focus during the design process, and ensures that the builder follows through with the durability plan. The program encourages the selection of highly durable materials and highlights the importance of design details that limit the intrusion of water and other damaging conditions.
Indoor Air Quality – The program ensures that your home has dramatically improved indoor air quality. Almost all outside air introduced into the home will first be filtered, which removes dirt, pollen, dust and other contaminants. Your home is safer, as the chance for mold growth is greatly reduced. The program also encourages materials that are low in volatile organic compounds, which can be harmful to your health.
A home that has good indoor air quality is also more comfortable – homes following the LEED standard are well insulated and air sealed. This provides many benefits including ensuring that there are no cold spots in home, the air is fresh and filtered, and the home is insulated from exterior noise. Homes that are LEED certified have closely controlled heating, cooling and humidity, and there are little unwanted temperature variations from one space to another. HVAC supplies and returns are required in all bedrooms, ensuring proper air flow and ventilation.
Sustainability – LEED for Homes ensures that sustainability of materials is taken into consideration when purchasing decisions are being made. The process provides a tracking mechanism for sustainable features such as rapidly renewable or recycled materials. And finally, LEED for Homes gives owners assurance that the sustainable features were installed.
Water Efficiency – Homes certified under LEED use less water. Plumbing fixtures and appliances are verified to be water efficient, saving you money and reducing use of this precious resource.
Quality Control – A key component of the LEED for Homes program is rigorous third-party verification and documentation. Each LEED home undergoes multiple on-site inspections and thorough performance testing to ensure the home’s envelope and mechanical systems are properly installed. The project’s Green Rater also reviews all documentation, and provides critical feedback to the design and building teams.
Energy Efficiency – Energy modeling is used extensively to evaluate the effectiveness of potential improvements, and balance them to provide the most value for the dollar. A detailed energy model is critical to ensuring your HVAC system is properly sized. The program provides third-party insurance that the home will realize significant energy savings.
Waste Management – Promotes construction waste management by requiring contractors to track and report diversion rates. Homes built under the LEED standard produce less waste during the building process, and a higher percentage of waste is recycled.
Storm Water Management – A home built under the LEED program have storm water management features that are designed and installed properly. Storm water runoff from buildings and building sites is a major contributor to sediment in the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. The LEED for Homes program helps protect these invaluable natural resources from excessive runoff.
Training – Operation and Maintenance manuals are verified for completeness, so that nothing is lost in the transition from builder to owner. Homeowners are trained to understand and operate the systems efficiently.