An in-depth look at LEED certification

Phantom Screens / August 3, 2016

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Concerns about the environment are transforming the ways in which we construct our homes. The U.S. Green Building Council has developed a green building certification program. In other words, a system for rating how sustainable a building is. It is called Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED for short. As a set of guidelines, LEED principles can be applied to any kind of building project to certify its environmental impact. As you start your new home construction or renovation project, consider the following features and benefits of LEED certification.

Benefits

  • Less energy use: LEED-certified homes have been shown to consume less water and energy than those that do not meet the specifications. This means a decrease in your monthly utility bill.
  • Higher resale: Homes that have been certified by LEED standards can be sold for higher than those that are uncertified. A study in California showed that LEED-certified homes saw their home values increase between 2007 and 2012 by 9 percent more than comparable, non-certified homes.
  • Increased well-being: The LEED certifications are designed to benefit the environment, but they also have very real benefits for personal well-being too. The requirements regarding proper ventilation and air filtration reduce the amount of mold and mildew in the air you breathe.

How it works

To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for their project.

Each rating system groups requirements that address the unique needs of building and project types on their path towards LEED certification. Once a project team chooses a rating system, they’ll use the appropriate credits to guide design and operational decisions.

There are five rating systems that address multiple project types:

  • Building Design & Construction
  • Interior Design & Construction
  • Building Operations and Maintenance
  • Neighborhood Development
  • Homes

The number of points the project earns determines its level of LEED certification. All in all, there are four levels:

  • Certified (40 – 49 points)
  • Silver (50 – 59 points)
  • Gold (60 – 79)
  • Platinum (80+ points)

LEED Categories

Each rating system is made up of a combination of credit categories. Your build/design team needs to meet specific prerequisites and pursue a variety of credits to earn points towards achieving a LEED certification level. Here is what you need to know about each:

    1. Location and transportation: Points are awarded based on the location you choose. Existing infrastructures, plus building in dense and also diverse areas, are the most sustainable choices.
    2. Materials and Resources: The idea with this category is not only to encourage the use of recycled building materials, but also minimize construction waste.
    3. Water efficiency: Points are awarded for proper water use management. Good ways to cut down on water use are to invest in water-efficient appliances and harvest rainwater for irrigation.
    4. Energy and atmosphere: This is the largest and most complicated category. You must meet minimum Energy Star requirements. In order to reduce energy consumption, invest in more insulation, better windows, heat blocking shading options such as retractable screens, and efficient lighting.
    5. Sustainable sites: This area is concerned with your lot’s outdoor living spaces and landscaping. Minimizing storm water runoff and landscaping with native non-invasive plants are important features, but the rating doesn’t only apply to the finished product – points are also awarded for minimizing the effect that the construction process has on the environment.
    6. Indoor environmental quality: Points can be awarded for the way in which you manage the indoor air quality, access to daylight and views.
    7. Innovation: You can score points for the design and planning process you undertake. This is meant to measure your dedication to LEED principles by rating how well you planned for the project as well as incorporating design measures not covered under the five LEED credit categories.
    8. Regional priority credits: Points are given for addressing regional environmental priorities for buildings in different geographic regions.