Green building means different things to different people. That's true unless you are familiar with the LEED certification program launched by the US Green Building Council in February 2008. Most homeowners have read about green homes, green building or similar green concepts related to their homes. As we've become inundated with everything green, people have also grown tired and suspicious of green marketing tactics.
Green building isn't something you can learn by reading a single article, a book or a set of specifications, because the standards for green building are evolving as more people get involved. For those who want to learn more, this article provides an overview of green building as it's defined by LEED certification. For additional information or specific question, there's a consumer website on residential green building, GreenHomeGuide.com.
Green Building Goals
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a suite of rating systems for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings, homes and neighborhoods. There's lots of information written about green building, originating with commercial buildings – schools, healthcare, retail, etc and we now have the LEED for Homes program for single and multi-family housing.
The LEED rating system allocates points based on the potential environmental impact and human benefit of these categories, with some rather surprising items like homeowner education.
- Energy efficiency – must exceed any local code requirements by at least 15%. This includes testing the home’s envelope and duct work, plus inspections during construction.
- Water – standards require a home to use a minimum number of water efficiency measures like low-flow showers and toilets.
- Indoor air quality (IAQ) – ensures adequate ventilation, high-efficiency air filters, and methods of reducing moisture to lower the risk of mold or mildew.
- Building materials – makes sure construction waste is minimized and that environmentally friendly products and materials like low or no VOC paints, are used wherever possible.
- Sustainable sites – looks at where the home is located and how effectively is uses local resources and infrastructure. Landscaping is also considered, i.e. minimizing water usage.
- Green education – introduces a requirement for builders to provide a homeowner’s manual and training on green features in the home. New tools like HomeNav.com are available to help builders and homeowners organize home related information as we start to take more active roles in managing our homes.
Benefits of Green Building
You probably already know ways to improve a home's energy efficiency, which in turn will lower utility bills. There are similar ways to use less water indoors and outside, including use of rain water and grey (waste) water.
Compared to conventional houses, green homes use less energy, water and natural resources. They also create a healthier environment for the people living in the house, because of the focus on indoor air quality. Green homes consider more than the house, looking at how close houses are to community resources and infrastructure like grocery stores, doctors offices and retail shopping as cars also impact the environment.
Green Building in the Future
Green building and green homes will become part of our homeowner vocabulary as new products, materials and building techniques enter the market. LEED is just one of many green initiatives focused on new construction. In future articles we'll write about other green initiatives, i.e. for remodeling your home. We're also planning some talks shows so please share with us …