Green Industry Articles

Green Building Ratings: LEED® for Homes Takes Off

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has gotten a step closer to greening the way all buildings are constructed and operated. LEED® once was most closely associated with nonresidential buildings. But LEED® for Homes now addresses houses and provides guidance to builders and homeowners.

The rating system was the topic of GRC's October Webinar presented by Kelsey Mullen, the U.S. Green Building Council's director of residential business development.
Mullen outlined the LEED® for Homes program--how it works, who's involved and its goals-- and emphasized that USGBC's mission is to push forward the green building agenda and transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated. "We want to create and assist a market shift to greener buildings," he commented.

Mullen pointed out that each LEED® rating system, whether it's for a commercial or residential building, aims to address the lifecycle of a building's design, construction and operation.

Since its January 2008 launch, LEED® for Homes has experienced explosive growth. In fact, statistics as of June 2009 show that nearly 3,000 homes have undergone certification and 17,000 have been registered for the certification process.

Projects eligible for the LEED® for Homes program are:
• Single-family homes
• Low-rise multifamily homes
• Midrise homes
• Single family production homes
• Gut rehabs of existing homes.

Mullen also notes that LEED® for Homes is applicable to and achievable for affordable homes.

Recognizing that excessive documentation or a requirement for numerous consultants could be cost-prohibitive for residential projects, LEED® for Homes features a streamlined process.

It awards points in the following eight categories:
• Innovation and design process
• Location and linkages
• Sustainable sites
• Water efficiency
• Energy and atmosphere
• Materials and resources
• Indoor environmental quality
• Awareness and education

The approach also entails working with certified professionals. Builders or developers must involve a LEED® for Homes Provider organization early in a project, for instance.

Such providers help the building team to determine needs and the steps required to create a green project, and they also provide administrative and technical support.

Early provider involvement is critical, according to Mullen, to ensure that there's a green buy-in of every member of a team and to be sure that the desired sustainability measures of a project can be met.

Right now, there are 36 LEED® for Homes Provider organizations (for more information, see "Additional Resources" below) around the country.

Providers work hand-in-hand with green raters, who certify that green measures are installed, that all performance testing is complete, and that a home meets the benchmark set by LEED®.

Kelsey also addressed some of the education and certification available to professionals who want to expand their competency in and knowledge of green building.
Various levels of education are available, and they range from developing basic skills to becoming an expert in the topic.

One education avenue Mullen suggests for GRC members who want the knowledge but aren't necessarily interested in becoming a provider or rater, is the LEED® Green Associate credential.

It's designed for professionals who want to demonstrate green building expertise in non-technical fields of practice and gain a credential that denotes basic knowledge of green design, construction and operations.

A more comprehensive education can be gained by attaining the LEED® AP credential.

Additionally, the LEED® AP program is a wonderful compliment to NAR’s Green Designation and networking with these professionals is encouraged.