LEED for Homes

Horalby's LEED Gold home

Last week I had a reader reach out and say they really liked a blog post.  She also shared with me her experience with building a green home and the fact they were working to achieve LEED Gold status for their home.  Lorraine and Judd Horbaly are building their dream home on the banks of the Potomac river.  Lorraine has written two excellent posts for House and Home on their experience building a green home (click here for part 1 and part 2).  I highly recommend them.

Lorraine started part 1 of her series in House and Home off with:

From the time we bought this beautiful property we knew we had to “build green.” As owners of a cabinet company which is part of the building industry we have seen firsthand the negative impact that homebuilding can have on the environment. It was our passion, and our imperative, to be good stewards of this land and to build a house that preserved and protected the environment. As individuals, each of has the opportunity to make responsible choices that protect our natural resources and preserve the quality of the air and water which sustain us. Those choices can be as simple as changing light bulbs to building or remodeling a house using green products and technology.

After hearing Lorraine's story I was most intrigued by her experience with LEED for Homes.  I have know about LEED for many years because one of their main proponents, Southface Institute, is located here in Atlanta (and their offices are LEED Platinum - the highest level).

I always understood the rationale behind commercial properties getting LEED certification.  For the commercial property's owners it makes perfect sense;  it shows their customers, coworkers, and people who pass through the building that they care about the environment and the health of the building occupants.  LEED certification for commercial buildings is a very powerful statement about the leadership of the owners and operators of these properties.

In the past I have only thought about LEED for commercial property, so I asked Lorraine a little bit more about her experience and here is her response:

"Our passion and imperative, from the early stages, was to build a home in our beautiful setting overlooking the Potomac River which would preserve and protect the environment.  The high standards of the LEED for Homes program would help to ensure our goals.

The LEED for Homes program is relatively new, beginning in February 2008 after a 3-year pilot program.  It is the most rigorous of the many green homebuilding programs and the one by which we wanted our house rated.  There are 4 levels of certification, Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.  We expect to be Gold certified.  There are tests performed and inspections made during construction by a Green Rater based on the Home Energy Rating System (HERS).  The process is exacting, but not onerous, and is affordable.

Why build a LEED home?  Because a LEED-certified home uses less energy, water and natural resources, minimizes impact on its immediate environment, and ensures healthy indoor air quality.  The US Green Building Council estimates that the average LEED Platinum home could use as much as 60% less energy than a home built to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) standards.  And because the house is certified to meet the highest criteria, the market value of the home is higher.  An additional reason for us is that we will live in a supremely comfortable home with the knowledge that we are contributing to a healthier planet."


In the LEED for Home FAQ section they answer why a home-buyer would purchase a LEED home:

For the homebuyer, LEED is like the nutrition label on the side of a box of crackers: It clearly labels in measurable terms that the home has healthy, green, efficient features that have been third-party verified.

Basically, you can think of LEED for Homes as the "Cadillac" version of a car.  Sure, you can buy a regular ol' home, but if you get a LEED home you know it will be a more energy efficient, healthier, and nicer home with a higher resale value  that will make you happier to live in.  Sounds like a pretty good return on investment for me!

enjoyed our post? let others know: 


Tom's comments about windows tints is right on and are a great idea for retrofitting. In our new construction, we chose Weathershield windows and doors with their Zo-E technology. They do just what Tom said, reduce heat gain in summer (and block harmful UV rays) and improve winter heat retention. We highly recommend them for new homes or window replacements.
I do not think very much of the LEED standards system because it is not a performance based system. A commercial building get points for installing a bike rack which has nothing at all do do with the building's actual performance for instance. If you want a really good metric for building performance that does not cost an arm and a leg for the certification process, look at the German Passivhaus idea (there are many US Passive Houses that have been built). The central premise is a building that aims for net zero energy use. Many of these home are so well insulated that they require almost no heating system - even when sited in far northern states. People who go to the trouble and expense of LEED certification are just grandstanding and could have spent the certification costs on better insulation!
It is grand that people are going to so much trouble and expense to build to LEED standards, but why does anyone need a house this large? That seems to be the elephant in the room no one talks about.
The idea in choosing materials for a green home is that, it must be an energy efficient product. Green products such as window tints would be a great idea in pursuing green buildings or even green homes and green cars. Green oriented sites such as discuss how window tints can be labeled as one of the most effective way to conserve energy consumption for less compared to other green related technology. can also help you get LEED points for window film and find a dealer near your area. While most window films are for reducing solar heat gain in the summer, low-e films both block summer heat and improve winter heat retention.

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