Written by: Guest | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: July 4th, 2020
Guest Post by Scott Turner
You may have heard of LEED certification mentioned with regards to office buildings, commercial real estate projects, or new construction.
However, more and more individual homes and renovated properties are working towards LEED certification (and for good reason — the benefits are numerous).
The most obvious reason to consider a LEED certification for your home is a commitment to helping the environment. We have only one planet, after all. However, there are a number of other compelling reasons that make a LEED certification an excellent idea for your home.
Here’s what you need to know:
What is LEED?
The US Green Building Council (USGBC) began the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in the year 2000 as a program designed to encourage environmentally friendly construction and design.
Through LEED, the USGBC has created a measurable standard by which green architecture can be held to demonstrate a level of efficiency and sustainability.
And not just nationally, but globally.
Starting with just 60 projects a month in 2000, it grew dramatically in the next decade, representing around 500 monthly projects by 2009.
During this time, it became the rating system which today is internationally recognized as the standard for green buildings.
According to the USGBC, over 2.2 million square feet of building projects are now LEED-certified every single day. And with a total of 90,000 projects currently using LEED in over 150 countries and territories, it’s a dramatic rise in popularity and one that continues to grow.
Why LEED certifications are appealing to homeowners
There are a number of benefits beyond the knowledge that you are helping the environment that make LEED appealing to homeowners:
- Savings on utility costs — Although LEED certification costs can be between $2,500–$4,000, this cost is paid back quickly. LEED homes save up to 60% on all utilities using fuel-efficient furnaces and air conditioning units and efficient water/electricity strategies.
- Tax breaks — LEED certifications also come with potential tax benefits. Energy.gov states that if you are able to demonstrate a utility savings of 50%, your LEED home can see a tax benefit of up to $1.80 per square foot. That can add up pretty fast!
- Better health — LEED-certified homes are constructed with materials that are environmentally friendly and have proper ventilation. This means that those who live in a LEED home face fewer respiratory health problems as well as less illness in general. Also, including a dehumidification system is part of LEED certification, something that cuts down on airborne irritants and allergens.
- Better Resale Value – According to a study by The University of Texas at Austin, LEED-certified homes are worth an average of $25,000 more than those that have not been certified. Even if your certification costs $4,000, that’s an immediate upgrade of 600% in value.
What makes a home LEED-certified?
To be LEED-certified, a home needs to meet a certain efficiency standard as laid out by the USGBC. There are five different rating systems that are connected to certain building types. But there are four certification levels that apply to individual homes:
Certification happens when your house earns a certain number of LEED points. Here’s how those are assessed.
How to earn LEED points
There are six main categories for structures and ways to accrue LEED points:
- Sustainable sites — Points are given for proximity to public transportation, protection of natural habitat, and a chosen site that will not have a significant detrimental environmental impact.
- Water efficiency — Low flow toilets, reuse of greywater, and the thought put into water use with landscaping all earn LEED points.
- Energy and atmosphere — With the largest available point totals, the focus of gaining points in this category is on energy efficiency and using sustainable energy sources where possible.
- Materials and resources — Using non-toxic, recycled, and renewable materials in construction are ways to gain more points. Also, LEED assesses how you cut down on waste in construction.
- Indoor environmental quality — Points are awarded for thought being put into a design that incorporates sunlight efficiently. Other points are given for the way a structure considers how best to keep temperatures regulated and thinks about air quality and ventilation.
- Design innovation — There are further possible points for innovations that do not fall under the five previous headings but innovate toward environmentally friendly design.
Want to know how many points your house would earn right now? This LEED scorecard can give you an idea.
Additional LEED certification criteria
A LEED home must also meet a certain number of other criteria to be certified as such. Referring to the USGBC will help you understand the full range of these, but important examples for homeowners include the following:
- A permanent location on existing land — The home must not be designed to be transported to any other location at any time in its existence.
- LEED certification must apply to the entire structure — The LEED boundary includes a structure as well as any environmental impact, including landscaping or outdoor pavement.
How to get your home LEED certified
The LEED certification process is rigorous but worth the work to help the environment and reap the benefits. The step-by-step guide to LEED certification below walks you through the process:
Scott Turner is passionate about writing content that solves real problems and makes the world a better place for everyone. When he's not laboring over the perfect headline, you'll usually find him surfing, scuba diving, or hunting down the best tacos in San Diego.