Posts Tagged ‘green homes’

As people become more environmentally conscious, all kinds of buzz words,start being thrown around, words like “green”, “energy efficiency”; “ecofriendly”; and sustainability. But what do they really mean? In each of the next several blogs I will take the time to clarify these concepts for you. In this blog we will start with the most obvious – “GREEN“.

Generally, when people refer to a “green” home, they are referring to the practice of increasing the efficiency with which homes and the land around them use and harvest energy, water and materials. Such homes are typically built in a way that reduces the impact on human health and the environment, with those efforts undertaken through improved site selection, design, operation, maintenance, and construction.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, a green home is healthy, durable, efficient, and sustainable and has the least impact on the environment. Being green actually requires a whole-building approach to sustainability in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, has developed a green rating system to score buildings constructed using these five areas. LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in those five areas of sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. LEED points are awarded on a 100-point scale, and credits are weighted to reflect their potential environmental impacts. Additionally, 10 bonus credits are available, four of which address regionally specific environmental issues. A project must satisfy all prerequisites and earn a minimum number of points to be certified. In addition, there are four levels of certification: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. LEED has rating systems for new construction; operation and maintenance of existing buildings; commercial interiors; core and shell; schools; retail; healthcare; homes; and neighborhood development. Points are broken down like this:

LEED Rating System
Total Possible Points** 110*

Sustainable Sites 21
Water Efficiency 11
Energy & Atmosphere 37
Material & Resources 14
Indoor Environmental Quality 17

* Out of a possible 100 points + 10 bonus points
** Bronze 40+ points, Silver 50+ points, Gold 60+ points, Platinum 80+ points

Innovation in Design 6
Regional Priority 4

Let’s take a minute and clarify what each of the key evaluation areas refers to:

a. Sustainable Sites: This category discourages development on previously undeveloped land; seeks to minimize a building’s impact on ecosystems and waterways; encourages regionally appropriate landscaping; rewards smart transportation choices, controls storm water runoff; and promotes reduction of erosion, light pollution, heat island effect and construction-related pollution.

b. Water Efficiency: The goal of this category is to encourage smarter use of water, inside and out. Water reduction can be achieved through more efficient appliances, fixtures and fittings inside and water-conscious landscaping outside.

c. Energy & Atmosphere: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings use 39% of the energy and 74% of the electricity produced each year in the US. The Energy and Atmosphere category encourages a wide variety of energy-wise strategies including, but not limited to: energy use monitoring; efficient design and construction; efficient appliances, systems and lighting; the use of renewable and clean sources of energy, generated on-site or off-site.

d. Materials & Resources: During construction and operations phases, buildings generate a lot of waste and use large quantities of materials and resources. This category encourages the selection of sustainably grown, harvested, produced and transported products and materials. It promotes waste reduction as well as reuse and recycling, and it particularly rewards the reduction of waste at a product’s source.

e. Indoor Environmental Quality: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans spend about 90% of their day indoors, where air quality can be significantly worse than outside. The Indoor Environmental Quality category promotes strategies that improve indoor air as well as those that provide access to natural daylight and views and improve acoustics.

Besides these five keys areas, LEED also looks at Locations and Linkages, Awareness & Education, Innovation in Design, and Regional Priority.

a. Locations & Linkages: The LEED rating system recognizes that much of a building’s impact on the environment comes from where it is located and how it fits into its community. This evaluation encourages building on previously developed or infill sites and away from environmentally sensitive areas. Credits reward homes and other buildings that are built near already-existing infrastructure, community resources and transit – in locations that promote access to open space for walking, physical activity and time outdoors.

b. Awareness and Education: A building is considered to be truly green only if the people who live in it use its green features to maximum effect. Builders and real estate professionals are encouraged to provide homeowners, tenants and building managers with education and tools they need to understand what makes their home green and how to make the most of those features.

c. Innovation in Design: Here a building gets bonus points for projects that use innovative technologies to improve a building’s performance well beyond what is required by other LEED credits.

d. Regional Priority: USGBC’s regional councils, chapters and affiliates have identified the most important environmental concerns in their areas, and six LEED Credits addressing these local priorities have been selected for each region of the country.

The overall process of certification includes:

• Contacting a LEED certified Green Rater (a trained, independent, third party person trained to evaluate homes based on LEED requirements) for the type of construction you are doing. Green Raters verify that the building or community is designed and built to the rigorous requirements of LEED within its Rating System through on-site verification. Green Raters are involved with the project from the design phase and throughout the construction process.

• Confirm with your chosen Green Rater that your project is suitable for LEED within your category.

• Upon receiving approval from a Green Rater, register your project with USGBC on their website. Your registration is complete when USGBC receives payment of the registration fee.


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