Make Your Home Green With LEED Certification

Updated March 3, 2017
A male homeowner and female LEED verifier look at the inside of a home under construction
Green verifier and LEED AP Christin Kappel walks through a new project with homeowner and builder Guy East of UBuildIt. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

More homeowners are realizing LEED building is the pinnacle of home efficiency.

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Environmentally conscious building is no longer the exception, it’s the rule.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) says that by 2018, green homes could represent 40 percent of the overall housing market in the U.S., and that 84 percent of all home construction will include sustainable features.

“(It’s) becoming more mainstream due to rapidly improving building energy codes, newer and better green materials and fixtures coming onto the marketplace, and an overall increase in awareness in what it takes to build a green home,” says USGBC Residential Technical Solutions Director Asa Foss.

While morality incentivizes many, so does profit. Studies show green residences bring more cash at sale, and green building materials are big business for manufacturers.

“It’s almost harder to buy non-green products now, which has been a good thing for the market,” says Peter Taggart, of Taggart Construction in Freeport, Maine. “A lot of companies now realize an environmentally friendly product can be profitable.”

For those who want to build a home to the highest green specifications, the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program remains the gold standard.

A man installing a window in a brick home
An employee of Exterior Home Improvement installs an energy-efficient window by Pella, which earned the Energy Star label. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

What is LEED?

Created in 1998, the LEED rating system helps builders and property owners use resources more efficiently. Rather than setting a rigid set of guidelines, the standards utilize numerous core tracks, such as water and energy efficiency, air quality, daylight visibility and the use of recycled construction materials. The LEED scorecard tallies points in seven categories, and the total decides a structure's overall rating. 

LEED’s newest residential version – LEED v4 for Homes – requires the installation of the latest Energy Star products, and takes resource sustainability to a new level.

“We are much more focused on measurable energy and water savings, and approaches that are proven to improve indoor air quality,” Foss says. 

Recently enhanced LEED standards include:

• A performance-based approach to design, operation and maintenance, that calls for measurable results at every stage of a home's life

• Smart-grid thinking that rewards homes for participation in energy demand response programs

• A comprehensive approach to water efficiency and total use

• Consideration of materials used and related impact on human health and the environment

• Streamlined documentation and greater alignment between rating systems for a better customer experience

Taggart Construction employees work with lumber at their Maine shop
Employees of Taggart Construction prepare lumber for a green building project inside the company's woodworking shop. (Photo by Tanner Halbig)

The LEED program essentially views each home as a living organism.

“Modern buildings are a collection of systems working together to help the building perform, and just like the human body, if any of these systems are not working well together, the building as a whole suffers,” Foss says. “LEED v4 represents the most innovative approach to integrating these systems to ensure optimal standards in human health and environmental sustainability.”

To learn how to get LEED certified, and about LEED certification levels – LEED Silver, LEED Gold and LEED Platinum – click here.

The future of green building

One-fourth of all multifamily units in the U.S. are now built to LEED building standards, and there are nearly 325,000 LEED homes around the globe.

Going green has never been easier, or cheaper, as products constantly improve and drop in price. Solar power, which sets new installation records with each passing year, is the textbook example.

“Solar panels are now becoming much less expensive as panel manufacturers are increasing their scale, and the installers are better versed at navigating local codes, which is increasing market access for consumers,” Foss says. 

A Maine barn home with a yard solar array
On properties with sizable land, large solar arrays are a great energy-saving option. (Photo by Tanner Halbig)

Residential LEED registration and certification costs $525 for non-USGBC members, $375 for members. The USGBC hopes to get further analysis on LEED's effect on home pricing.

“While there currently are numerous studies that demonstrate that green homes have a higher value, I think we will start to see energy and water efficiency having a more significant impact on the sale price of a home,” Foss says.

Green building pioneers like Taggart – who built the first LEED certified single-family home in the U.S. – couldn’t be happier to see how the concept has evolved.

“We were trying things that architects hadn’t seen before, and that made them nervous,” Taggart says. “Now, everybody’s doing it.”

Do you have a LEED certified home? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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