In 2008, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) launched its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes program with the intent of capitalizing on the momentum of other LEED programs and revolutionizing the way homes are built. Since the inception of LEED for Homes, more than 10,000 LEED homes have been certified, providing builders a way to differentiate the products that they offer. It has also given home builders the opportunity to provide homes with higher marketability. Making the transition from traditional home building to green home building can be a daunting task: the following tools will facilitate the building of a LEED-certified home.
Planning a LEED for Homes project can be very intimidating if a builder does not know where to start. Fortunately, two tools can help a builder not only to informally qualify a project to pursue LEED for Homes certification but also to give an idea of the individual credits a project should pursue. The first of these tools is the LEED for Homes Checklist provided by the USGBC. This checklist is aimed at getting the ball rolling on a LEED for Homes project. It allows builders the chance to review potential credits and identify the feasible ones. It can be done without the guidances of a LEED for Homes Provider, but the LEED for Homes Checklist should then be reviewed and updated when the Provider is engaged.
The second of these tools is the LEED for Homes Scoring Tool, an online wizard that will walk a home builder through the project and assess its LEED for Homes potential. For a builder unfamiliar with LEED for Homes, the LEED for Homes Scoring Tool can help them to decide whether to pursue LEED for Homes certification. It also gives great insight into the LEED for Homes rating system.
Once a builder decides to seek LEED for Homes certification, the builder next should engage a LEED for Homes Provider. LEED for Homes Providers are the third-party organizations that actually administer the LEED for Homes rating systems. Through an appointed Green Rater, these Providers physically verify that each project meets the requirements of LEED for Homes. One of these providers, Alliance for Environmental Sustainability (AES), happens to cover many of the local markets across the Midwest. According to Jason La Fleur, Regional Director at AES:
“The Alliance for Environmental Sustainability (AES) is an education-based non-profit organization that helps builders and project teams create high-performance green homes. We provide numerous resources from both a technical and marketing standpoint, as well as an educational perspective, to help our project teams achieve performance-tested green homes, including LEED certification.”
As part of their services, providers like AES will typically take the reins on the intimidating documentation process. However, as La Fleur states:
“One of the myths of LEED certification is that it requires a lot of documentation. On commercial projects this may be true, but under LEED for Homes, there are significantly fewer documentation requirements. Much of the rating system can be verified on site by the Green Rater, who is trained to make sure the credits planned to achieve are actually earned… The heart of the LEED for Homes rating system is all contained in a single Microsoft Excel spreadsheet which contains all of the information and documentation needed to submit a project for certification.”
Providers like AES can be a great tool for a home builder planning to offer LEED-certified homes. Not only can they provide the technical detail needed to achieve LEED, but they also can offer a builder insight on marketing a LEED home. All of Alliance for Environmental Sustainability’s services can be found at www.AllianceES.org and a list of all providers can be found on the USGBC website.
As you can see, there are many tools that help a builder facilitate LEED for Homes. In addition to the tools described above, the USGBC also provides great tools for home builders at their annual Greenbuild conference. This event is attended by thousands of green building experts across all industries, and provides a unique mix of education and networking. A builder can easily attend this conference and expo and come away with the knowledge and contacts needed to plan and certify a LEED for Homes project. Whether it’s planning or certification needs, resources are available. The above information will not only help a builder transition into LEED for Homes but also continue long-term success.
Michael Tolson is an entrepreneur focusing on "green" real estate development in Toledo, OH and surrounding areas. He currently owns Tolson Construction, and The Tolson Development Company. In an attempt to further drive businesses, Michael has completed an Executive MBA and a Graduate Specialization in finance from the University of Toledo. His companies focus on commercial and residential buildings using the United States Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. With this in mind, Michael has earned his LEED Accredited Professional designation.