LEED for Homes Program Description
LEED for Homes is a voluntary rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes (as well as complete renovations of existing homes). For homebuilders, LEED is a tool used to set targets and track progress during the design and construction of a green home. For homebuyers, LEED is a Scorecard—like a nutrition label—that gives a clear, concise picture of all the ways a green home performs at a higher level. It is a seal of quality, providing peace of mind that they are living in a home designed to deliver fresh air indoors and improved water and energy efficiency.
LEED recognizes performance in eight areas:
- Indoor environmental quality
- Energy efficiency
- Water efficiency
- Site selection
- Site development
- Materials selection
- Residents’ awareness
At BPC, we believe that programs like this are vital in order to increase market demand for new and renovated green homes. We believe that all Americans will want high performance homes once they understand that green building is not about sacrifice but instead about better homes which offer performance that occupants can enjoy every day in their homes.
BPC participated in the pilot phase of LEED for Homes and has completed four LEED homes since then, with three certified at the top Platinum tier. Here is a brief look at some of the important measures that BPC utilizes to meet the performance targets set within the eight categories used by LEED.
Indoor environmental quality
Ventilation is the most important consideration. The best way to ventilate is to install an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) that provides fresh air to the entire house while transferring the heat and moisture from the stale exhaust air to the fresh incoming air.
Reducing heat loss is what makes a home energy efficient. Defining the boundaries of the conditioned envelope, making that envelope air tight, and then installing adequate insulation is the way to make it happen. In this picture, the spray foam insulation helps to air seal the walls, and the walls have been strapped with 2x3’s to eliminate heat loss through the framing and to increase the overall resistance to heat loss.
The first and easiest measure to incorporate into a new home is water efficient fixtures, including toilets, shower heads, and faucets. Whereas the first generation of water efficient toilets did not always perform as hoped, new toilets on the market today conserve even more water while performing superbly.
A good way to conserve water is to collect rain water from the roof, store it in an underground tank, and then use it to irrigate landscape plantings during dry periods. Pictured here is the rainwater harvesting plan for a LEED certified home completely renovated by BPC.
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The first criterion is to build your home in a location that allows you to walk to shopping and other community services. Another important criterion is to avoid environmentally sensitive sites, such as land in a 100 year flood plain or occupied by threatened species. Infill development or previously developed sites are preferred over sites that expand the size of a developed area.
This plan shows a small building site immediately adjacent to downtown Ridgefield, allowing residents to walk to parks and stores. The site was converted to condominium ownership. The original home and accessory structure were completely renovated, with two new homes built to the rear.
It’s important to minimize site disturbance during construction and to preserve as much of the natural landscape as possible. The landscape plan should minimize hardscape and grass areas and include native plantings, which should be drought resistant and require little irrigation. Storm water should be managed to prevent run-off. Rain water harvesting can help as can bio-swales and rain gardens, which are mini-wetlands that can store a great deal of storm water that might otherwise end up contributing to flooding. (See rain water harvesting plan above.)
We start by reducing the amount of wood and other materials used to frame a house. This is often called optimum value framing, and it has a secondary benefit of leaving more room for insulation. Of equal importance is to select environmentally sustainable materials, which include materials that are sourced locally and/or recycled. Certified wood that has been harvested from forests managed for sustainable yield is another option. A final consideration is the energy required to produce the materials themselves. This starts with energy needed to harvest or mine the raw material, but also includes energy needed to transport, process, and manufacture the final product.
The kitchen pictured here has low-VOC, FSC certified plywood and maple in the cabinets. The cherry flooring is FSC certified and sourced locally. Also, it is character grade, which means that small knots and color variation is permitted, which means that more of the tree can be used for a high value finish product.
A new, high performance home offers efficiencies and comforts that were unachievable until now. In order to maintain that level of performance, the new homeowners should be trained by their builder in the use and maintenance of their new home. In addition, the builder should provide an owner’s manual to supplement the manuals provided by the various companies that made products used in the construction of the home.
This category awards points for integrated project planning, which means that all parties involved in the design and construction of a home participate in the planning process. This often results in creative solutions that save time and money and increase efficiency. Another goal in this category is to utilize new and less conventional materials and equipment that increase efficiency or enhance durability. The picture to the left shows a composting toilet, with the business end pictured to the right in the right picture. A grey water system is shown to the left in the right picture. This system recycles water from showers, baths, and sinks for use in toilets and outdoor irrigation. Grey water systems are not permitted by code in Connecticut, but this one has been approved on a trial basis.
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