What makes a home LEED certified?
Since 1994, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program has grown to become the leading standard for assessing and certifying green buildings worldwide. Emerging from an increasing need for businesses and households to be more efficient and a growing awareness of the human impact on the environment, LEED provides guidelines for reducing waste, maximizing the use of resources and lessening our impact on the environment. In addition to these benefits, businesses have used LEED certification to promote their buildings and to be better recognized within their communities. In Canada, the Canada Green Building Council that administers LEED in the country certifies buildings partially because of rainwater harvesting practices that are common in Canada.
Prior to applying for LEED certification, a building must comply with:
- Environmental laws and regulations
- Occupancy scenarios
- Building permanence and pre-rating completion
- Site boundaries and area-to-site ratios
In addition, a prerequisite for certification calls for building owners to share building energy and water usage data with LEED from 5 years after either occupancy for new buildings or the date of certification.
In 2009, LEED launched a new certification rating system that awards credits for green building features. These credits are weighed based upon the environmental impact and benefits they provide. Up to 100 credits can be awarded within the six categories:
- Sustainable Sites
- Water Efficiency
- Energy and Atmosphere
- Materials and Resources
- Indoor Environmental Quality
- Innovation in Design
LEED Certification for Homes
As a result of an increased emphasis on environmental safety in the construction and maintenance of homes, LEED for Homes certification was established as the most comprehensive and versatile rating system suited for low-rise residential buildings. Working with a Canadian Provider Organization and a Green Rater, two mandatory LEED home inspections are conducted (Thermal Bypass Inspection and Final Inspection). The Provider Organization and Green Rater do not certify the home but help facilitate with the certification process. Two additional categories specifically for homes are also evaluated in the ratings system:
- Locations and Linkages (to account for transportation access, open space, and physical activity outdoors)
- Awareness and Education of building occupants
A building certification is divided into four categories based on credits earned:
- Platinum: 80 points and above
- Gold: 60-79 points
- Silver: 50-59 points
- Certified: 40-49 points
Benefits of LEED Certification for Homes
There is a reason LEED certification has become increasingly popular in the last two decades. It doesn’t just make sense, it makes dollars and cents! The environmental benefits of a reduced ecological footprint, better indoor environment and 30% - 70% more energy efficient buildings are just the tip of the iceberg when the benefits that LEED certification reaps for homeowners. Financially, LEED is a no brainer. While initial design and construction costs can be higher, homeowners see much greater cost savings over time as a result of great energy efficiencies. An initial 2% increase in initial investment to meet LEED standards leads to ten times that extra investment over the lifecycle of a building. It’s no surprise that homeowners also experience an increase in resale value of their homes from this benefit – an average of 8% more than equivalent buildings that are not LEED certified. Homeowners are also able to close their house sale more quickly than non-LEED certified homes. Home owners can also experience other financial benefits such as reduced mortgages and home insurance rates and, in some jurisdictions, municipal tax relief.
LEED certified homes in Metro Vancouver
It’s no surprise that Metro Vancouver and British Columbia are leaders in the Green Building Revolution. The Green Building and Energy Efficiency sector contributed $8.4 billion to the province’s GDP and created over 76,000 full-time jobs. British Columbia currently holds the distinction of having the most LEED projects per capita in Canada and equate to 25% of all LEED projects in the country!
As of a few years ago, there are already over 225 LEED certified projects in Metro Vancouver. Some of the most prominent buildings include:
- City of Vancouver Housing - Net Zero Building
- Southeast False Creek Neighbourhood
- Vancouver Convention Centre
- Shaw Tower Office
- Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability
- UBC Earth Sciences Building
- UBC Life Sciences Building
- Telus Garden Vancouver
- Kwantlen’s Chip Wilson and Shannon Wilson School of Design
- Creekside Community Recreation Centre
To promote LEED certification among home owners, BC Hydro has created an incentive program that aligns with LEED to allow certification seekers access to funds for required remodelling costs through their New Construction Program. The Vancouver Convention Centre took advantage of this program and has since become LEED Gold certified.
Join the Movement
Take advantage of all the benefits that LEED certification can offer to you, your home and your community today by joining the Green Building movement that continues to grow everyday in Canada.
More information is available at the LEED for Homes website: https://www.cagbc.org/homes
There are several other green building certification programs that are worth looking at as well including Green Globes, CASBEE, BCA Green Mark and the Pearl Building Rating System.