Learning about LEED

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a program administered by the United States Green Building Council.  According to the USGBC website:

“LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED gives building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.”

I was introduced to the LEED program by my employer, JPMorgan Chase, who has announced plans to take several of it’s buildings LEED Platinum.  There are currently 9 USGBC LEED programs, and when we first looked at LEED for Homes it was in it’s pilot phase, only becoming an officlal program in January 2008.  As of this post, there are no homes in Dallas that have been LEED-certified since the official program started.

Basically, the LEED for Homes program works like this – USGBC has a system that awards points in various categories, and depending on how many points you get you’re awarded nothing or you’re given a Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum LEED for Homes Certification.  The point categories cover pretty much everything about your house (with the exception of demolitioning the old one – but we’ll get to that in a later post).  The point categories are:

  • Innovation and Design Process
  • Location and Linkages
  • Sustainable Sites
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy and Atmosphere
  • Materials and Resources
  • Indoor Environmental Quality
  • Awareness and Education

Something that we didn’t quite understand in the beginning is that you’re required to work with a Home Provider – basically a Green consultant who walks you through the LEED process, and provides good, valuable information.  We chose GWS from Oklahoma City, mostly because they are the closest to Dallas, but also we had heard better things about them than we had heard about other Home Providers.  We were pretty up-to-speed on the program, mostly due to Sean Garman our own Green consultant, so we used our Home Provider to bounce ideas off of and to provide insight to some of the subtleties of the LEED for Homes Checklist.  They also perform required analysis, like the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating.

Some of our Green choices resulted in higher cost than an alterate, non-Green choice (but we’ll get to those choices in later posts) and we’ll try to be as honest and up-front as possible about them.  However, the program itself has a cost as well.  So far we’ve paid around $1500, and we anticipate we’ll do one more round of HERS rating.  Several of these expenses are variable, so use this listing only as a guide:

  • $250 to register with USGBC (it’s less if you are a USGBC member, more if you’re building a multifamily dwelling).
  • $630 for the Plan Analysis (they review your entire building plan to estimate the LEED points you’ll get and provide valuable input about alternatives – this amount is based on the amount of square footage you’re building).
  • $90 for the Modeling/Tax Credit Analysis.
  • $450 for GWS’s fee, which includes the required inspections.
  • Then you pay an hourly fee each time you want your HERS rating redone as you learn more and make choices ($45/hour), and there are additional fees if you need GWS to travel to provide consultation or when they do inspections (we don’t anticipate needing that).

I often get asked what I get for obtaining a LEED certification.  No, there is no monetary award (although many of the things you can do to earn points might also quality for utility, city, state or federal tax credits or rebates).   However, almost everything you do to get points will end up saving you money…either in your water bill, your gas bill, your electric bill….or because the house is so well-built it won’t need to be repaired or replaced anytime soon.

August 3rd, 2008 3:38 pm

Very, very interesting! Good for you. I can’t believe it will be the same house. Can’t wait to see and hear more.

Leave Your Comment