LEED for Homes: Almost Ready to Move In

In just over a month, the U.S. Green Building Council will roll out its LEED for Homes standards.

Since August 2005, 6,000 home projects have been part of the LEED pilot program, ranging from large — like the 44-home development in Walker, Mich., to small — such as the 1960s-era home in Phoenix being remodeled with environmentally-friendly paint, carpet and other materials.

(A complete list of certified projects can be found on the LEED site.) We’ve been talking about this for ages. But what does LEED for Homes mean for the industry?

What to Expect from LEED for Homes

The final standards will include efficient use of energy, water and natural
resources; waste reduction and take into consideration homeowners’ health and comfort.

We’ve gotten glimpses of the program as it progressed in recent months. In late August, LEED published the first comments from its pilot program participants (and responses). Questions varied from expanding the accepted types of forest product certification to more clearly defining certain terms.

And we know the LEED goals: LEED says its new standards will help create living spaces with lower energy and water bills,
reduced greenhouse gas emissions and less exposure to indoor toxins like mold and mildew. The net cost of a LEED home will be close
to that of owning a conventional home, according to LEED’s Web site.

Who Will Use It?

Is there a need for LEED to create residential building green standards? Sure. There are more than 70 local green building standards in the U.S. — having one national standard and the option for assessment and certification isn’t a bad idea.

However, the new LEED for Homes system will (of course) be voluntary — and it will cost you. Documentation and verification fees will vary based on home size and certification level, but LEED estimates that the initial verification tasks will cost $500 to $2,000 per home.

In today’s tough real estate market — let’s not forget that on Friday the Commerce Department announced residential building had hit its lowest spending level since 2003 — adding $2,000 to new home construction costs may not be something homeowners are too happy about, even if they will see savings down the line.

Challenges the Plan Faces

Cities and developers have accepted and embraced LEED’s commercial green standards; it remains to be seen if they will frequently use LEED’s residential set.

Will cities offer green building incentives that will help out both large-project developers and homeowners building their own house? Will local and state governments consider legislature requiring developers — who have a greater overall impact than small builders and contractors — to include some green practices in their new developments?

Jay Hall, the acting program
manager of LEED for Homes, told industry professionals at the West
Coast Green conference that smaller projects would be harder to certify, USA Today reports. However, the USGBC is creating guidelines for green home renovations.

We’ll see if the residential industry wants to build green — or if it’s more concerned with saving some.