Question

We are doing a complete home renovation. I've been discouraged from seeking LEED certification by many professionals. Please advise.

Asked by Jill Joseph
Garrett Park, MD

Although I'm LEED AP and have many friends in the industry who are also LEED AP, I'm being discouraged by all because: it's too expensive to get certified, too time consuming, not worth it unless I'm trying to market my house for sale. . . This all seems very unfortunate when I know that the USGBC is doing what they can to make this process more simple and more affordable. I would appreciate any input. Also, advice on who to contact at USGBC to voice this. Thanks!  --Jill Joseph, LEED AP

Answer

Andrea Foss

Answered by Andrea Foss

Washington, DC

Everyday Green

August 2, 2010

Jill,

LEED Homes certification doesnt necessarily have to take more time, and a good green rater can actually point out areas to save money in both the short and long-term.

There are so many decisions to make throughout the construction process, that often good intentions in the design phase can get sidelined, misinterpreted or forgotten during construction. Third-party certification helps ensure the entire project team is centered around common goals for durability, energy and water efficiency, sustainable materials and indoor air quality and comfort.

The LEED Homes rating system provides a framework for measured performance and verification in each of these areas.
 
  1. All LEED-Certified homes must have a green rater test the home. The green rater will perform many inspections on the home, including inspecting the effectiveness of the insulation, air sealing and duct sealing. They also perform many diagnostic performance tests: a blower door test to find envelope leakage and a duct blaster test for duct leakage. These two tests are extremely important to ensure proper air and duct sealing, which impact the comfort and performance of the home.
  2. Having third-party verification is the only way to know that the home is truly green. There are a lot of self-assertions of greenness, but without third-party testing and verification, how do you know how your home is performing? 
  3. The green rater can help the project team save money. By performing energy modeling early in the process, the project team can make informed decisions about every energy upgrade in the home. For example, does it make more sense to spend extra money on upgrading the AC or the windows for your home? What are the projected savings for a ground-source heat pump compared to a high-efficiency gas furnace?

It's difficult to know the answers to these questions without energy modeling, and the experience of a green rater will help guide you in a good wall assembly and mechanical strategy. Also, a good green rater will help the project team prevent construction mistakes before it's too late and too costly to fix them.

In my experience, the biggest areas project teams have seen cost savings are in:

  • properly sizing mechanical equipment and
  • appropriately designed building envelope strategies.  

Additionallymany homes have leaky ductwork (15% duct leakage or more),

  • ventilation systems that arent connected properly,
  • exhaust systems that dont work, and
  • large areas of missing insulation that went unnoticed without inspections. 

All of these items can be addressed upfront instead of after subcontractors have left the job site.

While there are costs associated with hiring a green rater, the expertise they lend to the process can ensure your goals for a green home are met. If you work with a team that is familiar with the LEED process, it shouldnt add any additional time.

Many builders are making LEED Homes their standard level of building regardless of whether the client asks for it because they see it gives them a better product. They gain assurance from the third-party testing that everything in the home is operating as it should before settlement day.

 

For more information:

Check out our overview of the LEED for Homes Certification Program.

Tagged In: leed for homes

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