Society is aware of the harmful and destructive effects of modern construction. As a result, they’re turning to sustainable alternatives. The demand for green buildings is changing the architectural landscape, forcing companies to implement favorable practices. The green building market clocked in at $3 billion in 2005. Nine years later, it jumped to $81 billion.
How are contractors held responsible for the way they build properties? The answer is a third-party certification process. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification assures tenants a property abides by strict eco-friendly practices.
What Exactly Is LEED Certification?
LEED is a third-party certification program for building design, construction, operation and maintenance. Established by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 1993, the LEED certification definition includes:
- Air quality: A high-quality indoor environment aims to minimize exposure to airborne pollutants and toxins. A certified building avoids fossil fuels, offers proper ventilation and installs products that reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- Resources: Buildings track waste and encourage the purchase of sustainable materials. If the home is built using recycled, bio-based or other eco-friendly materials, it will win points toward certification.
- Water conservation: Structures with high-efficiency fixtures that conserve water earn points towards LEED certification. Installations include hands-free faucets, low-flow toilets and auto-flushers.
- Energy efficiency: Buildings should strive to eliminate the use of fossil fuels for energy and install energy-saving appliances.
- Location and transportation: Buildings can earn points based on their location and access to public transit. Does the structure use position to its advantage?
Buildings that participate in this globally recognized program receive one of the four levels of certification — Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. The level reached depends on the number of points earned. LEED Certified, the lowest level, requires at least 40 points. Platinum, on the other hand, requires 80 points.
Why Is LEED Certification Important for Homes?
Whether you’re pursuing certification for your current home or purchasing an eco-friendly build, you’ll no doubt experience a multitude of benefits. Those who’ve invested in LEED certification can:
1. Save Money
Cut utility bills by constructing your home with water and energy-conserving appliances. The set-up cost may seem steep. However, operation will require less energy and save you money. Between a three-year period — 2015 to 2018 — LEED-certified buildings generated around $1.2 billion in energy savings.
To save more, research if you’re eligible for federal and state tax credits by meeting LEED standards. Some municipalities reward those who consider the environment.
2. Reduce Environmental Footprint
The construction and operation of buildings significantly impact the environment. LEED-certified homes produce less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional builds.
You can simplify sustainability in your home by considering the design. Implement large windows — lots of them. They infuse the surrounding area with light, create an excellent view and lower heating and cooling costs. Look for salvaged materials for your next project. Adapt cement, bricks, steel and glass into a minimalist look. You can also create a green roof, a setup covered with plantings that naturally insulate the living space and improve air quality.
3. Create a Healthy Indoor Environment
LEED-certified homes are conscious of their external environmental impact. They’re also safer on the inside. These buildings ensure a healthy living space by using recycled and eco-friendly materials, thus eliminating exposure to indoor toxins.
The USGBC encourages builders to implement renewables in place of fossil fuels. Energy that relies on oil, coal and natural gas emits carbon into the air, which contributes to climate change. Indoor air quality, thermal comfort and natural lighting all contribute to the health of residents.
4. Establish Innovation and Value
Constructing a green home from scratch gives you the opportunity for architectural innovation and creativity. LEED-certified homes combine modern design elements with functionality, creating the ultimate bang for your buck. As an internationally recognized program, LEED certification demonstrates attention to quality and sustainability.
If you decide to sell your residence, LEED certification increases curb appeal and makes it happen faster. With proper planning, it’s possible to construct your green home at the same cost as a traditional build and sell it for more. Homes with this certification also enjoy reduced insurance premiums.
The Importance of LEED Certification
LEED certification is something homeowners and property managers should strive for with each new construction project. Perhaps you won’t aim for Platinum on your first try. Yet Silver, a worthy accomplishment, requires only 50 points.
It’s clear the program benefits the environment. It’s a necessary step towards reversing the effects of climate change. Yet those who implement LEED standards experience a variety of advantages, too. They can reduce bills, save money and cut back on waste. As a bonus, they add significant value to their home — a boon for those trying to sell.
How will green initiatives like LEED make an impact in the future?