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LEED for Homes - A Primer for Homebuyers

Are all new homes created equal? Homebuyers often expect that they are. Generally, a new home is perceived to be of better quality than an existing home, assuming that a new home offers the best available performance. New homebuyers often do not realize that the building codes define the lowest level of acceptable performance in new homes. In fact, most new homes are built to minimally satisfy the building code. which is the lowest level of performance allowed by the law.

 

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In most parts of the U.S., home energy prices have increased by over 50 percent over the last 5 years. Also, the average new home in this country emits twice as much carbon dioxide as a car. This raises the question of whether your new home is going to be environmentally friendly or a major contributor to climate change.

Homebuyers have begun to look beyond code-built homes, to higher quality homes that are available. Among these options are homes certified through green homebuilding programs, like the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System for Homes. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) developed the LEED for Homes rating system as a tool to assess the overall performance of new green homes.
 
It is possible to buy a home that is designed and built to perform at a level that substantially exceeds the building code. As an example, an ENERGY STAR Home is designed to exceed the national energy code by 15-20% or more. New home buyers are also beginning to realize that there are other upgrade options available, beyond just energy efficient features. These performance options include health, safety and comfort features, durable designs, and more environmentally responsive designs and materials. And in some cases the whole community may be developed using a more sustainable approach. 

 

Consumers repeatedly raise a few important questions when researching green homes. What exactly is a green home? And, which programs can best help to differentiate a home with green features from a conventional (code-built) home?

 

The LEED for Homes program defines a green home as:

  • Healthy
  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Energy efficient, and 
  • Environmentally responsible

One of the main purposes of the LEED for Homes program is to guide homeowners to new homes that meet this definition. A home buyer needs only to look for a certified LEED home to readily identify a true green home that has been third-party inspected and performance-tested. LEED homes substantially outperform conventional homes that are built to the minimum code.

 

LEED homes offer numerous benefits to home owners, including lower energy and water bills; reduced greenhouse gas emissions; increased comfort, less exposure to indoor pollutants such as mold, mildew and other indoor toxins, and lower maintenance costs. Owners of LEED homes can feel good every day, in that they are doing something substantial to lessen their contribution to environmental degradation. 

 

Most important, these benefits are very affordable. The net monthly cost of owning a LEED home (i.e., mortgage payment plus utility bills) is comparable to that of the monthly cost of owning a conventional code-built home. The increase in the mortgage payment (due to the first cost of the green upgrade measures in a LEED home) is usually completely offset by the reduced monthly utility bills. So, a homebuyer can have all of the benefits of a LEED Home for the same net monthly cost as a code-built home. Which one would you choose?

For more information about LEED homes in your community, contact a LEED for Homes Provider near you. The Provider will connect you with a builder and other homebuilding professionals participating in the LEED for Homes Program. A list of these Providers can be found on our website at www.usgbc.org/leed/homes.

 

 

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LEED for Homes - A Primer for Homebuyers:  Created on April 16th, 2007.  Last Modified on June 19th, 2011

 

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About The U.S. Green Building Council

The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green homes and buildings. LEED gives home and building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their homes' or buildings’ performance. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. The Green Home Guide is a resource created by the U.S. Green Building Council.


 

 

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