Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What is LEED and why?

Americans spend about 90% of our time indoors in offices or homes. Making sure our buildings are sustainable is perhaps one of the first thing we must consider.

LEED is an international standard that measures the sustainability of a building. It is a voluntary program originated in the US. It was first designed to address commercial buildings and office spaces, but it has expanded its crediting system to private homes, neighborhood developments, and operations and management. I am hopeful that we will have a process standard and product credentialing for packaging and manufacturing soon given there is a lot of synergies between Six Sigma and LEED.

Because it is a voluntary program, it’s fundamental philosophies are based on positive actions rather than passive obligations. I’ve argued elsewhere why this is critical to the survival of our constitutional principles and limiting governments regulations while maximizing citizen cooperation.

LEED credits new constructions, major renovations, core and shell constructions, school construction and renovations, and other commercial or large scale building types. These buildings in the United States are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption, 13% water consumption and 15% of GDP per year, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunity. Greater building efficiency can meet 85% of future U.S. demand for energy, and a national commitment to green building has the potential to generate 2.5 million American jobs.

I have been told that LEED crediting for homes does not yet attract enough interest and is not profitable for scale. But seeing the different activities on the west coast and in IL, I have faith LEED Home will soon be the gold standard for private home constructions and renovations. I am sure this will create additional jobs and opportunities for the local green economy.

LEED for Homes promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes that use less energy and water and fewer natural resources; create less waste; and are healthier and more comfortable for the occupants. The 10,000th home to earn LEED certification was Tacoma Housing Authority's 91-unit development, Salishan 7 in Washington. Salishan 7, built by Walsh Construction Company, is the first federally funded HOPE VI Redevelopment project to achieve LEED Platinum. The project was built within an affordable budget, and was designed to be at least 30% more energy efficient than the average home, effectively removing 27 homes from Tacoma Power’s electrical grid.

Since its launch in 2008, 10,161 homes nationwide have been certified with over 38,000 additional units in the pipeline. In 2011, LEED launched an online tool to help homeowners get certified by the BGCI.

Our home is located within an urban area with acceptable population density and pedestrian access to basic services and bus routes. I am hopeful I can renovate my current home to meet at least a basic LEED standard. We already have composting and have reduced storm water runoffs by using mulching, and other non-structural processes. We capture rain water for our small home farm, and we are thinking about installing solar panel when the technology is right for our investments.

I hope these improvements will add value to our home without causing an empty mortgage bubble. To me, creating a sustainable home is much better than dressing it up for a flip. The value added is real, not just some broker’s empty dreams.

Why LEED?

Someone asked me a while back if there is already government standards to be met by construction companies for new home, (no CFC, minimum energy performance, water saver programs, etc.,) why would we need to meet a higher standard that will reduce profit?

The answer is simple: meeting LEED certification most often does not mean a cost increase. Because LEED pays careful attention to synergies between its crediting, energy efficiency, and various BMP (best management practices for reduce, reuse, and recycle), may not only decrease your overall operating cost, it may also improve your building’s occupant performance. Aside from our constitutional preservation of federalism aside, meeting a positive burden just may feel better than making a few cents in a quick flip.

In addition, LEED certification also factors human health and living qualities that the government agencies and other standards do not consider (i.e. TRACI).

To be continued. . .

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