So you're building a new home and want to make it supremely green. Think you know what it takes to construct a house that can get earn LEED certification? Take our quiz and find out!
LEED guidelines focus on reducing carbon footprint, but they include carbon reduction under the "energy and atmosphere" category. Along with water efficiency and regional priority, the guidelines cover sustainable sites, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, locations and linkages, awareness and education, and innovation in design.
Platinum is the highest certification level, awarded to projects that qualify for at least 80 credit points. Gold, silver and "certified" are the other three levels. There is no diamond level.
Each of the 50 states has its own regionally specific credits, which are selected depending on special environmental needs for those states. Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and international territories also have their own credits. So no matter where you live, your house can qualify under the LEED program.
It might seem to be outside of the purview of a program focused on helping the environment, but LEED offers certification credits for buildings that keep internal air clean and comfortable. Healthy air equals healthy homeowners, according to the USGBC.
Under LEED guidelines, a "no disturbance zone" is a special part of the property where no trees or plants can be removed. For new construction, the zone can be an area where new foliage is planted. Luckily for wildlife, though, LEED does award points for buildings that steer clear of endangered habitats.
At least 40 percent of a yard needs to be set aside for plants and trees to grow to take full advantage of LEED certification credits. Areas underneath the roof and eaves of the house cannot count toward the 40 percent.
To claim this particular credit, LEED homes need to be built within one-half a mile of existing water and sewer infrastructure. Building houses close to existing water lines reduces the amount of disruption to the soil and plant life required to put in new utilities.
Home builders can claim credits for homes that aren't built within 100 feet of any wetlands or bodies water, including swamps, bogs and lakes.
The EPA's ENERGY STAR standards award a special status to homes that are 20 to 30 percent more energy efficient than the average home, and LEED uses those energy standards as the baseline for its own efficiency requirements. Homes can earn additional points when they exceed ENERGY STAR.
True. The USGBC doesn't want to award a certification for a building, only for it to be sold to someone who leaves the water running all day, cancelling out the environmental benefits of the property. So, builders or owners who sell or rent a certified property can claim points for making efforts to teach the new residents how to use a LEED home to its full green potential.
Out of all the money spent on building materials, 8.3 percent -- at most -- can be spent on materials that go to waste. Of course, LEED credits are available for builders who go above and beyond that maximum in their attempt to limit wasted construction materials.
Because urban areas tend to absorb more sunlight and heat up quickly, LEED guidelines provide credits for builders who make efforts to reduce the effect on their green properties. The increased heat of urban areas results in more energy being used to keep the inside of buildings cool during the summer.
"High-albedo" is a term that describes any substance that reflects most of the light that hits it. High-albedo materials are useful in green construction and LEED certification, because they reduce the urban heat island effect.
Green is not always good when it comes to the environment. Conventional turf, or any typical grass lawn, requires a large amount of mowing and water to maintain. So, LEED guidelines award points for homes that use less grass than materials like mulch and plantings. The less grass, the more points are awarded.
Gray water, or re-filtered water that is recycled from showers, sink drains and gutters, can be reused for irrigation. LEED guidelines award points for homes that have gray-water recycling systems installed.
False. LEED guidelines provide up to six bonus certification points for green design features that go above and beyond the standards the USGBC has outlined. Many builders hire LEED experts to help them score these bonus points.
"Invasive plants," or plants that are not native to the natural habitat where a home is located, are banned from LEED certified homes as a measure to protect local natural habitats.
Unlike businesses, which must meet strict water use thresholds for all toilets they install, homes don't need to meet any requirements for toilet water consumption to get LEED certified. But the program does have credit points that can be awarded when homes use toilets and other fixtures that conserve water.
False. The intense commissioning process is only necessary for businesses, which have much more extensive energy use needs than the typical home. Homes need only meet ENERGY STAR requirements to be eligible for LEED certification.
While home builders can take credit points for not installing fireplaces into homes, having a fireplace is not a deal breaker for LEED certification. Even if a home does have a fireplace, it can still qualify for some additional points if it meets certain emissions standards.