For now and the future

 

Take advantage of my LEED AP certification

Michael McLean

514.443.1181

A holistic approach to a sustainable and healthy environment

What does LEED AP means?

It's an acronym for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Accredited Professional".

Is a green home right for me?

If you would like a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle for you and your family, a green home is probably right for you.

Green LEED homes are better for the environment because they use less energy and less water through intelligent and sustainable design and construction.

LEED certified homes are more than environmentally friendly - LEED homes have lower utility bills, are associated with fewer asthma attacks, and are also at lower risk for mold and mildew. What's more, LEED homes are affordable - green building and design doesn't have to be expensive.

How are green homes good for the environment?

In the United States, homes are responsible for approximately 21% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. By living in a green home, you are reducing your individual contribution of greenhouse gases - one of the principle causes of climate change.

LEED (which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit environmental organization with more than 14,000 member organizations that is dedicated to sustainability in building design and construction.

LEED Accredited Professionals (or LEED APs) are certified by the U.S. Green Building Council as having "demonstrated an advanced depth of knowledge in green building practices."

LEED AP architects (which includes Michael McLean) are expert practitioners in the design and construction phases of high-performance, healthful, durable, affordable, and environmentally sound buildings for commercial, institutional, and residential use.

You can learn more about LEED, the U.S. Green Building Council, and LEED AP certification at TheGreenHomeGuide.org. You can also explore case studies on a variety of LEED-certified homes at TheGreenHomeGuide.org.

 

LEED for Homes Certification

 

There are many benefits for homeowners and home builders interested in constructing a LEED certified dwelling. In addition to the benefits listed above, LEED certified homes often enjoy increased interest from environmentally conscious potential buyers. Building a LEED certified home is a smart investment.

What You Need to Build a LEED Home

  • LEED for Homes Provider: Your local provider will help you find a LEED builder and get your project registered. Contact us to learn more.
  • Local Builder with LEED certification experience: While LEED for Homes only certifies home projects (and not builders), any builder is eligible to register a project with LEED. However, a builder with LEED certification experience is recommended.
  • A Rating System: Learn more -  download the entire rating system.
  • The LEED for Homes Reference Guide: 350 pages of technical advice and detailed information on the LEED for Home Rating System.

More information that you may find useful:

 

LEED for Homes Point Categories

The LEED for Homes voluntary rating system awards certification based on point totals in eight categories (download the checklist to learn more about point requirements). These eight categories are:

Innovation & Design Process

Credits awarded in this category are a result of careful project planning and careful design. Since green design strategies and environmental building measures are constantly evolving and improving, it's important that builders work with a LEED accredited professional architect familiar with new technologies and up-to-date scientific research.

The importance of this category can't be understated - green home-building strategies and techniques are most effective when they are implemented as part of an integrated design process. Emphasis on good design up-front can keep project costs down as well as ensuring the proper integration of green techniques.

One aspect of home design that is often overlooked is the assessment and mitigation of long-term durability risks to the home. Durability failures are a significant cost and cause of stress for both builders and homeowners, but many easy and low-cost strategies are often overlooked because builders do not consider durability in the up-front design.

In addition to recommended design and building practices, LEED I&D credits can be earned for innovative designs, exemplary performance, or the incorporation of regional best-practices that can be shown to produce quantifiable environmental and human health benefits.

Location & Linkages

Location & Linkages (LL) credits reward builders for selecting home sites that have more sustainable land-use patterns and offer advantages over conventional developments. LEED certified homes rest on land that is used more efficiently, reducing the acreage needed for new housing. Any fragmentation of farmland and/or forest or other natural areas is minimized. There is also an emphasis on "well-sited" developments that need less infrastructure (especially roads, water, and sewer lines). LEED developments also often promote a range of sustainable transportation options including walking, cycling, and mass transit, thereby reducing dependence on personal automobiles and the greenhouse gases they produce.

Sustainable Sites

There's no doubt that home-building projects can have substantial site-related environmental effects. Therefore, green building must go beyond the actual structure because the use of the site and its natural elements can have a significant environmental impact. The Location & Linkages category awards projects for choosing a preferable site; the Sustainable Sites category awards projects for minimizing the impact on the site chosen.

It's important for builders and designers to recognize that early decisions about how to incorporate the home onto the site can have significant long-term effects on local and regional ecosystems, as well as demand for water, chemicals and pesticides for site management. Good design decisions can result in attractive, easy-to-maintain landscaping that protects native plant and animal species and contributes to the health of local and regional habitats.

Depending on how a home is integrated into the site, normal rainfall can be an area of concern. Rainfall can cause soil erosion, and the run-off from a poorly planned site can contain chemicals and pesticides. Depending on the initial design, surrounding plants can be a burden that require regular upkeep, watering, and chemicals, or they can be an enhancement that provides shade, aesthetic value, habitat for native species, and a mechanism for absorbing carbon and enriching the soil.

Site design should take into consideration the aesthetic and functional preferences of the occupants, but also long-term management needs, preservation principles and potential impacts on local and regional ecosystems.

The six Sustainable Sites (SS) credits in the LEED for Homes Rating System:

  • Site Stewardship
  • Landscaping
  • Local Heat Island Effects
  • Surface Water Management
  • Non-toxic Pest Control
  • Compact Development

 

Water Efficiency

In the United States, approximately 340 billion gallons of fresh water are withdrawn per day from rivers and reservoirs to support residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and recreational activities. This volume of water accounts for about one-fourth of the nation’s total renewable fresh water supply.

Additionally, water is withdrawn from underground aquifers. In some parts of the United States, water levels in these aquifers has fallen dramatically, dropping more than 100 feet since the 1940s.

This level of water use is obviously unsustainable. On an annual basis, this water deficit in the United States is estimated at about 3,700 billion gallons. Put another way, the people of the United States extract 3,700 billion gallons of water from the environment that is not returned to the natural system.

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 mandated the use of water-conserving plumbing fixtures and fittings to reduce water use in residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. Additional water efficiency measures in new LEED homes can easily reduce water usage by 30% (or more). In a typical LEED home, savings of 30,000 gallons of water a year can be achieved very cost-effectively.

The Water Efficiency (WE) category in the LEED for Homes Rating System has three kinds of credits:

  • Water Reuse
  • Irrigation Systems
  • Indoor Water Use

 

Energy & Atmosphere

Over the past decade, the United States has seen a substantial increase in total household use of fossil energy. Much of this increase is due to a tremendous increase in size of the average home, which is now more than twice the size of the average home constructed only 50 years ago. While this increase in size of the average home has many benefits, there are many concerns as well.

Larger homes use more energy, most of which comes from conventional fossil-based generation systems. This type of energy releases carbon dioxide, a significant contributor to global climate change. Coal-fired electric utilities (the principal source of energy in the majority of the United States) emit almost one-third of the country’s anthropogenic nitrogen oxides (the precursor of smog) and two-thirds of the sulfur dioxide in the air (which causes acid rain). Coal-fired power plants also emit more fine particulate material than any other activity in the United States, a significant contributing factor in the tens of thousands of cancer and respiratory illness-related deaths annually. Natural gas, nuclear fission and hydroelectric generators (the main alternatives to coal-fired electric plants) all have adverse environmental impacts as well.

Since buildings consume approximately 37% of the energy and 68% of the electricity produced in the United States annually (figures according to the U.S. Department of Energy), and considering the environmental impact of emissions from power generation, it behooves us all to minimize the energy usage of our homes.

Building green homes is one of the best strategies for meeting the challenge of climate change because the technology to make substantial reductions in energy and CO2 emissions already exists. The average certified LEED home uses 30% to 40% less electricity and saves more than 100 metric tons of CO2 emissions over its lifetime. Modest investments in energy-saving and climate-friendly technologies will yield homes and communities that are healthier, more comfortable, more durable, more energy efficient, and more environmentally responsible places to live.

LEED certification emphasizes energy efficient building designs that reduce contributions of greenhouse gases.

 

Materials & Resources

Choosing the correct building materials is an important and sometimes overlooked aspect of sustainable homebuilding. Because building materials are dependent upon an extensive network of extraction, processing, and transportation systems, the best choice is not always obvious.

Good design decisions, particularly in the framing of homes, can significantly reduce demand for framing materials and the associated waste (not to mention the 'embedded' energy in the extraction, processing and transportation of these materials). A simple focus on saving framing materials and reducing waste can have a significant impact, usually without requiring the slightest change in home design. Planning appropriately and communicating the design to the framing team through detailed framing documents and/or scopes of work is a simple and cost effective measure for reducing energy use and waste.

Sources should also be evaluated when selecting building materials. Reclaimed (i.e., salvaged post-consumer) materials can be substituted for new materials, saving both costs and reducing resource use. Recycled-content materials, which reuse waste products that would otherwise be deposited in landfills, are also a smart choice. Use of local materials, which supports the local economy and reduces the harmful impacts of long-distance transport, are also encouraged. In instances where wood is needed, the use third-party-certified lumber promotes good stewardship of forests and related ecosystems. In another building material choice that often goes overlooked, the use of low-emitting materials will improve the indoor air quality in the home.

Finally, waste management with an emphasis on recycling is an important aspect of any LEED building project.

The Materials & Resources (MR) category in the LEED for Homes Rating System has three components:

  • Material-Efficient Framing
  • Environmentally Preferable Products
  • Waste Management

 

Indoor Environmental Quality

The average North American spends 90% of their time indoors. According to the U.S. EPA, levels of pollutants indoors may run two to five times — and occasionally more than 100 times — higher than outdoors. Similarly, the World Health Organization reported in its Air Quality Guidelines for Europe that most of an individual's exposure to many air pollutants comes through inhalation of indoor air. The surprising significance of indoor air quality is an important aspect of LEED certification.

Homeowners, architects, and builders have just begun to realize the link between individual health and homes. Hazardous household pollutants may include carbon monoxide, radon, formaldehyde, mold, dirt and dust, pet dander, and residue from tobacco smoke and candles. Many homeowners also store various chemicals inside their homes as well, including pesticides, fertilizers, solvents, grease, oils, degreasers, gasoline, antifreeze, strong detergents, thinners and oil-based paints. Over the past 20 years, research and experience have improved our understanding of what is involved in attaining high indoor environmental quality and revealed manufacturing and construction practices that can prevent problems from arising.

Fortunately, preventing indoor air quality problems is generally much less expensive than identifying and solving them after they occur. Generally, there are three types of strategies: source removal, source control, and dilution.

Source removal is the most practical way to ensure that harmful chemical compounds are not brought into the home. Evaluating the properties of adhesives, paints, carpets, composite wood products and furniture and selecting materials with low levels of potentially irritating off-gassing will reduce occupant exposure to pollutants. Careful scheduling of deliveries and sequencing construction activities can serve to reduce the exposure of building materials to moisture (moisture contributes to mold) as well as the absorption of off-gassed contaminants (another source of pollutants).

Source control strategies focus on capturing pollutants that are known to exist in a home. For example, filtering the supply air stream removes particulates that would otherwise be continuously re-circulated throughout the home. Protection of air-handling systems during construction and a building "flush-out" prior to occupancy will further reduce the potential for problems.

Dilution, the final indoor air quality strategy, involves the use of fresh outside air to ventilate a home and exhaust pollutants to the outdoors. This strategy may also help to control moisture within the home inhibiting the growth of mold and mildew. Most new homes in the United States do not have mechanical fresh-air ventilation systems. The typical air-handling system in new homes merely re-circulates the air within the home, continuously pumping indoor pollutants through the home rather than exhausting them. LEED certification can address this oversight.

The Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) credit category encourages builders to prevent air pollution and improve air quality and comfort in the homes they build.

 

Awareness & Education

The LEED for Homes Rating System addresses the design and construction of new green homes — roles that are the responsibility of the home designer and the builder, respectively. But the environmental impact of a home continues throughout its life-cycle, well beyond the initial design and construction decisions. Most new homes are expected to last 50 to 100 years, during which the occupants will consume energy, water, and other resources. Therefore, home occupants play a substantial role in the resource use of a home over its lifetime.

Some homebuyers may know very little about green home construction and use. They may be unaware of the green features in the home, or they may be unfamiliar with how to use and maintain them. Without adequate training, the full benefits of some LEED measures will not be achieved.

This credit category promotes broad awareness among homebuyers and tenants that LEED homes are built differently and need to be operated and maintained accordingly. Because the operations and maintenance tasks in multifamily buildings may be performed by a building manager, this credit also addresses the need for appropriate education of building managers.

The two Awareness & Education (AE) categories in the LEED for Homes Rating System are Education of the Homeowner or Tenant and Education of the Building Manager.

LEED Certified Homes FAQs

How will a LEED home benefit me?

The benefits of a LEED home include:

  • Lower energy and water bills
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reduced exposure to mold, mildew, and other indoor toxins
  • In some cases, LEED homes also enjoy reduced financing fees, lower insurance premiums, and tax benefits.


How can I compare a LEED certified green home to a normal, conventional home?

Think of LEED as a "building nutrition label" that gives you much greater confidence in specific features of your home that will contribute to your quality of life. To make comparison easier, LEED certified green homes include a homeowner’s manual and a LEED “scorecard” that reflects third-party verified information about the home’s energy performance, water savings, materials used in construction, and other features. Similar, third-party verified information is typically not available for conventionally constructed homes.

What types of homes are LEED certified?

The LEED for Homes certification system is tailored for the construction of market rate and affordable new single family or low-rise multi-family homes (like condos and garden apartments). Existing homes which undergo extensive renovations (technically defined as a renovation down to the last studs on at least one side of each exterior wall) are also eligible to participate in the LEED home certification program.

What about remodeling projects?

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) have partnered to create the REGREEN Program, which is the first nationwide green residential remodeling guidelines for existing homes.

Do LEED-certified homes cost more?

LEED certified homes can fit any budget. LEED certified homes range from expensive, luxury residences to small and simple Habitat for Humanity homes. In fact, LEED homes are often less expensive to own than conventional homes, especially when the lifetime of the building is concerned. Remember - buying green and asking for LEED-certification is your choice.