Ask Our Experts

Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.

Add to My MSN

LEED for Homes: Guaranteed Green?

10/29/2010 11:48:12 AM

Tags: LEED, green-building,

LEED Platinum HomeWhat are the pros and cons of building or buying a LEED-certified house?  

The main benefit of any green-building rating program, such as LEED for Homes, is the information you receive during the certification process. All the green features of your home are identified and verified so you know exactly what you’re buying. Also, consider that green-building rating programs have the potential to improve the way homes are designed, built and operated, so by participating in this program you’re helping support the long-term trend toward greener building practices.

Full disclosure: I have done work for several of the major green-building ratings programs, but I am not a rater for any of them and I have no vested interest in which one you might use. I do, however, think there are some aspects of LEED for Homes that make it a standout program.

What is LEED for Homes? LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it’s a rating program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The LEED program began in 1998 and was first used for commercial buildings. LEED for Homes is a newer program, which was officially released in 2008.

Points and Prerequisites. Like most green-building rating programs, LEED for Homes relies on a total number of points, and I think this program’s approach to points is a solid one. It makes “good” building mandatory, and awards one point for “better” and two points for “best” building practices. While not all green rating programs have mandatory items, LEED for Homes has 18, and these include some valuable standards. For example, a LEED-certified home must earn the Energy Star label, which creates a solid energy-efficiency foundation for any home.

Home Size. Bigger homes have to work much harder for LEED certification than smaller homes. That’s because LEED for Homes has a unique “home size adjuster.” Homes that are larger than average need more points at each level (certified, silver, gold and platinum), while smaller-than-average homes need fewer points. This makes home size an overarching issue, as it should be, because more resources are required to build and maintain a larger home.

Brand Recognition. While many green labeling or rating programs are just beginning to penetrate the real estate and appraisal industries in a significant way, LEED for Homes is already well-recognized in the marketplace for well-built, energy-efficient and comfortable homes. This label should be attractive to potential buyers when you decide to sell your home in the future.

There are some costs associated with the documentation of a LEED-certified home. I’ve heard of costs as low as $1,000 and as high as $2,500 for total rating program costs. But you need to think of these costs as part of the value of the certification, because documentation is critical to the substance and credibility of the program. Also remember that some of the features of a LEED-certified home — such as high levels of energy and water efficiency — will save you considerable money over time through lower utility bills.

For more information on LEED certification, visit U.S. Green Building Council. For a review of all major green-home-building programs, check out Green Building Advisor.

— Peter Yost, director of residential services for BuildingGreen  

Above: This Vermont home is LEED Platinum — the highest level of LEED green-home certification. Photo by Scott Gibson.  

Send us your sustainable living questions! Do you have a question you’d like to see answered in MOTHER EARTH NEWS? Send it our way and it could be featured in the next issue of the magazine! You can e-mail us at

Related Content

The GO Home Receives 2011 Project of the Year Award From US Green Building Council

GO Home, built by architecture and construction firm G•O Logic LLC, received the U.S. Green Building...

What's Your Favorite Farm or Homestead Name?

Homesteads and farms often have fun or touching names that etch themselves into our memories. Is th...

LEED Platinum Homes and Buildings: Top-Ranking States and Countries

Find out which states and countries have the greatest number of LEED Platinum certified projects, an...

Greenbuild Build Up

It’s hot here in Atlanta. In more ways than one.

Content Tools

Post a comment below.


Pat Miketinac
11/11/2010 9:22:46 PM
I found the LEED forms to be incompatible with earth sheltered housing, but useful for conventional construction. For example, my walls and floor have no insulation so as to passively heat and cool the house with the 72 degree ground temperature here in Florida.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.