Friday, February 27, 2015

Why would I want a LEED home?

·   Because I want a green home that is more than just energy saving

LEED is a holistic environmental building program that pushes projects to do more than just save energy and reduce greenhouse gases.  Projects must look at water savings, landscaping, home size and durability to meet the minimum LEED standards.  

    ·   Because I think homes are getting too big and feel that large     homes should be penalized for their energy and resource consumption

North American home size has grown dramatically over the last 50 years, even as average family size has shrunk.  LEED homes have their size accounted for in the score, and large homes quickly receive penalties of 20 to 50%.  This means that large homes with few usable bedrooms must work much harder to improve their sustainability to offset their large sizes.  

The biggest thing any home can do for the environment is look closely at size and density to improve use of space and land.  Substantial credits are awarded to LEED projects that build smaller, and at higher densities like townhouse and secondary suites. 

·   Because I want the workmanship of my builder and their trades to be rigorously checked by third party inspections and the results communicated to me, the owner

It’s tough to build these days; builders’ supervision can be stretched thin & trades experience and professionalism varies widely.  One client joked “there is nothing like giving a half million dollars away to high school dropouts to build you a home”.  LEED for Hones requires professional, third party inspections by approved Green Raters to assess and verify all LEED measures in a home.  From insulation all the way to the light bulbs a team of LEED professionals have checked and double checked your home for performance and compliance. 
·   Each LEED Home is checked by a Green Rater, a professional in Green building practices and LEED for Homes.
·   Each Green Raters work is checked by the LEED Providers Quality Assurance Designee, a Sr. Green Rater with additional experience in green building.
·   Every home submitted by a Provider is audited by the CaGBC (Canadian Green Building Council) directly prior to certification, completing a detailed review of paperwork as well as conducting a Certification Call, a phone conference to discuss how the project was built and verified onsite. 

·   Because I want a home that doesn't just play lip service to the environmental green movement, but demands real smart choices for a sustainable future

There is a real problem with “greenwashing” today.  From consumer products to SUVs, almost anything can be sold at a premium price with a “green” label.  LEED and the Canada Green Building Council fight this trend by setting rigorous standard for a LEED green home.  Leveraging 2 decades of green building experience through the highly recognized LEED New Construction program for commercial buildings, LEED for Homes offers the same foundation of rigor and accountability, but scaled to match residential construction practices.  

Not every green building is certified by LEED, but the buildings which are certified are listed in the project profiles page on the CaGBC website.  You quickly see the majority of the best buildings in Calgary are proudly certified by LEED. Here is a short list of some of the higher profile buildings in and around Calgary to search for:
  • The Water Centre
  • Calgary Courts Centre
  • Crowfoot Library
  • Cardel Place
  • Jamison Place 

·   Because I want my home to be something I can trust to be healthier and safer to live in, knowing that it has been triple checked against the rigorous LEED standards

Spending large amounts of time indoors can have a tremendous effect on our health, as many studies are now showing.  Many products typically used to build new buildings and homes can be highly toxic.  LEED promote the use of better alternatives by awarding credits for many of the most important finishing materials used in new homes: paints, cabinets, flooring, etc. 

It’s not just some of the paint or some of the flooring, 90% must meet the requirements.  So if a project earns a credit for low VOC paints you know that 90% of all paints and coatings, right down to the primers were compliant with the LEED standards and were double checked by the Green Raters. 

·   Because I want a home as nice to live in as my LEED office, My LEED library and LEED community centre

With over 153 LEED certified buildings in Calgary today, and many more under certification now, you are likely spending time enjoying LEED buildings already.  From your children’s new school,  your new office downtown, or even the new Starbuck across the street, there are good odds you’re enjoying the benefits and quality that come with a LEED certified building already, why not enjoy the same at home?  If you want to browse which buildings in Calgary (or any other city or province) are LEED Certified, you can click this link and use the search engine to browse the project profiles on the CaGBC website.

·   Because I want a home that demands that the builder use best practices and not just build to code minimum

Builders are able to take advantage uneducated and ill-informed buyers when selling new homes because they simply don’t know to ask for quality performance indicators like airtightness results, EnerGuide scores, LEED Certification and other third party inspection programs that can help produce a quality home.  Builders can easily hide poor practices behind nice finishes, but you can’t hide a poor performing air barrier from the required blower door test of all LEED homes.  Home buyers can take control and demand better homes without technical experience by just demanding LEED.  

The added cost for a quality Builder to certify to LEED is often only a few thousand dollars, with the majority of the costs being spent on the extra inspections required.  

·   Because I don't trust the city inspection system or provincial building codes to protect my health or that of the environment

Unfortunately Alberta is generally regarded as having the weakest Building Code in Canada and this allows builders to build new homes to outdated standards compared with many jurisdictions in Canada. Insulation and air tightness of new homes is not required to be checked at all as part of the City of Calgary’s inspection system.  The new Alberta New Home Warranty program does little to address problems in construction before the home is built; only mediating dispute once poor construction has become a headache for the new owner.  

It is possible to get ahead of these outdated codes by following programs like LEED that require best practices when it comes to envelope durability, insulation and energy efficiency and that include additional inspection during construction and after finishing. 

·   Because I want everyone building my home to be held accountable to high standards.

The unfortunate reality of building a new home is that few in the process care as much about your new home as you do.  Trades are often paid by the job and rush to get in and out as quickly as possible.  Builders often want to do as little as possible in order to not complicate things or slow down their process.  

What gets lost in the work is the commitment to best practices, building with pride and accountability to ensure the final result is of the highest quality.  Just knowing that a Green Rater inspection is going to check the work of many trades who never get third party check of their work is enough to step up the attention on site.  Critical trades like heating and ventilation trades must sign accountability forms attesting that their work meets the LEED standards.  

In the same way that few people will speed through an intersection with a police car behind them, so too will trades and builders improve their work, knowing that a third party inspection is coming in a LEED project. 

Article by: Tyler Hermanson