With green building becoming a standard in residential development, consumers are finding it necessary to quickly familiarize themselves with the LEED rating and what it actually means for them in the long run.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2000. The system essentially provides a rating of a home’s energy efficiency. LEED has the largest recognition among the energy and environmental design ratings programs, which also include Energy Star and EarthCraft.
It is important to note that green building is really about the process of integrated design, and that LEED is just one of many tools which helps define how one building compares to another.
When LEED-accredited professionals go about defining a project, there are essentially five measured criteria that must be considered:
- Site selection/development and incorporation of sustainability measures
- Water efficiency
- Energy efficiency/renewable energy use
- The reduction/reuse/recycling of building materials
- Enhanced IAQ (indoor air quality)
Points are awarded for each of the above criteria, and the sum of all the points determines the project’s LEED certification, either Certified (the lowest), Silver, Gold or Platinum (the highest). The ratings are based on the following scale:
- 26-32 points — LEED Certified
- 33-38 Points — LEED Silver
- 39-51 Points — LEED Gold
- 52-69 points — LEED Platinum
While LEED certification provides a good general score of a building’s efficiency, it does not necessarily indicate that the building is optimized to its fullest capacity. Innovation in green real estate development is constant, and new techniques are being introduced that are not yet incorporated as LEED criteria. For example, smart homes that allow iPhone and PDA users to monitor how their home is operating whether they are next door or 50 miles away are becoming increasingly popular.
LEED is really just a starting point for the future of green real estate as almost half of greenhouse emissions in the U.S. still come from buildings. Combine this with the fact that real estate development is a competitive industry where a LEED rating provides the perfect way for a developer to differentiate a building and attract consumers, and it is clear that this system will continue to be popular for years to come.
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