Understanding LEED for Homes: Innovation and design

| by Melissa Rappaport Schifman
Understanding LEED for Homes: Innovation and design

Innovation and Design is the first of eight categories in the LEED for Homes Rating System. It awards up to 11 points toward certification.

For those homeowners who are not that interested in LEED certification, but are interested in best practices for green homes, this article addresses what it takes to do well in this arena.

There are three requirements in this category:

  1. Plan ahead. This means getting everyone together early on to discuss the owner's goals and intentions for building green. The people that should be included in the initial design meeting are: the construction manager, the architect/designer, and the subcontractors for HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. If there is a landscaper on the design team, that person should come as well. At a minimum, having everyone together for a kick-off meeting makes the building process go more smoothly.
  2. Plan to build a home that lasts. Referred to as "durability planning," this means identifying potential risks early on that might affect the long-term health of the home –including indoor moisture control measures, climate issues (like risks of floods, tornados, etc.), and pests. This seems like an obvious thing that any builder would do, but common sense is not always common.
  3. Put in place quality control measures. This means that the builder has to inspect and check off each measure in the durability plan from the previous prerequisite. To me, it means that the builder just does his job.

After these prerequisites are met, additional points can be attained through the following:

  • Holding a "design charette." (This is basically the same as #1 above, but more formal).
  • Having a LEED Accredited Professional on your team.
  • Verifying durability measures by a third party. This means hiring a Green Rater to inspect and verify what the builder has already verified in #3 above – always a benefit, in my opinion.
  • Orienting the building for solar design. In an ideal world, though, this would mean that your home would meet the following requirements:
  • The area of the windows on north and south sides of the house have to be at least 50% greater than those on the east and west sides of the house.
  • The east-west axis of the building has to be within 15 degrees of due east-west.
  • The roof has a minimum of 450 square feet of south-facing area that would be appropriate for solar applications.
  • At least 90% of the south-facing windows is completely shaded at noon on June 21st and un-shaded at noon on December 21st.

(In my opinion, all of this is very difficult to do on a small lot and is quite site dependent. But, it's good to know if you've got flexibility.)

I really like this section because it allows for variations in design and creativity. The overall intent is to give points for "additional green design and construction measures that have tangible and demonstrable benefits beyond those in the LEED for Homes Rating System." The LEED Rating system recognizes that technologies continue to evolve and rewards design teams for doing new things.

This entire section is a good introduction to the LEED process because it is not very technical and stresses the importance of early planning.


Topics: Building Green, Certification / LEED



Melissa Rappaport Schifman
Melissa provides sustainability consulting services for businesses in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Melissa is also the founder of Green Intention LLC, where she writes and blogs about her experience in getting her own home LEED Gold certified--and then trying to live more sustainably in the home. She chairs her congregation’s Task Force for Sustainability, has her MBA, Master's in Public Policy, and is a LEED AP for Homes. www

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