Green Grows Up: The Many Faces of Today's LEED Homes

“Doing my part to contribute to sustainable development is all well and good, but what will my house look like?” This is frequently the secret (or not so secret) thought running through the heads of many homebuyers and builders contemplating a LEED certified house. How can you balance environmental responsibility along with your tastes in architectural design and your desires for the house of your dreams?

Luckily, the market for ecological construction products is growing quickly. This is occurring as customers become more aware of the collective environmental impact of the building industry, and since the numerous rating systems, ecological laws and certificate applications, like LEED, help push the market down the path to sustainability.

Moore Architects, PC

What exactly does a LEED certified home look like architecturally? And how can it compare with what a sustainable house should look like?

That question is what sometimes launches LEED to a controversial whirlwind, which I’ll now try to sum up for you at a very basic way:

A LEED qualified house, as you are going to see in the photos in this guide, can pretty much look like whatever you desire. The strength (and weakness) of the LEED for Homes rating system is that it attempts to reconcile sustainable construction objectives with the present reality of the green construction market and the range of choices which are realistically available to most individuals.

Natural Balance Home Builders

This usually means that some LEED certified homes will give the very best of ecological characteristics, respect local and traditional construction techniques, keep small and compact forms which are easier to cool and heat, and push the envelope in advanced sustainable construction procedures.

Meanwhile, others could possibly be the consequence of a calculated attempt to gain the minimum credits for accreditation when keeping floor plans and luxury conveniences to compete with other luxury choices.

The range between the two can be quite large, hence the controversy.

The ideal course of action as a prospective homeowner is to understand the history of this controversy so you can make more informed decisions about a specific LEED licensed home.

Here are some crucial visual clues That Will Help You understand what you’re going to see in a LEED house and using a sustainable dwelling in general:

William Johnson Architect

Size: Just how large can my LEED house be?

Ideally, an ecologically responsible house is small and compact in shape. Small homes consume less electricity and require fewer resources to build. Fewer irregularities in the shape mean fewer chances for thermal bridges, which are things at the building’s envelope or skin which make it effortless for heat to escape in winter and enter in summer. To keep costs down for construction, cooling and heatingsystem, a small, compact footprint generally displays the best conservation methods.

Still, you will discover many LEED homes with massively luxury floor plans. Here we find ourselves in the heart of one of the LEED controversies: Many people believe that allowing a house over a certain size to pursue certificate is hypocritical in the event the message is supposed to be around conservation.

The other side to this argument is that somebody who wants to build a big house will likely do this anyway. If this major house is LEED certified, many aspects of it will help lessen its impact. Although some see this as too small of a step, others point out that at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Joni L. Janecki & Associates, Inc..

Placing (rural): Can my LEED house be from the countryside?

Still another visual clue for understanding the expression of a LEED house is its relationship with its site.

A rural house that is well integrated with its site can respond to the local natural environment and even contribute to the region’s biodiversity and ecology. Using resources already in the upcoming construction footprint (by way of instance, using excavated dirt for rammed earth walls, like this Caterpillar House) and by applying landscaping techniques like xeriscaping (the removal of irrigation demands), the impact of the construction can be minimal and the site can function as an extension of the natural environment.

South Park Design Build

Placing (urban): Can my LEED house be on an urban infill lot?

Likewise, in an urban setting, the advantages of the natural environment take the form of present infrastructure. Is the house near local transport and public parks? Is it true that the lot use construction volume while providing open space, perhaps a roof deck or even green roof? Urban LEED certified houses often take in several of these factors in an attempt to promote the development of infill sites while simplifying what’s called the “heat island effect.”

This phenomenon is the reason the temperature downtown is always a little greater than outside the city. When buildings, streets and sidewalks are packaged together, the joint effect of all that asphalt and dark colored roof material can be an “island” of warmer temperatures. The LEED rating system rewards homes which use permeable paving methods, shading and other strategies to help mitigate that impact.

Kipnis Architecture + Planning

Orientation: Can my LEED home need to confront a certain direction?

Along the very same lines, one thing you may find about a LEED certified home is the fact that it will be oriented to take advantage of passive solar heat gains in the winter and shaded in the heat of sunlight. This is a basic concept in designing some construction that claims to consume less energy.

Hint: When buying house to possibly buy, take a compass with you to see how well the house is oriented relative to the path of the sun. Several smartphone programs can help you monitor the sun’s path at a specified location.

Materials and approaches: Do I must use certain materials within my LEED house?

A home design that reacts appropriately to local building traditions and accessible materials can be an additional visual indicator of a LEED house and also an environmentally responsible construction.

Vernacular (domestic or functional) architecture of a specific region has an important role in design factors. However, it doesn’t mean your LEED home must be in the architectural design of the region you reside in.

Occasionally local construction procedures and materials can be utilised in fresh ways while still reaping the benefits of being cost-effective and geographically appropriate.

Josh Wynne Construction

High-quality construction details: Why does my LEED house design need to be this detailed and specific?

A really sustainable home requires durability and focus on construction details. We need this house to have a long, healthy life, so the details are very important. For instance, it’s not just the design of the wall area, or even only the choice of a specific sort of insulation; it’s also how that insulation is set up and how well it is examined and confirmed.

Among the reoccurring arguments in favor of the LEED rating system (as well as several other voluntary third party certificates) is that it gives a frame for this quality control check. It supplies a prescribed path for contractors to take, keeping them accountable to their original aims. Plus it gives the clients an excess set of verifications on the construction site.

Are you a LEED homeowner? Add a photo of your house to the Comments so we can see more of the range of architectural designs and aesthetic choices in LEED homes.

More: What’s LEED All About, Anyway?

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