LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally recognized rating system for commercial buildings and homes administered by the CaGBC (Canada Green Building Council) to encourage sustainable building practices.
While the commercial program has been in effect for much longer, LEED for Homes Canada was developed in 2009, and applies to single-family homes and low-rise multi-family units up to 3 stories. Midrise residential buildings of 4 to 9 stories in Canada can participate in the USBGC program through Canadian Homes Providers.The CaGBC recently launched LEED v4, an updated rating system.
A LEED Certified home is one verified by an independent third party to have met standards beyond conventional building practices to create a healthier, more sustainable and energy efficient home.
To achieve LEED certification of a home, builders are required to meet 19 prerequisite measures and a minimum amount of optional credits. Levels of certification that can be achieved are Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum based on the amount of points earned, Platinum being the highest.
Why build to LEED standards?
Health and comfort:
Canadians spend on average 90% of their time indoors, where air quality can be several times more polluted than outside air. High levels of toxins in buiding materials as well as paints and finishes has led to a sharp increase in the rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, especially among children.
Newly built homes can often have as much as 10 times the level of formaldehyde deemed safe by Health Canada.
The LEED rating system addresses this issue, rewarding builders for incorporating non-toxic building materials and finishes into homes, and requires the mandatory installation of properly functioning and balanced HRV systems (heat recovery ventilation).
Performance and ecological footprint:
A LEED Certified home has passed independent third party inspection and offers superior design, performance and durability over conventionally built homes.
As resources become increasingly scarce, the cost to operate a home is continually rising. While it is possible to certify a home to LEED standards at par or even cheaper than conventionally built homes, any premium you do pay will almost certainly offer you a net savings in the long run as you enjoy lower operational costs.
LEED awards points for using for non-toxic materials, sustainably harvested materials, local materials, recylcled and reclaimed materials.
Financial benefits of LEED homes:
Prior to certification, each home receives a consumption simulation model, so you know ahead of time its approximate operational costs. LEED homes generally consume between 30% and 70% less energy and reduce water consumption by as much as 50% compared to the national average, so your operational costs will be lower.
Aside from lower utility bills, there are potentially other hidden financial benefits that come with the purchase of a LEED home, depending on where you live and the service providers you deal with.
There are financial institutions that offer preferred mortgages, municipalities that offer tax relief, and even reductions in home insurance. The co-operators insurance company for one, offers a 10% discount to any LEED certified home. There may be others out there, check with your broker.
And if you ever decide to move, research shows LEED certified homes have higher resale values and they consistantly spend less time on the market.