My first LEED home (so far)

While all of our houses are some shade of green, and a recent house in Sonoma even tracked 180 points on Green Point Rating system, I have never had the opportunity to work with the USGBC LEED rating system.

LEED House in San Francisco

A new house underway in San Francisco, however, has offered the ideal set of conditions to register for LEED for Homes certification, and we are setting sail (alternative renewable energy, that’s good!) towards a LEED Platinum rating.

First, it is important to understand what LEED is, and is not, and why it is frequently not a very compelling program for custom residential work. LEED is simply a third party certification of the various “green” strategies, materials and features incorporated in a given design. Having an expert on board, and adhering to the process required to complete the LEED checklist, will almost certainly yield a greener design than not having this expert on the team, but this is a potential advantage of LEED, not an inherent advantage. A LEED certified home is not any “greener” than an identical non-certified home; merely, its claims to being green have been inspected and certified by an independent expert, called a LEED Green Rater. And, this certification process has a cost.

The decision path that led us to register our project for LEED for Homes was short, straight and not driven by any ideological desire to promote green or make a statement. It was almost entirely a financial decision.

When I started the project, my client was not more or less neutral on the idea of “green” design and energy efficiency. He was not opposed, as long as it did not add cost or compromise his other priorities for a high-quality, spectacular modern design exploiting killer downtown views to the north. We were given three primary goals: complete the project under budget, by the end of 2013, and in such a way that its appraised value is 25% greater than its cost.

We finally decided to register for LEED for Homes based on three factors:

Although no one can quantify it yet, we are confident that it adds some value to the property, and that this value will only increase as USGBC continues to build the LEED brand

The client enjoys and values being on the cutting edge. Being a leader in the green movement (OK, not a very early leader) has value for him.

We have registered for LEED for Homes and held our first meeting with our Green Rater, Kirk Russell of Strategic Green LLC. After reviewing the design and checklist, we are targeting a Platimum rating. The design is still in design development phase, and I am looking forward to posting images and tracking our progress through the LEED system in future blog posts.