The subject of many of my talks, as well as a chapter in the upcoming green building textbook I am co-authoring is the concept of “Green From the Start.”
I realize this isn’t all that original, but it is critically important and is always worth repeating, at least until everyone understands and actually does it – then I suppose we can all shut up and go home.
Getting green certification begins with looking at the checklist and planning a design strategy. Sure, you can go the hard route and aim for full credits on every item on the checklist, but for those just trying to dip their toe in the green building pool, this isn’t practical.
Instead, pick up as many points as you can by doing the easy stuff. While this isn’t technically cheating, it will feel like it because many of these things are things that quality builders do already.
In (roughly) the order that they appear on the LEED checklist, here are 22 simple things you can do to get up to _70 points_ on your project.
1. Build a smaller home/call everything a bedroom. Keeping your house below the neutral score for homes of 1900 SF with three bedrooms
will lower the total number of points you need. If your house is big, make sure you have lots of rooms that can be classified as bedrooms to offset the point penalty for larger homes. A bedroom is classified as any room that can be used for sleeping that meets fire and building code requirements. Who needs hallways when you can have more bedrooms?
2. Build near transit, stores, schools, etc. Considering that transportation energy is almost always more than site energy, this one gets some real-world results. Points for infill projects
, homes built on previously developed land, built near existing water and sewer service and near open space all gain points. Up to 10 points are available for location credits.
3. Use less wood. Building with advanced framing techniques is not hard, saves money, makes buildings more efficient, and provides points. Just do it and grab up to 3 points.
4. Build a duplex. High density development is tough to do for custom single family homes, but easy for multifamily projects
. Build on a 1/7 acre (or smaller) lot and get 2 points. Twenty or more units
per acre gets you 4 points.
5. Model your building. Get your rater to do an energy model (HERS Rating) on your project early in the process and play around with different options to make it more efficient. You may find that putting a little more insulation and a smaller HVAC system is cheaper and will get you more points. While it’s tough to approach the 0 HERS score that gets you 34 points, a HERS 70 is not that tough and gets you either 9.5 or 13 points, depending on your climate zone.
6. Leave out the fireplace — get 2 points. No one really needs one anyway, do they?
7. Leave the garage out back. Build a detached garage
, add a breezeway if your clients are afraid of getting wet, and get 3 points.
8. Get your LEED AP Homes designation, or have someone on your team get their LEED
AP Homes designation (regular AP designations don’t qualify) and pick up one easy point.
9. Use your Green Rater. You have to put together the durability management checklist anyway, and if you have your rater independently verify it you get 3 points. This may take a little extra work coordinating schedules and providing some photo-documentation, but it gets you a lot of points for the effort.
10. Don’t poison bugs. Design and build to keep those pesky termites at bay without poisoning
your clients, get up to 2 points.
11. Be stingy with outside water use. If you’re putting in irrigation
, you get up to 3 points for including some simple water efficiency measures.
12. Be stingy with interior water use. Install one efficient showerhead (just one!) per stall, high efficiency toilets
and lavatories (all of them) and get 6 points. Doh!
13. Insulate the hot water pipes — get a point.
14. Use green products and materials. Tracking Environmentally Preferred Products
is kind of an administrative nightmare, but you can pick up as many as 8 points for things like finger-jointed studs, fly ash in concrete, PEX pipe, locally sourced products (within 500 miles), no carpet, and low-VOC paints.
15. Recycle. If there are companies that recycle construction waste
in your area, hire them. You’ll probably save money and pick up as many as 3 points.
16. Three words: Automatic Bath Fans.
Install timers, motion sensors, or buy fans with auto off or humidistat controls for your bathrooms and pick up a point.
17. Upgrade the HVAC filters. You have to put in a minimum of MERV 8 HVAC filters
, so why not upgrade to a 10 or 13 and pick up 1 or 2 more points for not much cost or effort.
18. Take off your shoes. Install a bench
and shelves for shoe storage at the main entry, add one point.
19. Make vacuuming easy. Install a central vacuum system, get another point.
20. Air out the house for at least 48 hours before occupancy. It’s a good idea and an easy point.
21. Vent the soil gasses . If you’re not in a radon risk zone, it’s still a good idea to put in a soil gas vent
system and you get to take a point for not much effort.
22. Brag about your green-ness. Put up a LEED for Homes sign, stick a few pages on your website
about LEED, get an article published, hold four open houses. Pick three and you get a point. These are all good marketing practices and will help you get more business.
OK, class, I think I’ve given you enough for you to digest for today. Your assignment is, based on what you just learned, to look at a recent project you either certified, or thought about certifying, and note where you missed some easy points. Now you know how to pick up those points on the next project. Next time we will discuss the really tough credits to get, the secret credits, prerequisites, and how to handle your documentation.
*No, that title wasn’t my idea. It was my damned editor’s. But I got paid, and you read the article, right?
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