It's official. We received notification last week that we've achieved LEED Gold certification from the USGBC.
Next Tuesday (I'm not sure why we have to wait until Tuesday, but that's what the email says) I can order the complimentary plaque
from http://www.greenplaque.com/. There's no such thing as a free lunch, though.
It was a long and rather arduous task. Part of it was the learning curve, since it was my first LEED project. The LEED for Homes Rating System handbook and errata are rather lengthy. We nicknamed the handbook the LEED for Homes bible and read it often. Passages like "A project receiving points for EA 1 is not eligible for this credit, and vice versa. A project pursuing this credit must follow the prescriptive pathway and all of the associated prerequisites in EA 2-10. Prerequisite EA 1.1 should be skipped. See the pathway schematic at the beginning of the EA section." and errata like "Clarification: If a project earns points in SS 2.5, additional points for irrigation system improvements may only be earned in WE 2.3. No points may be earned in WE 2.1 or WE 2.2." meant that we had to go back to the handbook often. We even printed out Table 24
extra large, had it laminated and carried it with us since so much hinges on this list. 8 1/2" x 11" just isn't big enough for this much info.
Here's a brief overview of the LEED for Homes rating system from earlier in the blog.
After adjustment for our house size, 50 points were required for LEED Certified, 65 points for Silver, 80 points for Gold and 95 points for Platinum. We earned 84.5 points, which puts the house well into the Gold category. We could only build a two bedroom house on this site due to zoning constraints, yet we wanted to have a house large enough to accommodate guests when needed. If we were able to build three bedrooms, we would have gained about 9 points. With just a little more work, Platinum would have been achievable.
The LEED process was difficult but beneficial in many ways. Although I would have built an energy efficient house no matter what, the LEED process did encourage things like the use of local materials, renewable resources and drought tolerant landscaping. For instance, I bought my interior trim from a local mill, made from local trees, and my custom woodwork cost less than stock mouldings at the local lumberyard. We have a small yard and hardier plants, which mean less water use and less maintenance. Most of the provisions make ultimate sense.
The process does have its share of provisions which sometimes left me scratching my head, though. For instance, there's a complex calculation for irrigation demand reduction.
Although it's rather involved, I figured that I could just set up a spreadsheet and calculate things. I never could find out where to get some of the factors used in the calculation, though. After asking my LEED provider, it turns out that virtually no one uses this calculation. It's so complicated that, in their experience, everyone uses an alternate path for this credit. And when I was figuring out how to document the Framing Waste Order Factor, I found this article titled Green Building Programs Got Some 'Splainin to Do, Why do most programs have to be so complicated? It's good that green homes programs are increasing awareness and raising the bar but, after going through the process, I can understand how the complexities can be a little daunting.