By Ritchie Lafaille, Office Fellow
The Center for EcoTechnology’s New Construction team works with contractors to offer LEED Certification for residential buildings.A recent inspection took place at a veteran women’s four-unit project in Leeds, Massachusetts by CET’s Building Science Specialist, Mark Newey. The building project is funded by Soldier On, a private, non-profit organization which attempts to end veteran homelessness. Soldier On funds housing complexes, medical services, and programs that provide veterans with treatment and recovery from drug and alcohol addictions. This specific project, which will house 16 residents upon completion, is currently ENERGY STAR rated and LEED for Homes registered with the goal of becoming certified.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and was developed by the US Green Building Council. This green building rating system is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED Certification attempts to ensure that energy efficiency and environmental impact are taken into account during the building process, and to encourage builders to adopt more sustainable building methods. There have been several versions of the certification over time, the most recent of which is LEED v4 for residential buildings.
LEED takes a big-picture look at what makes a building sustainable. To determine if the unit meets LEED requirements, Mark inspects the property by observing and inspecting indoor and outdoor features such as lighting and water fixtures. The inspection process also includes a blower door test to observe the air-tightness of the building and any potential air leakage sites. There are eight sections of the LEED project checklist including: sustainable site selection, landscaping, water efficiency, optimizing energy performance, materials used, energy efficiency, and education of both homeowner and building manager.
As a building meets more of these requirements, it gains more points, which qualifies it for a higher LEED certification level. Depending on the amount of points a particular building scores, it can be certified as either LEED silver, gold or platinum. There are some pre-requisites that all buildings must fulfill for LEED points, but contractors obtain the remaining points by picking and choosing from a long list of green features. This particular project gains a portion of points by incorporating drought tolerant plants. The builders also plan to keep most of the property wooded to provide water permeability. By requiring
such a wide range of sustainability measures, LEED encourages a new way of thinking about building that incorporates environmental considerations every step of the way, from design to construction to maintenance. It also expands the idea of sustainability to be more holistic by including human health, awareness and education as necessary aspects of certification. By choosing to follow LEED requirements while constructing this 4-unit women’s veteran building, residents and owners will reduce water and energy consumption and improve the indoor air quality.