Friday, July 10, 2015

Timeline - Certification - Is LEED worth chasing?

Past  Three Years

Why Certification At All?
We field this question often and those asking are usually professionals such as contractors, architects, engineers and consultants who are not yet involved in green building. They contend that the energy performance of the house will speak for itself through utilities bills.  So why pay for a certification?  One green building contractor said that we should "use the money spent on LEED certification for something nice like marble counter tops" and go with a less expensive certification program.  Several others in the green building movement voiced the same opinion.  As for the question, "Why certification at all?",  we feel that certification fosters discipline and presents challenges that we might not meet otherwise.  Also we plan to make our home available as a demonstration site for which some kind of certification will lend authenticity. 

In the beginning, I (more than Dorothy) was determined to go after the highest LEED certification possible and I was not willing to abandon this goal even after receiving input from the professionals.  Since LEED is a function of the Green Building Council, I downloaded from their website a document titled "LEED for Homes -- Frequently Asked Questions".  From it I got the impression that their pilot program for homes ended in 2006 and home certification would soon become commonplace despite the anticipated fee of $500 to 2,000 per dwelling.

However, my enthusiasm soon waned.  In the first place, it seems like LEED certifiers are still interested in commercial projects, not residences.  Among the list of certified buildings on the local Green Building Council website in 2012, there were only a few certified residences and most of those were Habitat for Humanity Homes. I left messages on the local GBC website and tried to contact certifiers listed for our area on the national GBC website as well as on the website given in the document that I downloaded -- all to no avail.  I tried networking through the building trades to find a certifier.  I did a presentation before the local chapter of the GBC during which I specifically asked for help finding a certifier.  Afterwards, two architects said they would see what they could do to find someone but I heard nothing from them.  It has been one frustrating blind alley after another.  But maybe it is just as well.

Cost of Certification
Realistically, LEED certification is too expensive for our budget and the fee probably would not pay for itself through any bump in resale value anytime soon, as much as anything because the public will not be sufficiently educated on sustainability for who knows how long.  If this is the case, the only justification for chasing LEED would be for non-financial reasons such as ego gratification and recognition.  Personal kudos are not our goal.

Early Adopters
Recognition in itself might not be all bad, though.  I have heard that early adopters of new technology must reach 20% of the population before mainstream even notices.  The number is probably bogus but the concept is not.  I believe that we early adopters should do whatever we can to popularize sustainability and, in that context, any recognition that comes with certification is probably a good thing. 

Alternatives to LEED
In my next post, I will discuss three other certifications, any one of which probably makes more sense for individual residences with a reasonable budget than does LEED.

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