Green Point or LEED?
For homeowners trying to make sense of the many green building rating systems out there, it can be confusing and frustrating–Green Point or LEED? This blog is an attempt to shed some light on the issue. Here in California we are fortunate to have the “GreenPoint Rated” (GPR) system published and overseen by an organization called “Build It Green”, based in Oakland, CA. This system applies only to residential construction, be it single family or multifamily like condos, townhomes etc. LEED on the other hand is a national green building system overseen by an organization called the United State Green Building Council (USGBC) available to all kinds of construction – residential, commercial, schools, hospitals etc. GPR and LEED are the 2 most frequently used green construction rating systems in California.
Then there are other systems as well, like Energy Star, (you didn’t know they had an Energy Star label for homes, did you?), Green Globes, PassivHaus, Living Building Challenge, the Healthy Home Standard, etc. The question is not as simple as choosing between Green Point or LEED.
All of these systems focus on different aspects of being “green,” and require a different level of rigor to achieve certification. And they all apply to new home construction as well as remodels. While reviewing your home plans it is important to choose the system that’s right for you. It’s helpful to first identify your goals. Are you looking for a home with a high level of indoor air quality? Or are you looking to reduce your carbon footprint? Or eliminate harmful chemicals? Or perhaps a really “tight” home? We can help you to answer the Green Point or LEED question.
GreenPoint Rated and LEED for Homes take a holistic approach to green, encompassing energy + water usage, enhanced indoor air quality by limiting or eliminating toxic chemicals and improved ventilation strategies, use of recycled and low environmental impact building materials, renewable energy systems etc. You can choose the features most important to you and achievable within your budget and focus on achieving those in your home design. LEED certification demands greater rigor than GPR certification and costs more as well. But it may carry greater prestige in the market place. GPR on the other hand gives homeowners a cheaper path to achieving their goals and equally important, provides a Green Rater who will verify many different aspects of the construction work. Acting on behalf of the homeowner, the Rater can bring to their attention aspects of the construction work that do meet recommended best practices or GPR guidelines. Many MLS listings now incorporate a “GPR Score” for the home which can add to the home’s market value.
PassiveHaus is not for the faint of heart!! It takes a lot of effort to design and construct to Passivhaus standards, resulting in an incredibly tight house that can help meet net zero energy goals. Most of the Passivhaus projects are in the Northeast which has much colder winters than the West Coast and therefore have an inherent need for tight homes. Similarly Energy Star emphasizes energy usage and indoor air quality. It’s also harder to certify homes to both these rating systems as raters, designers and contractors specializing in them are very hard to find.
Living Building Challenge is at the cutting edge and like GPR and LEED, takes a holistic approach to being green. Only 1 home so far (Eco-Sense in British Columbia, Canada) has achieved partial certification – having achieved 4 of the 6 measures required for full certification.
Green Globes is a Canadian rating system introduced in the US in 2005 with the goal of being an alternative to LEED. Like GPR, it offers a cheaper path to certification mainly by reducing documentation costs. It does not however offer construction phase verification like GPR and has yet to make significant inroads in the US green design and construction market.
The Healthy Home Standard published by the Institute of Building Biology & Ecology (IBE) in Florida, has its roots in Germany. It was developed in coordination with medical professionals and is meant to address the gap left by other green rating systems that in IBE’s opinion do not adequately address human health and wellbeing. It focuses on eliminating environmental toxins (lead, asbestos, mold, carbon monoxide etc.), improving indoor air and water quality, and mitigating electromagnetic fields and radiation. The goal is occupant health with the premise that whatever is healthy for the occupant will be healthy for the environment.
Still confused? Call us and we can help clarify your goals and ensure your team gracefully navigates certification with any of these green building rating systems.