Whether you’re a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting healthy homeownership or company that specializes in luxury beach house design and build projects, LEED certification is a lot more feasible than you may think, GreenHome Institute
Executive Director Brett Little says, whose position as the organization’s executive director was created in 2008 alongside a $33,850 seed grant from the Wege Foundation to jumpstart its LEED for Homes Program,
“Depending on what side you’re on, it gets tagged to these ideas that it only works in the affordable housing urban world or only works with the high-end homes where people have a lot of money,” says Little regarding the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification process, which is essentially a rating system devised by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for evaluating the environmental performance of a building and encouraging market transformation towards sustainable design.
For proof of his concept that any project is capable of becoming more environmentally friendly, Little points to the juxtaposition of two completely different types of West Michigan organizations: the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity of Kent County
and Holland-based lakefront home builders Cottage Home
, both of which were both recently awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED Homes Power Builders Award.
Created to recognize projects, architects, developers, and home builders who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and innovation in the residential green building marketplace, the USGBC’s LEED Homes Power Builders award mandates that winners have built at least 90 percent of their 2015 homes and units to LEED specifications of any level. Translation: they need to be super environmentally conscious.
“If we point to those two extremes of two different types of projects that are actually polar opposites, it shows that you can do green certification with anything,” Little says.
And while many developers still struggle with retooling their building budget for long-term savings, the idea that investing now will save homeowners later is one adopted without hesitation by Habitat for Humanity KC, which has completed nearly 150 homes with some level of LEED Certification in the Grand Rapids and Kent County area.
In fact, when Habitat KC started seeking LEED Certifications on new homes in 2006, it took the organization just about one year before they started building all new homes to the federal specifications. More recently, the organization partnered with Grand Rapids Community College’s Residential construction program to become one of the first to complete a build-out that meets LEED v4 criteria,
which basically means a bulked up list of additional specifications for higher energy, water, and resource efficiency .
Cheri Holman is the executive director of USGBC’s West Michigan chapter
and she, like Little, says the recent Homes Power Builders awards are just more evidence that there are opportunities for every kind of development project to manage the upfront cost of building new residential projects with LEED certification.
“We’re so proud of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County and all of the work they’re doing for affordable housing and LEED certification in showing our community that it isn’t just the high-end buildings that can be LEED certified, but that it’s for everyone,” says Holman, who works alongside nonprofits like GreenHome Institute to provide education about lending and appraisals, as well as help find them financing options that will work for their unique situation.
“We can’t say that you can build high-end homes for the same price, but what we can say is look at the life-cycle analysis — we’re constantly pushing that, the life-cycle analysis, meaning just that it’s going to cost less to operate and maintain; your utility bills are going to be lower,” Holman says.
“We have a building stock of low-bid homes and buildings, and we’re paying the price for it now,” she says. “Where, if we would have done better work up front and put in systems with lower maintenance and cost to run, we wouldn’t have all of these buildings eating up so much energy.”
Though figuring out how to pay for greening efforts is a little trickier for those with existing projects in limbo, Little says the GreenHome Institute has numerous alternative options for affordable greening practices. They may not all hold the official LEED Certification title, he says, but they still get the job done in creating more sustainable, efficient, and environmentally friendly places for people to live — which, lest we forget, is the point of the whole thing anyway.
Click here to learn more about the USGBC’s LEED Homes Power Builders Award, Habitat for Humanity Kent County’s sustainable housing initiatives, the environmentally-minded Cottage Homes, and ways the GreenHome Institute can help you make your space a little greener.
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of GreenHome Institute
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