What is a LEED House and how to get certification?

LEED house certificate

Most of us have jumped on board the eco-friendly bandwagon in at least some small way to do our part.

You might have swapped out your plastic disposable water bottles for a sustainable reusable one, or even installed some green insulation in your home to cut energy costs and your impact on the planet.

The LEED house is taking this green living to a whole new level though, as a certified building that encompasses all parts of eco-friendly living from water usage to reduce energy output.

If you want to make a larger impact when doing your part, having your home certified as LEED or building a new one that meets these standards is the way to do it.

What is a LEED-certified home?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it’s a building rating system that classes homes and other constructions as environmentally and socially responsible. This classification encompasses things like using natural resources, reduction in carbon emissions, energy and water efficiency, and more, and it’s a certification put in place by the US Green Building Council.

Building a LEED-certified home is a goal of many, and it can either be as advanced as making one from scratch or making changes to your existing home to bring it up to the standard.

We explore what’s involved in this type of home, how to get certified, and the benefits that come with building your home to the LEED rating.

What is a LEED House?

design of LEED house

LEED is an acronym used for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it was developed by the US Green Building Council.

LEED is a building rating system focused on green design, construction, and functionality, and there are countless resources and guidelines available on how you can make your new or existing home to meet its standards.

Within the LEED certification system, a home might utilize various devices, technologies, and construction methods that reduce waste, reduce carbon emissions, and promote energy and water efficiency, among others.

In addition to being hugely beneficial for the environment, having a LEED-certified house comes with other benefits for homeowners as well, like increased home value.

The LEED certification can be applied to a range of buildings, including homes and offices, hospitals, and other structures.

Furthermore, you can retrofit your existing house with systems and technologies that can help you gain the same status, so it’s not only brand new buildings that qualify.

Why Should You Build to LEED Standards?

planning LEED certified home

Building a home to LEED standards and being certified might seem out of reach to some people, but the system was designed to be accessible to everyone.

No matter the size of your home, where it’s built, what stage of the process it’s in, or how old it is, you’ll be able to qualify for a LEED rating with the right stuff.

The process of acquiring LEED certification happens by registering your project, whether it’s a house or commercial building or otherwise, and them meeting the requirements of each one. There are a few different classifications depending on the type of building and what is being undertaken, but it’s not difficult to do.

The main benefit of building a LEED home is that it’s environmentally friendly, but it’s a great way to have your home stand out. This is especially true for designers, contractors, and builders who can acquire LEED certification as it gives a level of trust to their clients that other homes can’t offer.

Whether you’re building a home with LEED certification in mind for yourself, or are planning a future project and want to use this rating system to improve the quality of the buildings, it’s a smart move.

This commitment to sustainable building practices, renewable resources, and energy efficiency is something that many others will follow suit within the near future.

The Benefits of Building a LEED House

For current homeowners planning improvements or renovations, or those in the stages of designing and building a new house, you might be wondering what this specific rating system can offer you.

Before you get to the planning stage of your next move, consider some of the benefits available to the average homeowner and occupier when creating a LEED house.

The Environmental Impact

The biggest benefit and most obvious reason, for people to build a LEED home is its reduced impact on the environment.

Everything about this home, from the materials used to make it, the processes of construction, and the functionality of it has the environment in mind and aims to make less of an impact while still delivering a durable and comfortable living space.

A LEED home generally uses between 30 and 70 percent less energy than a standard home, thanks to the many systems put in place that reduce its reliance on electricity. In terms of water usage, this is around half that of your average home, making it impressive on both fronts.

When you imagine every home someday becoming a LEED-certified home and reducing their strain on the environment in the same way, you can see why it would be beneficial. Not only does it use less energy and water, but is built with sustainable materials and is more self-sufficient than other buildings, so everything from design to use is eco-friendly.

Health Benefits of LEED Houses

health benefits of leed home

There are loads of health benefits that these types of homes offer, and not just to the environment, but the occupants as well.

With a growing amount of pollutants surrounding us and the potential to be exposed to dangerous toxins, knowing your house is looking out for you is a great feeling.

A certified LEED house will ensure you’re exposed to fewer of these toxins and pollutants, as well as ensuring better health and wellbeing, just by living there. It does this with several processes, which can all be checked off when your home is being certified and receiving its LEED rating.

Within the LEED certification and rating system are several things to be looked at, including ventilation inside the home, energy and atmosphere, garbage pollutant protection, and air filtering, just to name a few. The more points your home has, the safer and healthier it is to inhabit, which can give you great peace of mind when you’re living in a LEED house.

Reliability of LEED Ratings

Rather than just building a home that has a few eco-friendly features, having a LEED certification gives you even more reliability.

During the rating process, these homes are inspected by a third party and have been performance tested to ensure their longevity and quality.

If you looked at two similar homes in the same neighborhood, each offering eco-friendly construction and function, but one had a LEED certification and the other didn’t, it’s clear which would be more valuable. As a trusted organization and one that’s recognized in the green construction industry, it shows people that the home is reliable and durable.

According to statistics, the green single-family house makes up around a third of the housing market, with that number only growing. Having this certification can improve the value of your home and give you peace of mind that you’re living somewhere that’s been built to last with minimal impact on the environment.

Cost Benefit Analysis of LEED Homes

When planned correctly, there’s no reason that building a LEED-certified home should cost any more than your average house.

There are ways to use sustainable materials and shop for eco-tech that’s affordable, with the savings often being made when you see how much money they prevent you from spending in the future.

As a way to entice more people to build homes like this, and use the LEED certification, there are a range of financial benefits on offer if you look around.

Some financial institutions offer reduced interest rates on mortgages for these homes, insurance providers have reduced premiums on their home insurance policies for energy-efficient homes, and there may be tax relief as well, depending on where you live.

Most importantly, the reduced amount of energy and water your home will use can be the biggest saving of all. With the suggested 50 percent reduction of water and up to 70 percent less electricity used, this will represent huge savings in your monthly utility bills.

Selling a LEED Home

Not only is it beneficial to live in a LEED-certified home, but if you ever have plans on selling in the future, it can be useful as well. Some research has shown that LEED-certified homes have good resale values and sell faster than those without this certification, based on structures in the same neighborhood.

For a seller looking for a property, and one that is green in particular, this stamp of approval can make a world of difference. This isn’t just an investment you can make to improve your health and do your part for the planet, but it’s a wise investment as well.

LEED Certification

commercial building with LEED certificate

There are several certification programs that LEED offers, including those designed for residential homes and commercial buildings.

To be qualified as a LEED building, there’s a set number of points that a home or structure can earn which is decided upon by a third party evaluation, and there are a few different levels of certification.

  • BD+C

Building Design and Construction LEED certification is for brand new construction or existing buildings that are undergoing major renovations and improvements. Within this category are healthcare, schools, retail, and warehouses, provided it is a new construction or core and shell renovations.

  • ID+C

Interior Design and Construction relates to commercial interiors that are undergoing complete makeovers and fit-out projects. Among these include retail and hospitality spaces, provided they meet LEED regulations.

  • O+M

Building Operations and Maintenance is used to classify existing buildings that are undergoing works rather than being newly constructed. This could include things like schools, distribution centers, and hospitals, so long as they have minimal construction occurring.

  • ND

ND stands for Neighborhood Development and refers to either new land or redevelopment projects. This can include residential, commercial, industrial, or a mixture of all of them, and it doesn’t matter what stage the project is at for it to be certified.

  • Homes

This LEED certification applies to homes up to six stories in size and designed as single or multi-family homes. They can include low rises and mid-rises, or single-level homes.

  • Cities and Communities

LEED for Cities is a project that measures a city on various things like their energy use, transportation services, and water consumption. This can be applied to an entire city or sub-section of a city.

The Components of Certification

LEED certification process

Achieving LEED certification requires several things including credits, points, and prerequisites.

Each of these three components will help you achieve your LEED certification, but within each classification of rating, there are different things required. Here’s a little more about what they entail:


These are the foundation of the project and depending on the credits you want to earn, you’ll need to meet the prerequisites to get to that stage. These are the minimum requirements of each credit, and without them, you won’t be able to achieve LEED certification. These prerequisites aren’t how you earn points but they will start the path towards earning them.


You can choose which credits you want to achieve, so long as it’s in the right project type for your home. Some examples of credits include Sensitive Land Protection, Reduced Parking Footprint, and Protect or Restore Habitat. You’ll select your credits based on the prerequisites you set, and can even combine some of them


The goal of a LEED home is to reach one of four levels of certification including certified, silver, gold, and platinum. To acquire these points, you must meet certain standards in building and design, including things like healthy living spaces and low resource buildings.

The Steps to Certify Your Home as LEED

family in their leed home

With all of the benefits fresh in your mind, you might be eager to get started planning your LEED home.

However, there are several steps your new project needs to take in order to go get certified the right way, and the planning process is the most important step.

  1. Determine the type of project you’re undertaking and what rating system you’ll be using. The average house may be a single-family, multifamily, or multifamily core and shell.
  2. Figure out what your priorities will be for this house, whether you want something that is energy efficient predominantly or a home that is safer and healthier for people to live in. This will help you establish the prerequisites and credits you have to earn for the project.
  3. Create a team of contractors and other members that will help you achieve your goals. Within this team, you’ll need a LEED Green Rater who will be able to assess certification at the end.
  4. Meet the deadlines in place for the current rating system you’re using, as these are changed and updated regularly.
  5. Get an understanding of what fees and other costs might be required during the registration and certification process.
  6. Register the project using the LEED Online website and follow their Guide to Certification to complete.

Related Questions

The LEED rating system is just one of many ways that we follow guidelines to ensure our homes and other buildings are as energy-efficient as possible.

If you’re hoping to make your home greener and more sustainable in the future, we’ve got some FAQ questions about the process that can make it easier to achieve.

What Does a Green Home Mean?

Green Home Certificate

A green home is a broad term used to describe a residential building that was designed and constructed to be efficient in its use of energy, water, and building practices.

These homes could be built from scratch with eco-friendliness in mind, or renovations and improvements made to existing structures that allow for this efficiency.

What Are the Components of Green Building?

To ensure your new home or renovations to an existing house to meet the green standards, there are a few different components you need to consider.

Water efficiency, energy efficiency, sustainable materials, waste reduction, and life cycle assessment should all be reflected when building a green home.

What Are Some Green Building Materials?

The construction phase of a green home is just as important as its functions and there are some materials commonly used that are sustainable, renewable, and have minimal impact.

Bamboo, wood, straw bales, earthen materials, earthbags, and insulated concrete forms are some of the ways a green home can be built.

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