LEED Certification

We chose to pursue LEED certification for our home as a way of measuring our level of green building design and construction. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is an internationally recognized green building certification system,  providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

As of October 2010 our home officially earned a LEED Platinum rating, which is the highest of 4 levels of certification offered by the USGBC. We achieved a HERS index of 20, which we believe is the lowest (best) index to date in the state of Michigan. An index of 20 indicates that a home uses only 20% of the energy that a standard new home uses, while an index of 0 would be awarded to a zero-energy home that produces (through renewable sources such as solar and wind) as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis.

This HERS index is determined by a computer modeling program and it may not accurately model homes like ours whose design is substantially outside the norm. We believe that we'll actually produce an annual surplus of energy, earning a negative HERS index, but that remains to be proven. We're keeping careful records and we will have a full 12 months of data by the end of March 2011.


For a builder who is building a spec home, getting LEED certification has the obvious advantage of providing a higher selling price because consumers will pay more for a home that is certified to be highly energy efficient and built to environmentally-friendly standards. But for independent owner-builders like us, the advantages are less tangible. There are direct costs involved in getting LEED certification, which will amount to roughly $2500 in our case. We don't get any direct payback for this expenditure, except perhaps a certificate to hang on the wall. So why did we go to the trouble and expense? One reason we're publishing this web site is in hopes of helping others who may learn from our successes and our mistakes, and LEED certification gives a certain amount of instant credibility. We can wave our hands and say how great our house is, but having LEED certification is a much more credible proof that the house actually meets our goals of energy efficiency and environmentally responsible design.

The LEED for Homes rating system is freely available and one can build a home to these standards without paying anything or going through the formal rating process. We considered going that route, i.e. using the LEED guidelines to help us build better but not going to the expense of actual certification. But there's really nothing like having independent verification by an inspector (our "green rater") to motivate one to take the rating criteria seriously. As it  turned out, we found a number of unexpected and direct benefits from going through LEED certification that more than paid for its cost:

For more information about the specific features of our home that qualify for LEED credits, click here.

This page was updated on Wednesday January 11, 2017