Going Green: LEED Certification Means Eco-Friendly Home

The newest thing in eco-friendly building is -- you guessed it -- certification.

An article in the Toronto Star showcases a number of green development projects, from homes to condos, and introduces the LEED certification to the home-buying consumer's real estate lexicon. What's LEED? It stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it was developed in the US. However, it's now been adopted by many jurisdictions, including the Canada Green Building Construction Council.

Much of the LEED certification is not rocket science: in fact, providing bicycle storage for a condo project will provide the builder with a "credit" towards a project certification. There are 6 benchmarks, which provide a project with up to 70 points in six categories of enhancement, from sustainable site development, to water and energy conservation, through to selection of building materials. There are 4 classes of certification: certified, sliver, gold and platinum.

LEED certified projects, from homes to condos, don't necessarily scream "green" as you park out front. A condo project in downtown Toronto will go for LEED gold, and yet looks like a trendy condo complex suitable to a trendy downtown neighborhood. In another article, a platinum home will open in Guelph, Ontario and yet blends in perfectly with its suburban counterparts.

Simple changes like solar panels and drought-resistant landscaping go a long way to help the platinum-rated home be friendly to the environment and yet easy on the eyes. The biggest changes to in many cases are actually behind the scenes, either underground or in the basement. There you might find a rainwater harvesting system which will supply water to toilets, laundry and dishwashers. This is not high-tech folks; the basis of the system is a "cistern" that collects rainwater run-off and then puts it through a filtration system. However, the cistern is an old-fashioned innovation made new -- when I was a kid, our farmhouse had a cistern, and we used the water for our non-drinking purposes too.

Now, there are high-tech gadgets like a geothermal solar loop and other fancy stuff that keep energy costs down. But in some cases, the best innovations are just the conserving know-how of our grandparents.

How much can you save yearly on energy and water if you buy a platinum rated home? A family of five could see as much as $1,150 in their pockets if they buy the Webster home in Guelph.

Don't think you have to move to Canada to get an LEED platinum certified home. LivingHomes built the first LEED platinum home in the US last year in Santa Monica, California. The 4 bedroom modular home is factory-built, with 1/4 the waste of a traditionally constructed home.

To go along with your environmentally friendly home, you could get an environmentally friendly mortgage loan! If you buy an LEED certified home, you could also qualify for an an Energy Efficient Mortgage or EEM. The EEM is an innovation that allows you to qualify for more home with less downpayment. Ask your lender if you can get an EEM. If not, you may have to take your business and negotiating powers elsewhere.

Be sure to negotiate smart. I blogged recently on the right questions to ask when you are getting a mortgage. Do keep in mind that you can't go wrong by asking for more! And your lender might just surprise you and compete for your business.

Michael Chantrel 


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