I'd heard of it and seen it in ads for new buildings trying to prove their "green-ness", but I didn't really know what it was, let alone what it would mean for me.
But then, a few weeks ago I was talking to an engineer friend when he happened to mention he was working towards being a certified LEED member.
Talking about LEED with this friend, he shed some light on what exactly the government entity really does. The more I looked into it the more I realized LEED really is relevant to the everyday homeowner.
LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a set of guidelines made by the government to create a benchmark standard for green building.
Sure, some of the guidelines are just complicated technical things, but what really interested me about it was how many of the guidelines were very simple and encompassed issues beyond just the construction world - it's more involved in creating a shift in philosophy, a philosophy that is moving towards making buildings and communities that are move livable and useable for everyone.
Here are some aspects of the LEED guidelines that interested me the most:
Home Placement for Better Living and Protection of Land
Many of the guidelines refer to the placement of homes. This can involve many aspects of the location and the site including protecting the surrounding land by not disturbing prime soils or endangered species.
Meeting LEED requirements also calls for home sites to be placed in socially and environmentally responsible ways in relation to the larger community. Basically this means you want to place your home near already existing resources and infrastructure. Living in an existing neighborhood with close grocery stores, libraries, and churches is good for you because it means you can live a lifestyle where you can walk, bike or take convenient public transportation to things without getting into your car and having to drive. Which for me, would definitely improve my quality of life! And save resources!
Creating Connections with the Outdoors and Maximizing Free Resources
Another LEED guideline is to use materials and building techniques that maximize energy efficiency. In itself this is always smart whether your house is LEED certified or not. One way that LEED emphasizes energy efficiency with smart building design is illustrated by their use of windows.
By installing windows that maximize solar intake you don't have to use electric lighting as much as you would in a home with few windows. It can also help in winter by encouraging daylighting, or passive heating, from the sun. But the benefits aren't just about reducing your energy usage.
I have always been happiest in homes which I describe as being "flooded in light." Homes that have big windows that let in lots of natural light make your home feel bigger, more airy, and allows for people to feel a connection with the outdoors which can often be lost in the day to day shuffle of life. Using natural light in home design seems like a no-brainer, since ultimately the more sunshine a person gets, the happier they tend to be.