Two organizations exist in Minnesota that promote sustainable, “green” building practices. One of the programs, LEED for Homes, is also available throughout the nation. You can have your house certified by either organization at various levels (Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum) depending upon how many points you want to achieve.
The purpose of both programs is to promote energy efficiency, wise and sustainable use of resources, reduction of carbon emissions and waste, and the reduced use of water. A large component of each program is the promotion of low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, adhesives, cabinetry, countertops, and flooring. We applaud this because low-VOC products substantially reduce occupant exposure to toxic chemicals normally used in the housing industry. The biggest value, of course, is lessening your home’s impact on the environment.
The Building Biology profession supports these practices, on the whole. Our only differences are in the areas of building envelopes and their push to replace incandescent light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). Instead of continuing to make homes super tight, we recommend envelopes (walls, foundations and slabs) that “breathe” so that moisture vapor can escape without allowing air to infiltrate, which causes loss of thermal performance. That way the wall can dry out without mold while you save energy heating and cooling your home.
We also recommend Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) as a low-EMF and energy-saving alternative to CFLs, which give off agitating high frequencies. Otherwise we fully embrace the intent and practices recommended by these two programs because they offer real solutions in our effort to save the environment.
The first sustainable program is LEED for Homes (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) sponsored by the US Green Building Council. The local chapter is called the Mississippi Headwaters Chapter of the USGBC. You can apply for LEED for Homes certification through the national website by clicking here.
A similar program that parallels LEED is the new Minnesota GreenStar program. It was started by local remodelers and builders, many of whom are also members of the Mississippi Headwaters chapter of the USGBC. They decided to create a parallel certification process for remodeled and newly built homes specific for our climate. The GreenStar program includes a healthy wiring protocol to minimize occupant exposure to harmful electro-magnetic fields (EMFs), developed by Oram Miller, BBEI and Spark Burmaster, EE, BBEI. You and your builder can apply for certification through the program’s website.
Certification provides rebates and discounts from mortgage lenders, utility companies, building material retailers and insurance companies, as well as tax credits. Homeowners consult with their architect, builder and sub-contractors to design these green features into the home from the start, economizing on the process.
As recently as five years ago, designing a “green” home added 5-10% to the overall cost. That figure is now down to 1-3%, and is actually revenue neutral when you factor in the savings in energy and water usage, according to a study of LEED for Homes buildings. Likewise resale value of green homes is also higher than conventionally built homes by as much as 8-15%, as documented recently in the state of Colorado.