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USGBC Launches LEED for Homes

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched its Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-for-Homes program at the organization's annual Greenbuild conference in Chicago last week. A nearly two-year pilot program to adapt the LEED rating system to residential building ended this spring, but USGBC says it waited until Greenbuild for its official debut so the program could be balloted with the organization's full membership.

It will incorporate results from the LEED for Homes pilot program that began in 2005 and will be expanding into more areas of the country. During the pilot phase alone, more than 8,000 homes across the United States have been part of the program, with more than 300 gaining certification.

Housing represents a significant new market sector for USGBC-and, despite the current construction slow down, one in which it believes that urgent action is needed. The group estimates that residential buildings contribute 21 percent of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions. McGraw-Hill SmartMarket reports that only 2 percent of American houses are built green; there were more than 1.8 million new single-family construction starts in 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. LEED-for-Homes provides a framework for homeowners and developers who want to improve that ratio, according to USGBC.

Approximately 336 houses have earned LEED certification since USGBC began piloting the residential ratings program in August 2005, and 8,000 more are in the pipeline. "Obviously the growth is wonderful," says Emily Mitchell, the LEED-for-Homes assistant program manager. "The numbers have exceeded our expectations. Twelve houses so far have achieved LEED Platinum, the highest ranking.”

Created exclusively for new commercial construction when it was launched in 2000, there are now seven programs beyond the original new construction category: commercial interiors, core-and-shell, schools and existing buildings. LEED for neighborhood development and retail are in their pilot phases, and USGBC expects to roll out its next pilot program, LEED-Healthcare, in 2008.

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