It may seem far-fetched for us renters to consider life that doesn’t include some serious winter bills from People’s Gas but there quite a bit of good architecture that is based around LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), an internationally recognized green building certificate system.
The LEED for Homes Illinois website, run by the Alliance for Environmental Sustainability, outlines the many benefits, financially and environmentally, of living in a LEED-certified home. These benefits seemed slightly vague in the explanatory video, dedicated to describing how LEED homes maintain energy efficiency, water efficiency, high indoor air-quality, etc. through:
- Integrated design
- Durability strategies, avoid common costly repairs
- Location + linkages [public transit instead of car etc.] / urban setting
- Keeping away from parkland/wetland/ endangered species
- Sustainable site promotes native landscaping, reduce impact of home
- Water efficiency, high efficiency toilets, washer machines, etc. / use of rain water etc.
- Energy and atmosphere, use of renewable energy , more comfortable lower utility bills, reduce green house gas output
- Materials and resources low or zero VOC paint less chemicals in air, recycling as much as possible
- Proper venting
- Awareness and education, home owner’s manual or maintenance, operation of home
All of these things sound well and good but what it was the project page and links that best conveyed the message of LEED home benefits. Take the Yannell Residence for example, with 88% expected energy savings and 88% construction waste diverted from landfill.
Credit to LEED for Homes Illinois
The “butterfly” roof not only hides the 48 solar thermal and solar PV panels but also collects rainwater and it is a net-zero house, which means the home produces at least as much energy as it uses over a year. Much of the house was constructed with recyclables (ex. pressed wheat and recycled plastic fencing) and fully utilizes its southern access through its design. At 4,200 square feet, this is a one of the larger posted on the site.
This blog covers a more urban –based LEED house located in Logan Square.
Credit to GreenLogan.blogspot.com
Passive Houses seem have to have taken the backburner in popularity but just by hopping around local home development progress blogs it seems as though Passive Houses are relevant and possibly growing in popularity. This blog outlines the building of a furnace-free house in Oak Park.
Credit to Four Thick Walls blog
This is the embodiment of the passive house, originally practiced in Germany but quite popular all over Europe now. The house will survive the Midwest winters through intensely tight thermal envelope created by modern materials and rigorous design standards. Warmth is generated and maintained from appliances, lights, electrical devices, body heat, and sunlight. Architect Tom Bassett-Dilley provides a Passive house prototype on his personal blog, while also helping build the above discussed passive house and other energy efficient homes that can be found on his site.
The differences between LEED and Passive Houses are explained in detail here by Monique Lee Hawthorne, LEED accredited professional. Basically where LEED houses are certified and then gain points for any extra green features, Passive Houses are or just aren’t Passive. Passive houses “green” features aren’t as obvious or flashy as LEED houses but ultimately As Hawthorne articulates, Passive houses are climate and location specific and primarily focused on energy efficiency which can be well-demonstrated with a $5 electricity bill for January…
“LEED buildings are found to use 25-30 percent less energy than non-LEED buildings. Passive House buildings can slash the heating energy consumption of buildings by up to 90 percent, and overall energy consumption by 60 to 70 percent.
LEED does not require any minimum air changes per hour, even though building leakage contributes greatly to energy loss. Passive House requires less than or equal to 0.6 ACH at 50 Pascal pressure, which is 10 times tighter than Energy Star.
All in all, the Passive House standard takes a big bite from a building’s impact on the environment.
LEED and Passive House do not preclude each other-a building can obtain LEED certification and also meet the Passive House standard. Some have said LEED is ahead simply because it has been around longer.”