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LEED for Homes – Home Size Adjustment Calculations

by Chad Ludeman on April 2, 2008 · 11 comments

in Green Programs,LEED

The Home Size Adjustment in the LEED for Homes rating system is intended to compensate for the overall effect that excessively large homes have on the environment. The size of a home effects two main aspects associated with the environment:

  1. The amount of resources and raw material used to build a home and all of the embodied energy in those materials that went into producing and transporting them to the new home being built. [A 100% increase in home size yields an increase in material usage of 40% to 90%]
  2. The long-term energy needs to operate the home. [A 100% increase in home size yields an increase in annual energy usage of 15% to 50%]

The Home Size Threshold Adjustment chart below shows the average size of 1 bedroom to 5 bedroom homes which is the neutral size that does not effect the LEED rating thresholds. If you build a home smaller than this neutral point, you will have point(s) deducted from each threshold (certified, silver, gold & platinum). If the home is larger than neutral, it will have points added to each threshold.LEED Homesize Adjustment Charts

If you look at the fine print above the second chart you will notice that these calculations are based on an equation, which means that if you build a home that is even larger than the largest size shown on the first chart, your penalty will not stop at +10, but will continue up to as high as +30. For instance, if you happened to build yourself a 5,000 sf McMansion with only 3 bedrooms, you’d be in the +30 range and might as well give up on a LEED certification unless you have your own solar or wind farm in your back yard.

In the 100K House, we are building a 2 bedroom home that is 1,120 sf. This gets six points taken off of each of the thresholds and most importantly, lowers the level for a platinum rating from 90 to 84 total points for our project. I think this is by far my favorite aspect of the LEED for Homes rating system as it simultaneously discourages lousy McMansion style homes and encourages a more sensible home size that encourages a minimalist lifestyle and less consumption. In my opinion, smaller homes not only effect the environment positively, but they also can improve our lifestyles. Less space means less incentive to waste time and money purchasing junk we don’t need. This frees up more of our time and money to spend on the more important things in life such as friends, family, food, traveling and beer.

Next we jump into the first category – Innovation & Design Process

If you enjoyed reading this post I can promise you'll love our new writing over at Postgreen Homes. Yeah, we know that's the same thing your favorite band said and their new album is nowhere near as good as their early stuff, but seriously, we are actually still getting better.

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LEED for Homes Checklist | 100khouse.com
April 2, 2008 at 12:01 pm

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nic Darling April 2, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Well said sir. Trading friends, family, food, traveling and beer for another 1,000 square feet to clean and fill with trivial crap is a move of monumental foolishness. Every trip through the sprawling suburbs, dotted with the evidence of this awful choice, saddens me.

We should start a television show called Shrinking Spaces. The show would involve a team that dismantles McMansions and, using the material from the deconstruction, builds several smaller, greener homes. The owners that sacrificed their spacious status symbols would be heroes, justly lauded for their intelligence and courage.

We’d make thousands . . . literally thousands. We’d finally be thousandaires.

2 chad April 2, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Trading in my goals of soul-sucking, corporate middle management in order to seek self-employed thousandaire status is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

Shrinking Spaces. Brilliant. I’d like to see brutally excessive use of the term “McMayhem!” during the show.

3 lavardera April 3, 2008 at 2:00 am

Oh yeah! Welcome to the self-employed thousandaire club – look forward to seeing you at the meetings.

4 moderns-r-us April 4, 2008 at 2:38 am

Proud to be a member of the self-employed thousanaire club as well.

5 chad April 4, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Thanks for the welcome. I’m glad to see there is an established club and a growing membership.

6 dmilkie April 8, 2008 at 4:20 pm

An article discussing the LEED process at UPENN where they are spending $100k on a house. A house of paperwork that is :

http://media.www.dailypennsylvanian.com/media/storage/paper882/news/2008/04/08/News/Green.Needed.To.Go.Green-3308818.shtml?reffeature=textemailedition

7 chad April 8, 2008 at 4:48 pm

Thanks Dan. LEED for commercial or new construction is a different animal than homes but it is interesting to see the fees at that level.

8 Grant September 21, 2008 at 11:14 pm

I support what you are doing with your 100K house initiative. Affordable, comfortable, environmentally friendly housing should be available to everyone.

Honestly, it is easier for the wealthy to achieve such ideals in their housing. Unfortunately, the masses of the world are not wealthy. And it is among the masses where we stand to make the greatest gains in energy conservation and sustainable living for the world.

While for the world, a 100K home is only for the wealthy, for America, a 100K home is viable for the masses of the lower middle class and above. It is a step in the right direction.

Theoretically, I’d love to build a smaller house… Realistically… I have a big family. (5 grown kids with spouses. My 8th grandchild is on the way. One grandchild we are raising lives with us.) We like having everyone over for holidays. It REQUIRES a big house if we are to be comfortable.

For business reasons, I WANT a parlor where I can bring guests into my home without invading family space (or having family messes and noises distract).

For holidays, I want the big formal dining room where the whole family fits. For business reasons, those visiting my foyer and parlor should have a nice impression when they see the dining room from the foyer.

Are such rooms necessary? No… But doing without them would lower my quality of life and even reduce my effectiveness in the community.

I WANT a spacious laundry room that isn’t merely a closet in the garage or worse yet the kitchen. I don’t want dirty laundry invading my other spaces ever again!

I WANT a big family room where the 12+ adults of the immediate family can gather (not including my parents and families of siblings) that isn’t also the play room for the kids. If my grandkids ALWAYS played in the family room when they visited I’d go crazy!

I WANT the large gourmet kitchen that is a pleasure to cook and eat in, and where we can actually prepare a meal for 20+ family and friends without tripping over each other. With such a kitchen and home it is more of a pleasure not to eat out.

I want an exercize room. I want a sauna. I want a hot tub. I want a swimming pool. I want waterfalls and gardens to help me to relax.

I want the nice view of the mountains and trees that can’t be had in the inner city. I want hiking trails. I want to live amongst deer, foxes, racoons, turkey, and all of the other wild animals that roam my 3 acre property.

I don’t think the whole world should become megalopolises. I think rural counties like mine of 100,000 people that can’t support public transportation are viable. In fact, our ability to grow our own food on our larger lots has off-setting energy efficiencies and sustainability as compared to the public transportation and other unique available in inner cities.

To compensate for this desire to live in rural America, I recognize the need to invest in energy efficient personal transportation. I have a bicycle and use it. And my car gets 30 mpg, and I try not to use it as much as possible.

I even want a home theater room and a billiards/game room.

I am blessed to where I can probably afford such a house in the near future and still afford food and travel. Although such a house makes me want to eat out less and being home IS a vacation in such a home, so I also feel like travelling less. When you live in a less stressful, slower paced neighborhood, and have private space and quiet areas in your home, time with friends and family is enhanced, and energy wasting travel is reduced.

Having read this explanation of LEED, my planned home may not be eligible for LEED certification even if I build it to be near Zero Energy, which I intend to do… So be it.

Yes, I will probably be building a house larger than 5,000 sf and I don’t feel the need to apologize. I’m not building a McMansion. My home will be built to last centuries; I’m not building a disposable 30 year home. My house will add value to society for generations to come. Others build houses that will give them the maximum enjoyment during their lifetimes without concern for the cost of replacement after they and their houses are both gone. To me that is a McMansion… a poorly built, unhealthy, energy inefficient, waste of time and resources.

Yes, my larger house will consume more materials to build than other smaller houses do. That’s one of the reasons I feel a social obligation to use as many renewable resources (such as bamboo and cork flooring) or recycled materials as possible and to use durable materials and timeless interior design that will last for centuries and not have to be ripped out in 10 years to go to the landfill.

Yes, my house will be larger and will consume more energy than a comparably built smaller house. But I want my house to be affordable to live in even through a fixed income retirement. So, I intend to only get into a fixed mortgage payment that I can afford even after retirement. To control my living expenses, I intend to build as much of my energy costs into my “fixed” mortgage as possible. This means maximizing energy efficiency with thermal mass, high R value, a tight envelope, and passive solar design.

I’ve designed my house for passive comfort as much as possible. I’m also pre-wiring for PV and have sited my house appropriately. When it makes financial sense to add PV, my electricity loads have been designed to be low enough through energy efficiency to make it possible to provide the power needs of my whole house with PV. My house will be near Zero Energy the day it is built and will be capable of becoming a ZEH as soon as it makes financial sense (i.e. the cost of grid electricity rises higher).

Somehow, it seems wrong to me that such a house would not be “worthy” of LEED certification, or that it would be considered somehow socially irresponsible.

One other note… Big houses are the best way of not “losing” wealth to inefficient taxes. Contrary to popular stereotype, those who build a big home are often not just engaging in conspicuous, gratuitous consumption or merely “building bigger barns” out of selfishness. For those who have been blessed with any amount of wealth, the most home that is affordable is frequently the best way of protecting and leveraging your financial stewardship. By protecting your wealth from excessive taxation via a more valuable home, more resources actually remain available to leverage to help society in more efficient and productive ways than taxes do.

I think big houses can be done properly. As such, big houses get an unnecessarily “bad rap” and people make socio-economically bigoted assumptions (greedy, selfish, etc.) about those who live in big houses.

Considering the scale of the environmental benefits available through “green building” a larger home, it seems almost counter-productive to discourage certification efforts in larger homes. For all of the reasons I’ve stated above, I don’t think a lack of LEED certification opportunity is going to discourage the building of larger homes.

9 mark June 30, 2010 at 9:47 am

Sounds like a great TV show for the new USSA

10 mark June 30, 2010 at 9:56 am

Grant, well written and I completely agree. It is the ideology that produced this country and is the only way to keep our way of life possible.

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