LEED Introduction

Alli Williams

ISU/IWU Habitat for Humanity

Since 1995, Illinois State University has had an active Habitat for Humanity chapter in conjunction with Illinois Wesleyan University.[i] This year, the ISU/IWU chapter is building their 17th collegiate home on Douglas Street near downtown Bloomington.  Students and organizations from both universities can volunteer their time every Saturday.  Habitat is a very popular organization on campus and in the Bloomington-Normal community and there are usually many hands willing to help out.

The collegiate chapter works in collaboration with the McLean County Habitat for Humanity organization which helps fund the collegiate homes.  It costs about $66,000 to build each home, $30,000 of which the collegiate chapter is responsible for.   To reach this goal, the chapter holds several fundraisers throughout the year.  This year, some of those fundraisers included Trick-or-Treat for Change, Power of a Dollar and the Run for Shelter 5K Run.

Sustainable Building

Habitat for Humanity International builds sustainable homes that are as environmentally friendly and energy efficient.  To do this, Habitat for Humanity works with the US Green Building Council and Energy Star.   Homes for the ISU/IWU chapter have been certified Energy Star homes for the past 10 years.

The chapter has recently started incorporating green building strategies for LEED certification recommended by the US Green Building Council.  ISU/IWU’s collegiate homes for the 2009/2010 school year were the first LEED certified residential buildings below I-80 in Illinois.  This year, although the chapter is not seeking to receive LEED certification, the home is being built to LEED specifications in an effort to continue the tradition of sustainable building.

Although both Energy Star and LEED add to the overall cost of the home, these costs are well worth the positive environmental outcomes.  Other than the environmental benefits, these programs also improve quality of life while reducing maintenance and energy costs for the home owner.

Energy Star

The residential sector consumes 22% of the total energy share with commercial and industrial sectors consuming another 19% and 30% consecutively.  In order to reduce overall energy use, the Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Energy support the goals of the Energy Star program.

Energy Star is a program which seeks to lower electric bills and help reduce the negative impact that homes and other building have on the environment.[ii] Energy star looks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both homes and businesses by offering energy efficient products to consumers.  Energy Star products include everything from light bulbs to dishwashers, refrigerators to hot water heaters, as well as heating and cooling systems.

There has been some controversy over the product standards and the rigor with which the products are tested, so it is important to do some research before purchasing a product on the basis of its Energy Star rating.  However, the standards and testing requirements have been investigated and strengthened by both the EPA and US Department of Energy in order to restore the validity of the program.[iii]

US Green Building Council and LEED

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) is a third party, non-profit organization that promotes sustainable building.  According to the USGBC, “A green home is designed to have a positive impact on energy efficiency, environmental performance and human well being.”[iv] The premier program of the USGBC is LEED, a certification system for green buildings.  The LEED rating system is voluntary and based on a set of practices that encourage sustainable and conscientious building.  LEED certification has been updated since its original format to LEEDv3 (version 3) which incorporates new technologies that have arisen since the program was initially launched.

There are two separate rating systems: LEED for commercial buildings and LEED for residential buildings.[v] LEED commercial needs a higher point total than LEED certified homes require.  The standards for LEED commercial are somewhat different than LEED homes, however, most of the requirements are comparable.  For example, LEED commercial does not have a “Locations and Linkages” section like LEED homes, but most of the requirements in Locations and Linkages are covered under the “Sustainable Sites” section in LEED commercial.

LEED Requirements [vi]

LEED for Homes certification is earned by meeting requirements in indoor environment quality, energy efficiency, water efficiency, site selection, site development, materials selection, residents’ awareness and innovation.  Points are earned for achievements in each category.

  • Innovation and Design Process (ID):  The purpose of this section is to promote higher performance standards through implementation of new ideas and technologies which make green design more sustainable and more economically viable through effective planning.
  • Location and Linkages (LL): This section encourages developers to build homes within existing neighborhoods, especially those with alternative transit options including public transportation, walking and biking.  These established neighborhoods will already have the necessary infrastructure such as water and sewer.  Another aspect of this section is the accessibility of points of interest such as parks, stores, restaurants and entertainment venues.
  • Sustainable Sites (SS): This entails attention to landscaping and construction which may affect the site’s maintenance.  Features include: land conservation, erosion and runoff controls, reduction in irrigation demand, alternate pest control and other features to protect the land as well as the water supply.
  • Water Efficiency (WE): This section aims to implement building and living strategies which conserve water.  To do this, developers are encouraged to find uses for recycled or “graywater,” minimize the need for irrigation through effective landscaping and efficient use of the indoor water supply with use of low-flow fixtures in sinks, showers and toilets.
  • Energy and Atmosphere (EA):  LEED is very concerned with energy efficiency through use of alternate technologies as well as innovative building strategies.  Energy Star is an essential part of this section which offers a guide for appliances, lighting, heating and cooling and window requirements.
  • Materials and Resources (MR):  This section encourages builders to consciously select materials in a way which does not contribute to the destruction of natural habitats, nor create excess waste.  Here, there is an emphasis on locally manufactured goods, efficient use of materials, and reduction of waste in building.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ):  For improved health and quality of life, the EQ section of LEED seeks to improve the air quality inside homes by encouraging increased air flow and ventilation, moisture control, and reduced exposure to pollutants and contaminants.
  • Awareness and Education (AE):  LEED seeks to educate homeowners and communities about sustainable building in order to maximize the positive effects of green building.  An educated homeowner will be better able to maintain new technology in order to get the best results from the LEED project.

Point System

Some measures do not receive points because they are prerequisites to certification.  Some of these prerequisites include: durability planning and management, Energy Star rated, limiting waste on framing, outdoor air ventilation, good filters, etc.

There may also be a minimum number of points that must be earned in a specific category.  For example, in the Indoor Environmental Quality category, there is a minimum of 6 points that must be acquired in order to receive certification.  Other categories, such as Innovation and Design Process and Energy and Atmosphere, do not have a required number of points, however, these categories do entail prerequisite measures.

Because smaller houses use less energy, LEED adjusts the number of points needed to obtain each certification (silver, gold, or platinum) based on the size of the house and the number of bedrooms.  Because this year’s home is quite small, it would qualify for certification at 10 points below the average-sized home.


[i]Illinois State University Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter. “About Illinois State University/Illinois Wesleyan University Habitat for Humanity.” < http://lilt.ilstu.edu/habitat/aboutus.shtml>.

[ii] Energy Star. “About Energy Star.” <http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=about.ab_index>.  Accessed December 6, 2010.

[iii]Environmental Protection. “EPA, DOE Expand Energy Star Product Testing.” <http://www.eponline.com/Articles/2010/03/22/EPA-DOE-Expand-Energy-Star-Product-Testing.aspx>. March 22, 2010.  Accessed December 7, 2010.

[iv]US Green Building Council’s Green Home Guide. “LEED for homes Certification Program.” <http://greenhomeguide.com/program/leed-for-homes>. Accessed December 1, 2010.

[v] LEED 2009 for New Construction and Major Renovations. <http://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=5719>. Accessed December 7, 2010.

[vi] US Green Building Council. LEED for Homes Rating System. January 2008.

Habitat Links:

course site