The LEED certification program is recognized around the world as a standard for green buildings, but it presents some challenges for builders.
First, each product used in a LEED-certified home has to meet certain standards, but homeowners don’t always think the increased cost is worth the benefit. Gene Myers of Thrive Home Builders said it’s easier to show potential buyers what they’re going to get with a higher price tag when you can put it in terms of monthly savings.
“It costs more to build a better house—about $100 a month more,” he said. “We can show you from our energy rater’s report that we’ll save you about $300 a month.”
Over the life of a 30-year mortgage, homeowners can save over $100,000 that could go to a college fund, retirement or anything else you want, Myers said. That’s a very attractive selling point to potential buyers.
The other problem with LEED is that the certification can’t be approved before closing. “You tell your customer, ‘I’m going to build you a LEED house.’ They close and LEED comes back and says, ‘You didn’t quite make it,’” Myers said.
That puts builders in the uncomfortable position of having to disappoint and inconvenience the customer, or not deliver what they bought.
Thrive worked with the U.S. Green Building Council in 2017 to pilot a program that would help production builders who comply with the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home program meet LEED’s certification standards.
“With only one or two very minor tweaks, you can now use that program to comply with LEED” before closing on a home, Myers said.