From lawn mowers to power tools, summer is the season for noisy equipment. There is certainly a lot to consider when you begin home improvements, but how often do you think about protecting your hearing?
You may assume the ringing sensation in your ears after using loud equipment is just an annoyance that will fade with time, but that is not always the case. Not only is it an indication you have come into contact with dangerous noise levels, it could also be a condition that lasts much longer than a minute or two.
Loud noise has the ability to harm your eardrum or your ear’s hair cells, which can lead to noise-induced hearing loss and/or constant tinnitus. Tinnitus is the perception of a ringing or buzzing sound even when the sound is not actually present. This can be permanent or temporary, but there is no known cure.
Hearing loss or tinnitus can occur after exposure to noise above 85 decibels, and the sound made by common tools often exceeds this. Many tools reach about 90 to 115 decibels, which can cause damage in a short amount of time. Even using a loud power tool for a few minutes without hearing protection could leave you with permanent hearing damage.
It is always good practice to wear hearing protection when using most tools. Even if they are not high-powered devices, they can easily reach above 85 decibels. Luckily, hearing protection is easy to find and won’t break your budget. Disposable foam earplugs are inexpensive and can be found at most pharmacies and hardware stores. For more heavy-duty protection, you can use silicone earplugs or noise-canceling earmuffs. These devices vary in the amount of noise they reduce, so make sure you are using ones appropriate for your needs.
Keep your ears safe and pick up some hearing protection next time you make a trip to the hardware store. Your ears will thank you!
Want to know more about your hearing? Check out EarQ.com for more hearing health education and hearing care providers in your area.
Having a healthy auditory environment is important. The LEED v4 Building Design and Construction: New Construction requirements include an acoustic performance credit. Standards on HVAC background noise, sound isolation, reverberation time and sound reinforcement and masking are included.
LEED for Homes is available for building design and construction projects for single-family homes and multifamily projects up to eight stories—and LEED for Homes projects are now in dozens of countries around the globe.
Organized by region, the data below shows current LEED for Homes registrations and certifications to date outside of the United States and Canada. This data represents projects outside the United States and Canada using the LEED BD+C: Homes and Multifamily Lowrise and LEED BD+C: Multifamily Midrise rating systems.
LEED for Homes: International project data
|Region||Country||Registered Units||Certified Units||Provider(s) Serving Projects|
|Africa||Mozambique||40||Active Energies, Inc.|
|Africa||United Republic of Tanzania||90||10||Active Energies, Inc., Energy Logic, Inc., Southface|
|East Asia||China, Hong Kong||18||Energy Logic, Inc.|
|East Asia||Republic of Korea||1|
|Europe||Austria||1||Davis Energy Group, Inc.|
|Europe||Italy||1||Active Energies, Inc.|
|Europe||Montenegro||1||70||Active Energies, Inc., Guaranteed Watt Saver Systems, Inc.|
|Europe||Russian Federation||1685||Active Energies, Inc.|
|Europe||Turkey||102||10||Active Energies, Inc., Guaranteed Watt Saver Systems, Inc.|
|Europe||United Kingdom and Northern Ireland||1|
|Latin American and Caribbean||Belize||1||Florida Solar - FSEC|
|Latin American and Caribbean||Brazil||1||MaGrann Associates|
|Latin American and Caribbean||Cayman Islands||114||3||Green Insight, LLC|
|Latin American and Caribbean||Chile||15||Thornton Tomasetti, Inc.|
|Latin American and Caribbean||Colombia||1||1||Active Energies, Inc.
|Latin American and Caribbean||Costa Rica||1||Energy Logic, Inc.|
|Latin American and Caribbean||Haiti||86||Southern Energy Management|
|Latin American and Caribbean||Mexico||4||Active Energies, Inc., ecoMetric, LLC, Southface|
|Latin American and Caribbean||Peru||2||Active Energies, Inc.|
|Middle East and North Africa||Israel||1||Active Energies, Inc.|
|Middle East and North Africa||Oman||2||US-EcoLogic|
|Middle East and North Africa||Qatar||37||US-EcoLogic
|Middle East and North Africa||Saudi Arabia||677||192||GreenHome Institute, Sol Design + Consulting, US-EcoLogic|
|Middle East and North Africa||United Arab Emirates||136||US-EcoLogic|
LEED for Homes requires onsite verification which is delivered by a Green Rater and overseen by a Provider. You’ll find a link to the Providers overseeing projects in each region is included above; these Providers are based in the United States, but are currently servicing international projects. Search for local Green Raters in your region (use the Smart Filters function to search by Country. Ensure you set the filter type to ‘County contains _____’, type Country name and select ‘Apply’).
Annual recognition highlights projects, developers and builders leading the residential market in sustainable development.
Washington, D.C.—(June 28, 2016)—Today, USGBC announced the recipients of its annual LEED Homes Awards, which recognizes projects, architects, developers and homebuilders who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and innovation in the residential green building marketplace.
“Homes represent a critical piece of the buildings industry and our daily life,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “We applaud these amazing honorees for their significant contribution to greening the residential sector by implementing strategies that positively impact the environment and enhance the health and well-being of their occupants.”
The LEED Homes Award winners include multi-family, single-family and affordable housing projects and companies that are trailblazers in the residential sector and have prioritized incorporating sustainability within their projects in 2015. This year, for the first time, the awards also recognize the “LEED Homes Power Builders,” which USGBC developed to honor an elite group of developers and builders who have exhibited an outstanding commitment to LEED and the green building movement within the residential sector. In order to be considered as a Power Builder, developers and builders must have LEED-certified 90 percent of their homes/unit count built in 2015. Homes at any LEED certification level—certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum—were eligible for consideration.
LEED Homes Award Winners:
Project of the Year: The Woodlawn, Portland, Ore.
Developed by SolTerra and designed by Abbasi Design Works, The Woodlawn is a LEED Platinum, 18-unit mixed-use apartment building featuring some of the most innovative design and construction strategies that are shaped to reconnect occupants with nature. Constructed with primarily reclaimed and highly renewable materials, and featuring 4,500 square feet of ecoroof, an outdoor roof terrace, and 1,100 square feet of living wall siding.
Outstanding Single-Family Project: The Taft School Faculty Residence, Watertown, Conn.
Winning team: The Taft School, Trillium Architects, BPC Green Builders, Steven Winter Associates
The Taft School faculty home serves as a high-performance residence and learning lab for students. It is Connecticut’s first building to achieve LEED Platinum certification under the Building Design and Construction rating system for Homes using the new and more stringent LEED v4. The design and construction process is used as a teaching tool for science classes. The students monitor the energy use and there is also a vegetable garden, chickens and a rain garden on site as part of a comprehensive sustainability site.
Outstanding Single-Family Builder: Frankel Building Group, Houston, Texas
At the forefront of sustainable residential building, Frankel Building Group continues to show its commitment through the design and construction of LEED-certified homes. Frankel Building Group puts an emphasis on homeowner education and continues to promote the LEED program in its market. In 2015, they completed 28 custom homes, all built to LEED for Homes standards, 26 of which have or will be designated as LEED-certified.
Outstanding Affordable Builder: National Church Residence, Columbus, Ohio
National Church Residences (NCR) is the innovative leader in integrating home and supportive services for seniors and vulnerable individuals, enabling them to live healthier and more satisfying lives. Their vision is to continually improve communities by transforming the way seniors and vulnerable populations live and thrive. NCR is committed to pursuing LEED as a sustainability standard. Since achieving LEED Platinum for Buckingham Place in 2009, NCR has pursued LEED as their choice of green building certification on more than 15 projects.
Outstanding Affordable Project: Brookside Village Housing, Farmington, Maine
Winning team: Brookside Partners LP; Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure—Herbert Semple; AIA Architect/Project Manager; Pinkham & Greer Consulting Engineers—Tom Greer, PE; H. E. Callahan Construction Co.—Jeff Ohler
Brookside Village comprises 32 one-bedroom units of affordable elderly housing. This LEED Platinum project has net-zero energy usage and is a low-income, federally subsidized housing project. All materials selected and systems designed in the building are highly sustainable and extremely energy-efficient, enabling developers to meet the prime project goal—to provide the comfortable living environment necessary for the elderly residents.
Outstanding Multifamily Project: Tilley Lofts, Watervliet, NY
Winning team: Redburn Development; Kirchhoff-Consigli Construction; Harris A. Sanders, Architects, P.C.
The 80,000-square-foot Tilley Ladder Warehouse—once the oldest ladder manufacturing facility in the country—sat mostly vacant over the past 10 years. In spite of its neglected condition, the structure, conveniently located in Watervliet’s Port Schuyler neighborhood, in close proximity to a park and bike trail and easily accessible to the interstate, presented an ideal site for energy-efficient apartments. Through collaboration with Sustainable Comfort, Inc., the warehouse was converted into 62 luxury loft-style apartments, achieved LEED Platinum and is now considered one of the nation’s most energy-efficient residential developments.
Outstanding Multifamily Developer: Forest City Realty Trust, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio
Forest City Realty Trust has achieved LEED certification for many property types, including office, retail, multifamily and entire neighborhoods. They certified their first of 25 total LEED projects in 2006, and since 2008, have certified eight multifamily projects containing more than 2,600 units. Half of those certifications were achieved in 2015. Currently, Forest City has 11 multifamily projects containing more than 4,000 apartment units pursuing LEED certification.
LEED Homes Power Builders (*Represents a company that also won a LEED Homes Award):
- AMLI Residential
- Bijou Properties
- Bronx Pro Real Estate Management
- Buckingham Companies
- Cottage Home
- Fore Property Company
- Forest City*
- Frankel Building Group*
- Gerding Edlen
- Habitat for Humanity (Charlotte)
- Habitat for Humanity (Dallas)
- Habitat for Humanity (Kent County)
- Habitat for Humanity (Matthews)
- Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services
- JCB Homes
- John Marshall Custom Homes
- McGuyer Homebuilders, Inc. (MHI)–Austin
- McGuyer Homebuilders, Inc. (MHI)–Dallas Fort Worth
- McGuyer Homebuilders, Inc. (MHI)–San Antonio
- National Church Residences*
- Sullivan Brother Builders
- The Dinerstein Companies
- The Hudson Companies, Inc.
- Uptown Rentals
- RPM Development Group
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has become the world’s most recognized rating system for green buildings. The LEED for Homes rating system was created in 2008 as a way for single-family homes and multi-family buildings to achieve LEED certification. LEED for Homes projects undergo a technically rigorous process to become certified, including multiple on-site inspections and diagnostic tests. Quality control and quality assurance are built into the process so that builders, architects and homeowners can rest assured they get what they paid for and specified. More than 1.2 million residential units are currently participating in LEED. USGBC’s recent Green Building Economic Impact Study found that the residential green construction market is expected to grow from $55 million in 2015 to $100.4 million in 2018, representing a year-over-year growth of 24.5 percent.
To learn more about LEED for Homes, visit usgbc.org/homes.
On Fridays, USGBC shares green home-related content curated from around the web. If you see a great article on aspects of environmentally friendly home living such as green building, renovation, energy use or cleaning, please send it our way.
- The Telegraph offers a profile of one woman's goal to curate the most durable items available in "The Rise of Buy-Me-Once Shopping." Tara Button's website joins the fight to reduce waste by collecting a list of current products that can stand the test of time for consumers.
- A study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and Energy Efficiency for All, "Lifting the High Energy Burden in America's Largest Cities," indicates that low-income households pay a much higher percentage of their annual income on energy use. The report also offers strategies for increasing energy efficiency in underprivileged communities.
- Which cities are moving fastest toward "walkable urbanism"? See if yours is listed in the roundup of cities in Fast Company's article "Walkable Cities Are Better by Almost Any Metric: Here Are the Best in the U.S.", based on another recent report—this time by Smart Growth America.
What is a home energy audit, and what does it usually cost? A variety of approaches, price points and follow-up actions may be chosen. Here is an overview of what to expect when choosing the right audit for your needs.
1) How much does an audit cost?
- Free audits are often available from utility companies. They usually consist of an energy survey by a third-party professional who visits many homes and can identify common problems. You can also get a free audit from a contractor or supplier from an HVAC, window or lighting company, for example. These professionals may be more likely to make a sales pitch for their product, but if you have already identified a particular area to make an improvement, going with a specific contractor may be helpful.
- Audits for problems that are more difficult to diagnose may run $300 to $1,500. In a scenario where you need an expert to provide more thorough diagnostic testing, energy modeling and assistance with determining the best installation choices, you can expect to pay more. However, if you think you may need to make a major investment in upgrading your home's energy efficiency, it could be the lower-cost solution in the long run.
2) What does the audit involve?
- An energy survey usually takes about an hour and consists of a brief interview with the occupants of the home, a walk-through and completion of a checklist. The auditor will then give recommendations for improvements, based on the results of the survey.
- In contrast, a comprehensive home energy audit combines a survey with additional diagnostics, such as home and duct tightness testing, utility bill analysis and energy modeling. The energy model can show you the baseline of where you are starting from and then quantify the improvement you would likely see from implementing different measures.
3) Who performs the audit?
- A consultant is trained in building science and can perform the energy audit, give advice, help you choose contractors and then test to make sure that the work was properly completed. These consultants are often HERS raters. A consultant may be less biased than a contractor in making recommendations.
- Contractors have the same training as consultants, but can also perform the improvement work itself with their own crews (or act as the general contractor and supervise the work). Such contractors may also be known as "building analysts" and some deliver what is known as Home Performance with Energy Star, a DOE/EPA program. A contractor may provide faster estimates and follow-up for implementation.
- A combined approach is also possible through organizations or partnerships that offer both consulting and implementation.
4) Choosing an auditor
Whatever route you take, look for an experienced auditor who has a certification, such as HERS Rater, HERS Auditor or Building Performance Analyst. Awards from BPI, Resnet or major trade organizations are also a good sign, as is a positive Better Business Bureau rating.
While LEED-certified homes have some common characteristics, the rest is up to your imagination.
"Doing my part to contribute to sustainable development is all well and good, but what will my house look like?" This is often the secret (or not so secret) thought running through the minds of many homebuyers and builders considering a LEED-certified home. How can you balance environmental responsibility with your tastes in architectural style and your desires for the house of your dreams?
Fortunately, the market for environmental building products is growing rapidly. This is happening as consumers become more aware of the collective ecological impact of the building industry, and as the many rating systems, environmental laws and certification programs, such as LEED, help push the market down the path to sustainability.
So what does a LEED-certified home look like architecturally? And how does it compare with what a sustainable house should look like?
Photo credit: Natural Balance Home Builders, original photo on Houzz
That latter question is what sometimes launches LEED into a controversial whirlwind, which I will now try to sum up for you in a very basic way:
A LEED-certified home, as you’re about to see from the photos in this article, can pretty much look like anything you want. The strength (and weakness) of the LEED for Homes rating system is that it attempts to reconcile sustainable building objectives with the current reality of the green building market and the range of options that are realistically available to the majority of people.
This means that some LEED-certified homes will offer the best of environmental features, respect local and traditional building techniques, maintain small and compact forms that are easier to heat and cool, and push the envelope in innovative sustainable construction methods.
Meanwhile, others may be the result of a calculated attempt to gain the minimum credits for certification while maintaining floor plans and luxury amenities to compete with other high-end options.
The range between the two can be quite large, hence the controversy.
The best course of action as a prospective homeowner is to understand the background of this controversy so that you can make more informed decisions about a specific LEED-certified home.
Here are some key visual clues to help you understand what you're likely to see in a LEED home and with a sustainable home in general:
Size: How big can my LEED home be?
Ideally, an ecologically responsible home is small and compact in form. Small houses consume less energy and require fewer resources to build. Fewer irregularities in the form mean fewer opportunities for thermal bridges, which are points in the building’s envelope or skin that make it easy for heat to escape in winter and enter in summer. To keep costs down for construction, heating and cooling, a small, compact footprint usually exhibits the best conservation practices.
Still, you will find many LEED homes with massively luxurious floor plans. Here we find ourselves at the heart of one of the LEED controversies: Some people believe that allowing a home over a certain size to pursue certification is hypocritical if the message is supposed to be about conservation.
The flip side to that argument is that someone who wants to build a big house will probably do so anyway. If that big house is LEED-certified, many aspects of it will help reduce its impact. While some view this as too small of a step, others point out that at least it's a step in the right direction.
Setting (rural): Can my LEED home be in the countryside?
Photo credit: Joni L. Janecki & Associates, Inc., original photo on Houzz
Another visual clue for understanding the look of a LEED home is its relationship with its site.
A rural home that is well integrated with its site can respond to the local natural environment and even contribute to the area's biodiversity and ecology. By using resources already in the future building footprint (for example, using excavated dirt for rammed earth walls, as in this Caterpillar House) and by employing landscaping techniques such as xeriscaping (the elimination of irrigation needs), the impact of the building can be minimal and the site can serve as an extension of the natural surroundings.
Setting (urban): Can my LEED home be on an urban infill lot?
Similarly, in an urban setting, the strengths of the natural surroundings take the form of existing infrastructure. Is the house close to local transportation and public parks? Does the lot use building volume while providing open space, perhaps a roof deck or green roof? Urban LEED-certified houses often take in many of these considerations in an attempt to promote the development of infill sites while mitigating what's called the "heat island effect."
This phenomenon is the reason the temperature downtown is always a bit higher than outside the city. When buildings, streets and sidewalks are packed together, the combined effect of all of that asphalt and dark colored roof material can be an “island” of warmer temperatures. The LEED rating system rewards homes that use permeable paving systems, shading and other strategies to help mitigate that effect.
Orientation: Will my LEED home need to face a certain direction?
Photo credit: Kipnis Architecture + Planning, original photo on Houzz
Along the same lines, one thing you may notice about a LEED-certified home is that it will be oriented to take advantage of passive solar heat gains in the winter and shaded from the heat of the summer sun. This is a fundamental concept in designing any building that claims to consume less energy.
Tip: When looking at a house to possibly purchase, take a compass with you to see how well the house is oriented relative to the path of the sun. Several smartphone applications can help you track the sun’s path at a given location.
Materials and methods: Do I have to use certain materials in my LEED home?
A home design that responds appropriately to local building traditions and available materials can be another visual indicator of a LEED home and an environmentally responsible building.
Vernacular (domestic or functional) architecture of a specific region plays an important role in design considerations. But it doesn't mean that your LEED home must be in the architectural style of the region you live in.
Sometimes local building methods and materials can be used in new ways while still reaping the benefits of being cost-effective and geographically appropriate.
High-quality construction details: Why does my LEED home design need to be so detailed and specific?
A truly sustainable home requires durability and attention to construction details. We want this house to have a long, healthy life, so the details are extremely important. For example, it's not just the design of the wall section, or even just the selection of a specific kind of insulation; it's also how that insulation is installed and how well it is tested and verified.
One of the reoccurring arguments in favor of the LEED rating system (as well as many other voluntary third party certifications) is that it provides a framework for this quality control check. It provides a prescribed path for builders to take, keeping them accountable to their original objectives. And it gives the clients an extra set of verifications on the construction site.
Are you a LEED homeowner? Add a photo of your house to the comments so we can see more of the range of architectural styles and aesthetic choices in LEED homes.
Heading to Los Angeles for Dwell on Design? Join USGBC and Green Home Guide for our relaunch happy hour at USGBC's booth #2304. We'll be in the expo hall serving up Green Home Guide-inspired cocktails in honor of the relaunch of the go-to resource for greening your home.
Toast Green Home Guide
When: Saturday, June 25, 1:00–2:00 p.m. PT
Where: Dwell on Design / L.A. Convention Center: USGBC's booth in the expo hall, #2304
On greenhomeguide.com, you can browse articles and professional advice to learn more about green home tips and improvements. You can also view and search our directory of green building professionals to access a pro to help green your home. If you haven't already, we invite you to explore our new layout and content, and be sure to subscribe to receive email updates about the latest in residential green building.
See you in Los Angeles at Dwell on Design.
A home is more than just shelter: homes are the most important buildings in our lives. We think that every building should be a green building—but especially homes. Why? LEED homes are built to be healthy, providing clean indoor air and incorporating safe building materials to ensure a comfortable home. Using less energy and water means lower utility bills each month.
Help us select the LEED for Homes Single Family Project of the Year.
View the nominees below.
- The Taft School Faculty Residence in Watertown, CT
- Right-Sized Passive Home in Oak Park, IL
- Cavanaugh Residence in Belleair Beach, FL
- Desert Rain in Bend, OR
- Alphaville Dom Pedro in Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil
- Grand Teton Eco-Smart Home in Naperville, IL
Deadline to vote is June 20, 2016.
On Fridays, USGBC shares green home-related content curated from around the web. If you see a great article on aspects of environmentally friendly home living such as green building, renovation, energy use or cleaning, please send it our way.
- Trex Furniture put together a cool infographic on the benefits of using eco-friendly outdoor furniture on their Living Outdoors blog. Compare the benefits of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) lumber, aluminum and bamboo for deck chairs and tables.
- Besides blasting the air conditioning—which uses a ton of energy—what can you do to help your home stay cool during the hot summer months? The Art of Manliness blog offers tips in "How to Keep Your House Cool (Without Cranking the A/C)."
- Doing a green home renovation can be challenging. Susannah Shmurak discusses "5 Ways to Green Your Remodel" on the Eartheasy blog, including materials concerns, alternative energy sources and smart landscape design.
Cooling your home in the summer can use a lot of energy. According to a recent article in The Washington Post, air conditioning use in places such as China and India is booming, while in the United States, the habit of cranking up the AC continues unabated. But in a hot summer, cooling indoor spaces can seem indispensable to occupant health and comfort. How do you ensure that you are using your home's unit in a responsible manner?
- Have an energy auditor test your home's envelope.
- Insulate and seal as well as you can. You may also want to check your air ducts for leakage and seal the ducts. Ask an installer to calculate your cooling load after the insulation.
- Once you have a good sense of the BTUs you will need, then you can shop for a new AC system, if necessary. The air conditioner's SEER rating is key: the higher, the better—16 SEER is good, 18 SEER is great and 21 SEER is the best you can get.
Other tips for cooling efficiently
- Get the right size. If you are buying a new system, make sure to get the size that's right for your needs. An oversized system will short-cycle without removing the humidity and will result in poor performance, clammy air and a high cost in energy and equipment.
- Clean the air filter. Efficiency in an existing unit is greatly enhanced by keeping up with your maintenance.
- Get a greener system. Since 2010, HVAC manufacturers have not been allowed to make systems using ozone-damaging hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Although there are a few of the HCFC-22 (also known as R-22) air conditioning units left in circulation, they are increasingly rare. If you're thinking of upgrading, you can benefit from the advent of the environmentally friendly refrigerant R-410A, the new version of Freon that does not contribute to ozone depletion. The 410A products come with several different brand names, such as Puron.
- Turn it up at night or when you're not home. When you're sleeping, you probably don't need the AC as high. Turn the thermostat up a few degrees, the same way you'd turn your heat down in the winter. Similarly, when you're absent, there's no need to keep the temperature below what's comfortable for your pets or optimal for keeping mildew at bay.
- Close basement vents. Keeping the lower level of your home cool is usually easy without even using AC. Close off the vents during the hot season.
- Do chores in the evening. Use heat-generating appliances such as dishwashers and laundry machines during the cooler hours of the day, after sunset.
- Block the sun from windows. Things like shades, awnings and bamboo screens can all keep the sun out during the hot months—and therefore keep your AC from working so hard.
- Incorporate fans. Using fans strategically can reduce your need for blasting the AC at all.
Looking for an expert? Check out GreenHomeGuide's nationwide directory of green HVAC contractors.