Home Depot Program Simplifies LEED for Homes
TOM KRAEUTLER: Welcome to this edition of The Money Pit’s Top Products podcast coming to you from Greenbuild 2012 in San Francisco. You know, as a homeowner, it would be nice if you knew with certainty that your home was truly environmentally efficient, it was energy efficient, it was environmentally responsible in terms of the way it was constructed. And there is a program now that allows you to have that confidence. It is called LEAD. And the Home Depot is taking the lead with LEED by working directly with the U.S. Green Building Council to develop a LEED certification program based on specific products for your home. With me to talk about that is Lindsay Chason. Lindsay is the Senior Manager for Environmental Innovation. Hi Lindsay.
LINDSAY CHASON: Hi there.
TOM KRAEUTLER: So for those that are unaware of what LEED is all about, can you just kind of give us the basics? [00:00:54]
LINDSAY CHASON: Sure. Well first of all, LEED stands for Leadership and Environmental and Energy Design and it is one of those rating systems that is out there right now to establish some guidelines for green performing homes. It looks at energy efficiency, water conservation, healthy products for the environment. And LEED for homes, in particular, rates homes on their environmental performance. So we have partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council, as you mentioned, and want to really push those efforts to give consumers a better way of identifying green performing homes.
TOM KRAEUTLER: You know, and that is a good point because there is so much information out there, consumers are overwhelmed by the greenwashing and all of the conflicting stories. They want to make a choice, but they don’t want to make the wrong choice. So this is a program that makes it a bit simpler. Tell us how it works.
LINDSAY CHASON: Sure. Well we have partnered with our vendors from the Home Depot. These are products that we are going to be referencing here are already sold at the Home Depot. We reached out to our vendors and if they have environmentally friendly product claims, we then send that product information to the U.S. Green Building Council for evaluation. In turn, the USGBC evaluates them and tells us how many points those products are eligible for in the rating system.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Okay, so let’s talk about points because I think that might be a little confusing to some folks. So the way this certification works is you get credits or points for every green improvement that you make in your home. It could be paint, it could be insulation, it could be windows, it could be doors. And then you amass these points and if you reach certain levels, you get the green certification, correct? [00:02:17]
LINDSAY CHASON: That’s right. So the basic level for a LEED certified home would have 45 points and if your home is Platinum, it’s 90 points. And there are products and processes and building practices that you are evaluated on when constructing a new home that earn you certain points.
So looking at the windows, the flooring, the insulation, the water conservation technologies in the home, will earn you a multitude of different points and what we have done is really identified which products you might want to select.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Now I imagine this has to have a positive effect on the value of the home because it really is a certification that a potential future buyer can rest assured that the home is efficient.
LINDSAY CHASON: Certainly. I think a lot of potential homebuyers and customers out there are looking for green options but one thing really to highlight is the maintenance cost and what kind of reductions you are talking about when you think about energy efficiency. I have seen 4,000 square foot homes that were built to LEED Platinum standards have a monthly bill of $60, so really great savings there.
TOM KRAEUTLER: And that is a shockingly low bill to have, one that you would be very happy to pay every single month. [00:03:18]
So the green LEED program is based on five different categories. Let’s just kind of review those so folks are familiar with them. First off, sustainable sites. What does that mean?
LINDSAY CHASON: Sustainable site is really when you look at where the home is going to be located. Is it in an urban neighborhood? Is it close to transportation options? Things like that.
TOM KRAEUTLER: And water efficiency—that is an obvious one. You want to make sure that you have enough water to be comfortable, you want to be clean, you want to be woken up in the morning when you hop in the shower. But you don’t want to waste it. So how do LEED certified products help you achieve that?
LINDSAY CHASON: From things like rain barrels—we are collecting rain that is out there and using it in a non-potable scenario. Also looking at water sense technology such as low flow toilets and faucets and fixtures. That is a way to think about it. But also, what does your collection system look like from the roof?
TOM KRAEUTLER: Are we going to see a rain barrel aisle in Home Depot?
LINDSAY CHASON: We already sell them. We have some great options out there.
TOM KRAEUTLER: All right. And then energy and atmosphere—let’s talk about that. How do you measure energy efficiency when it comes to these products?
LINDSAY CHASON: We really lean a lot on Energy Star to establish the baseline for performance. Then above and beyond that is kind of gravy—extra points in the LEED certifying program. [00:04:30]
When we think about windows, we think about passive solar design, energy efficient appliances. Really, anywhere where you can reduce your impact from an energy standpoint is what that is all about.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Now the next area is materials and resources. Now here is an area where there has been tremendous confusion. I have seen manufacturers that consider themselves green because they have more shipping points and they don’t have to use as much gasoline to drive a product to a store. And so there are all these different ways of defining what green is. Materials and resources—how does LEED actually define that? How does that make it more sensible, more understandable and more verifiable for consumers?
LINDSAY CHASON: There are certain hurdle rates and means for a product to become LEED eligible within the materials and resources line. A lot of it has to do with recycled content or reclaimed content—reclaimed flooring, cork flooring, recycled content for decking materials. If you are talking about framing lumber and looking at responsible forested wood products, we lean very heavily on Forest Stewardship Council products. There are a number of different rating systems that we look at that LEED considers acceptable. [00:05:33]
TOM KRAEUTLER: And the final category is indoor environmental quality and I think that is a natural outgrowth. If you do all these other things right, your indoor environment is going to be a lot better as a result.
LINDSAY CHASON: Definitely. We want to make sure that you are changing your air filters and that you are using healthy cleaning supplies and that your HVAC is working properly, so very important. Very, very important.
TOM KRAEUTLER: We are talking to Lindsay Chason. She is the Senior Manager for Environmental Innovation for the Home Depot. So what is the next big environmental innovation at The Home Depot?
LINDSAY CHASON: We’ve got a lot up our sleeves. We were just ranked pretty high in the Newsweek standings for green performing companies and we are going to continue to offer up some very exciting innovative products to our consumers while at the same time managing our own carbon footprint and the way that we do business. [00:06:13]
TOM KRAEUTLER: Terrific. Thanks so much, Lindsay.
LINDSAY CHASON: Thank you very much.
TOM KRAEUTLER: And if you would like to learn more about the LEED certification for homes, simply go to LEED—L-E-E-D dot Home Depot dot com. That is LEED.HomeDepot.com