Table 1. LEED for Homes Certification Level
Table 1. LEED for Homes Certification Level

LEED for Homes, created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), establishes a construction program for housing built upon the criteria of previous LEED rating systems. The many sustainable benefits of concrete technologies provide residential architects and builders with solutions that can help a project more easily qualify for certification.

What is LEED for homes?

LEED for Homes, (LEED H), was released by the USGBC in January 2008. The program is intended to cover standalone single-family houses, production and custom, as well as low-rise multifamily applications of three stories or less. The stated goals of the USGBC are to provide a residential sustainability system that transforms the design of mainstream homes. Designers and home builders can differentiate themselves by providing houses that are recognized as high-quality green structures. Homeowners can rely on an easily recognizable "brand" when purchasing a sustainable home.

How can homes benefit from sustainable concrete?For sites, contaminated soil can be reclaimed making Brownfield site reuse possible. Segmental masonry retaining walls reduce erosion potential on steeply sloped sites. Lot coverage can be minimized by using concrete basements to provide cost-effective additional space. Studies show concrete pavements reflect heat, keeping sites cooler. Captured runoff can be absorbed through interlocking permeable and pervious concrete pavements.

What about the exterior envelope?

Abovegrade concrete wall systems deliver on durability, providing unparalleled disaster and wind resistance. Unlike conventional systems, they're inherently fire and pest resistant, will not promote the growth of mold and mildew, and will not decay. Panelized systems virtually eliminate construction waste. The cement in concrete systems can be supplemented with industrial byproducts such as fly ash, reducing burdens on landfills.

How about concrete finishes?

Finishes also have a big impact on the long-term performance of a home. On the outside, the hardness and durability of exposed concrete, or applied concrete finish systems-such as fiber cement siding and trim, concrete masonry, and stucco-will provide better durability to reduce the frequency and cost of replacement and maintenance. Concrete roof tiles adhere more effectively in high winds, stand up to hail and fire, and last far longer than ordinary shingles.

The indoor environment?

Inside, air tightness is improved because the continuous concrete wall systems reduce joints and penetrations. Higher levels of insulation and the thermal mass of the concrete make mechanical systems more efficient and more effective in maintaining better indoor air quality, with more constant temperatures, and fewer drafts. Concrete floor systems can provide rich, high-quality, water-resistant floor finishes. Concrete roof tiles have been shown to keep attics cooler, further reducing mechanical loads.

The bottom line

By using concrete systems and finishes, home builders and designers can more easily achieve LEED H certification for their homes. Whether through contribution based on the resource categories outlined here or through accepted submissions for sustainable innovation credits, a concrete home provides the long-term, high-quality residential performance the USGBC is striving to encourage with LEED for Homes.

The information presented is intended to highlight and summarize the ways concrete can contribute to the ability of a home to qualify for points under LEED for Homes. Consult the latest version of LEED H directly for specific compliance requirements.