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Green Home Building Blossoms in Chicago

CHICAGO, Illinois, November 5, 2007 (ENS) - The U.S. Green Building Council is set to launch its LEED-for-Homes program at the organization's annual Greenbuild conference in Chicago this week.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED, voluntary rating system is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

LEED recognizes performance in five key areas of human and environmental health - sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

Created exclusively for new commercial construction when it was launched in 2000, LEED now has been adapted to a range of other programs. A two year pilot program to adapt the LEED rating system to residential building ended this spring, but the Green Building Council waited until this week's conference for its official debut.

Despite the current construction slow down, the Green Building Council says urgent action is needed to green the U.S. residential housing stock. The group estimates that residential buildings contribute 21 percent of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions.

There were more than 1.8 million new single-family construction starts in 2006, but McGraw-Hill SmartMarket reports that only two percent of American houses are built green. LEED-for-Homes provides a framework for homeowners and developers who want to improve that ratio.

At least 335 houses have earned LEED certification since the pilot program began in August 2005, and 8,000 more are in the pipeline, says Emily Mitchell, the LEED-for-Homes assistant program manager.

"The numbers have exceeded our expectations. With projects in Idaho, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Michigan, it has reached a broad audience," she said.

Mass-production houses, custom-built residences, and low-rise multi-family buildings have all been part of the pilot program.

Twelve houses so far have achieved LEED Platinum, the highest ranking, including one in Venice, California, known as project7ten. Its California Modernist design, by Melinda Gray of Gray Matter Architecture, uses solar panels, high-performance windows and insulation, recycled and renewable materials.

In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley is making it easier for city home builders and owners to use energy efficient technologies, materials and construction methods.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announces programs to foster green home construction and remodeling. (Photo courtesy Office of the Mayor)

Late last month the mayor unveiled the two programs to kick off Green Building Month, which runs through November.

The "Chicago Green Homes" program for builders and developers and the "Green Home Remodeling Series" of guides for homeowners renovating or rehabbing their homes are aimed at ensuring Chicago's residential properties are built and rehabbed in ways that save energy, dollars and the environment.

"Each of us can make a difference in the health of our families and the health of the planet by the choices we make every day. The Green initiatives we are unveiling today can help each of us make choices that protect the earth, our families - and our homes," Daley said.

The Green Homes program gives points to builders for every sustainable technique and material used in the construction of a new home or residential building.

Upon review and approval by the Chicago Department of Environment, a Chicago Green Homes Certificate will be issued with a rating that may qualify for the Chicago Department of Buildings expedited green permit process. Participants will be granted the use of the Chicago Green Homes logo, and their projects will be recognized on the city’s website.

The Chicago Green Homes program is required of all builders and developers who use City financing or land and is voluntary for others.

The six "Green Home Remodeling Series" guides encourage and help homeowners make environmentally conscious choices when rehabbing homes. Information on the new programs is available on the city’s website: www.cityofchicago.org/environment.

"In every home where there has been a green rehab, owners are saving money in energy costs and enjoying cleaner air and greater comfort," said Mayor Daley. "For some people, that difference in cost can help them stay in their home as well as improve the environment."


Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.

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