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LEED Homes: Excellence in Residential Design

The national benchmark of performance for green building

By Matt Libby

Energy efficiency, effective site location and design that promotes human health and wellness can seem uniquely important in the places we come home to—and in 2022, these are increasingly the places where we work as well. 

Green homes are spaces in which people can thrive, boosting comfort and good health, along with providing clean indoor air, ample natural light and reduced energy and water consumption. Third-party certification, like LEED, can help ensure that homes are both comfortable and more environmentally friendly. 

LEED certification for residential spaces addresses the specific needs of residential projects built to be efficient and sustainable, and has become recognized as the national benchmark of performance for green building and has rapidly gained recognition among the public at large. LEED has paved the way for some spectacular green home projects, including both single-family and multifamily homes.  

In fact, for 13 years, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has honored innovative and striking green building projects in the residential sphere with its LEED Homes Awards. In past years, some of the most original and transformative LEED residential projects have been recognized. This year’s LEED Homes Award winners were also a good mix of inspiring single-family and multifamily projects. 

The LEED Homes Awards

In 2009, USGBC created the LEED Homes Awards to celebrate and showcase some of the extraordinary LEED-certified homes each year. The residential sector includes single-family and multifamily homes, as well as exemplary affordable housing projects. The nomination process usually starts in April with the winners announced in July. 

Each year, we host a panel of judges consisting of a few internal USGBC staff members and guest judges from the market. In 2022, the LEED Homes Awards recipients were selected by a panel of judges who represent several key voices in the residential industry and cover a wide range of fields.

We have had winners from all over the world, and this year was no exception. The Kaust Villa project in Thuwai, Saudi Arabia, won the 2022 Project of the Year honors for a home representing the first in a series for campus housing. For the past three years, we have opened the project of the year category to a public poll. We received thousands of votes, which helped make all our project of the year finalists visible to new audiences. 

At the same time, USGBC announces its annual list of LEED Power Builders: an elite group of developers and builders who have exhibited an outstanding commitment to LEED and residential green building. At least 75 percent of each Power Builder’s homes/unit count from 2021 achieved LEED certification.

For both single-family and multifamily projects, the annual LEED Homes Awards tradition helps elevate those who are innovative in green building—setting the bar higher for all green building professionals to help create a more sustainable future for everyone.

The Future of Residential

Even with the slight braking of the speeding train that was the 2021–2022 housing market, residential appears to be on an upward trajectory that won’t be changing anytime soon. 

Homebuyers are increasingly asking about energy-saving features and insisting on homes that promote human health. A 2020 survey by the National Association of Homebuilders showed that buyers are also willing to pay over $9,000 more in upfront costs to save $1,000 annually on utility costs. They are also willing to pay more for certifications, such as LEED, that confirm their homes are green because, for better homes, accountability makes a difference. 

LEED homes are designed to minimize indoor and outdoor water usage, maximize fresh air indoors and minimize exposure to airborne toxins and pollutants, all of which translate to financial benefits. LEED-certified homes use on average 20–30 percent less energy than a home built to code, with some homes reporting up to 60 percent savings. Using less energy means lower utility bills each month. 

Additionally, LEED homes can qualify for discounted insurance, tax breaks and other incentives; LEED homes consistently sell for higher prices and on faster timelines than homes of similar size in communities across the world. Some LEED homes report commanding an 8 percent premium in resale value over conventional homes.

With a high rental market and growing cities, it’s also more important than ever to ensure that affordable homes are built or retrofitted with the same benefits to occupants as more luxury residences: energy efficiency, healthy indoor air and daylighting, attractive design and community-focused layout. 

Matt Libby is the LEED Marketing Manager for USGBC.