Why would I want a LEED home?

And why is it so different than just choosing a house plan

4 Elements Integrated Design
5 min readSep 10, 2021

By Tyler Hermanson

Windows to a family around the dinner table
Photo by Jimmy Dean on Unsplash

1. I want my home to be healthy and safe to live in

Spending large amounts of time indoors can have a tremendous effect on our health. The Covid 19 pandemic just highlighted the impacts of a lockdown on our wellbeing and mental health. Beyond that, many products typically used to build new buildings can be highly toxic. LEED promote the use of better alternatives by awarding credits for many of the most important finishing materials used in new homes: paints, cabinets, flooring, etc.

It’s not just some of the paint or some of the flooring, 90% must meet the requirements. So if a project earns a credit for low VOC paints you know that 90% of all paints and coatings, right down to the primers were compliant with the LEED standards and were double checked by the Green Raters.

2. I want a home that doesn’t just play lip service to the environmental green movement, but demands real smart choices for a sustainable future

There is a real problem with “greenwashing” today. From consumer products to SUVs, almost anything can be sold at a premium price with a “green” label. LEED and the Canada Green Building Council fight this trend by setting rigorous standard for a LEED green home. Leveraging 2 decades of green building experience through the highly recognized LEED New Construction program for commercial buildings, LEED for Homes offers the same foundation of rigor and accountability, but scaled to match residential construction practices.

LEED is a holistic environmental building program that pushes projects to do more than just save energy and reduce greenhouse gases. Projects must look at water savings, landscaping, home size and durability to meet the minimum LEED standards.

With over 153 LEED certified buildings in Calgary today, and many more under certification now, you are likely spending time enjoying LEED buildings already. From your children’s new school, your new office downtown, or even the new Starbuck across the street, there are good odds you’re enjoying the benefits and quality that come with a LEED certified building already. Why not enjoy the same at home?

Urban infill house
Discovery 5 House in Calgary. Photo by author.

Not every green building is certified by LEED, but the majority of the best buildings in Calgary are proudly certified by LEED. Here is a short list of some of the higher profile buildings in and around Calgary to search for:

  • The Water Centre
  • Calgary Courts Centre
  • Crowfoot Library
  • Cardel Place
  • Jamison Place

If you want to browse which buildings in Calgary (or any other city or province) are LEED Certified, you can use the search engine to browse the project profiles on the CaGBC website.

3. I want the workmanship of my builder and their trades to be rigorously checked by third party inspections

It is tough to build these days. Builders’ supervision can be stretched thin and trades’ experience and professionalism varies widely. One client joked that “there is nothing like giving a half million dollars away to high school dropouts to build you a home”.

The unfortunate reality of building a new home is that few in the process care as much about your new home as you do. Trades are often paid by the job and rush to get in and out as quickly as possible. Builders often want to do as little as possible in order to not complicate things or slow down their process.

What gets lost in the work is the commitment to best practices, building with pride and accountability to ensure the final result is of the highest quality. Just knowing that a Green Rater inspection is going to check the work of many trades who never get third party check of their work is enough to step up the attention on site. Critical trades like heating and ventilation trades must sign accountability forms attesting that their work meets the LEED standards.

LEED for Homes requires professional, third party inspections by approved Green Raters to assess and verify all LEED measures in a home. From insulation all the way to light bulbs, a team of LEED professionals have checked and double checked your home for performance and compliance.

  • Each LEED Home is checked by a Green Rater, a professional in Green building practices and LEED for Homes.
  • Each Green Rater’s work is checked by the LEED Providers Quality Assurance Designee, a Senior Green Rater with additional experience in green building.
  • Every home submitted by a Provider is audited by the CaGBC (Canadian Green Building Council) directly prior to certification, completing a detailed review of paperwork as well as conducting a Certification Call, a phone conference to discuss how the project was built and verified onsite.

In the same way that few people will speed through an intersection with a police car behind them, so too will trades and builders improve their work, knowing that a third party inspection is coming in a LEED project.

Family around table
Photo by Jimmy Dean on Unsplash

4. I want a high performance home built with best practices and not just code minimum

Some builders are able to take advantage uneducated and ill-informed buyers when selling new homes because they simply don’t know to ask for quality performance indicators like airtightness results, EnerGuide scores, LEED Certification and other third party inspection programs that can help produce a quality home. Builders can easily hide poor practices behind nice finishes, but you can’t hide a poor performing air barrier from the required blower door test of all LEED homes.

Unfortunately Alberta is generally regarded as having the weakest Building Code in Canada and this allows builders to build new homes to outdated standards compared with many jurisdictions in Canada. Insulation and air tightness of new homes is not required to be checked at all as part of the City of Calgary’s inspection system. The new Alberta New Home Warranty program does little to address problems in construction before the home is built, and it only mediates disputes once poor construction has become a headache for the new owner.

It is possible to get ahead of these outdated codes by following programs like LEED that require best practices when it comes to envelope durability, insulation and energy efficiency and that include additional inspection during construction and after finishing.

Ask for it.

Home buyers can take control and demand better homes without technical experience by just demanding LEED. The added cost for a quality Builder to certify to LEED is often only a few thousand dollars, with the majority of the costs being spent on the extra inspections required.



4 Elements Integrated Design

Green Building Experts LEED for Homes Provider — Energy Advisors (ERS, ESNH, NZE) — R2000 Inspector — Built Green Verifier — ENERGY STAR Participant