FDA & LEED for Homes

At Foster Dale Architects, Inc. (FDA), we believe that every project should be beautiful, meet the needs of our clients and minimize the impact on the natural environment.    We integrate these concerns in an iterative process to create holistic design solutions.      We guide our clients by identifying and drawing design options and help our clients to make thoughtful decisions about what is the most appropriate design direction for them.    If you are considering building a project with an emphasis on sustainable design strategies, please contact us to discuss how FDA, as your architect, can help you.    

When a project has an emphasis on sustainable design strategies, a certification program, such as LEED for Homes, is a great resource during the design and construction process.    The LEED for Homes program can be used for single family homes, low-rise multi-family (one to three stories) and mid-rise multi-family (four to six stories).    The LEED for Homes program offers homeowners or developers a structured approach to sustainability. Like other “green” building programs, LEED for Homes involves designing a project that meets requirements from a checklist of sustainable design decisions. The checklist categories offer a guide to balancing costs & benefits to achieve a building that performs efficiently with respect to the many ways we impact our neighbors and the environment. 

The LEED for Homes program includes some prerequisites, aspects of the design that must be incorporated.    LEED for Homes also allows one to add sustainable design strategies within the checklist categories that earn points for the project.   The greater the point total, the higher the rating of the project.    The Certification Levels of LEED for Homes projects start with Certified, and by adding points from the checklist that are associated with certain sustainable design strategies, a project can attain the higher certifications of Silver, Gold and Platinum.

By requiring third party evaluations throughout construction, the LEED for Homes certification assures a homeowner that their sustainable design goals are implemented as designed.     The third party evaluation is performed by a Green Rater who is trained to inspect the project and certify that it is built as intended.    The following is a brief description of the LEED for Homes checklist categories:

ID - Innovation & Design Process:
At the very earliest stages, this is where a qualified design team is assembled. The team evaluates opportunities for innovative design strategies and proper solar orientation (to take advantage of as many "free" resources as possible). This is where needs of the building envelope unique to the site are identified and goals for durability of the home are set.

LL - Location and Linkages:
Ultimately, site selection plays a large part in the LEED program by rewarding owners who choose a site with established infrastructure and public transportation. In many of these areas there are readily available lots which were previously developed (preventing destruction of natural resources by reusing site elements or infrastructure) or existing buildings which can be rehabilitated and repurposed.

SS - Sustainable Sites:
In addition to encouraging site selection where new construction will have minimal impact on existing surroundings, an important part of the LEED for Homes program involves minimizing a new building's "footprint" on a site. Permeable paving and preservation of vegetated land (using native plants where possible) on a site help to reduce problems from storm water runoff, and green (planted) or even just reflective white roof surfaces can help to control the urban "heat island" effect that results when dark surfaces absorb and hold heat from the sun.

WE - Water Efficiency:
Providing municipal fresh water and waste treatment uses a large amount of energy and impacts the environment in ways that aren't always obvious to a homeowner. Minimizing waste water is possible through the use of gray water systems, where some types of drain or rainwater can be stored, treated and used for irrigation or other non-potable uses. Once of the best ways to minimize waste is to minimize the use of fresh water by selecting lower flow faucets and fixtures such as dual-flush toilets.

EA - Energy & Atmosphere:
LEED for Homes recognizes that a large part of a home's energy use is a result of heating and cooling systems, and these complex systems work best when appropriately designed by the project team to integrate and complement each other. A tightly sealed and well insulated building envelope can work with efficient HVAC equipment to reduce energy usage (and expense) while increasing the overall comfort of the interior environment. Solar water heating or on site generation of electricity through wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels can contribute to reducing energy sourced from fossil fuels, and the design team will help to evaluate the benefits and expenses of all the ways to generate (and conserve) energy.

MR - Materials & Resources:
The typical construction process can be wasteful - LEED for Homes encourages carefully accounting of building materials to reduce waste (and expense). The recycling of waste during construction is another way to minimize the impact of building a custom home at the earliest stages. In addition, the LEED for Homes guidelines offer a way for homeowners and their architect to evaluate the environmental footprint and impacts to health of a wide variety of products that are used to construct a home. Durable building materials and methods, reclaimed or recycled products and manufactured goods free of toxic emissions are all sound investments which contribute to the long term comfort and health of a home's occupants.

EQ - Indoor Environmental Quality:
As important as it is to build a home with a tight envelope to minimize energy wasted in heating and cooling, this must be balanced by the filtering and careful exhaust of contaminated air (at kitchens & bathrooms) and a steady intake of fresh air through natural or mechanical ventilation. LEED for Homes also recognizes the value of passive (non-mechanical) design strategies, such as shoe removal & storage space at entryways or even detached garages (to prevent infiltration of automobile related emissions).

AE - Awareness & Education:
In order for owners to get the most out of their new homes, LEED for Homes requires that once a project is built owners be provided with a manual explaining all of a home's features, operations and suggested maintenance. A thorough walkthrough is a way to provide owners with training and education to get the most out of their investment.

At FDA, we strive to integrate environmentally sustainable design solutions in ways that are responsive to and appropriate to our clients’ design goals and concerns.    Our design process explores alternative forms, materials and building systems so that we can help our clients to find the best architectural solution for their project.    We collaborate, as needed, with expert consulting engineers, consultants and the contractors as partners in order to realize the benefits of integrated, sustainable design that is beautiful, functional and in harmony with the environment.

Additional information on LEED for Homes can be found at the USGBC site here - please also see this Chicago residence (one of our LEED for Homes projects), featured on the 2014 GreenBuilt Home Tour.