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What's the difference between LEED certifications for homes and businesses?

LEED for Homes vs. LEED for Businesses
The Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas is said to be one of the world's largest green projects built with the LEED Gold certified Green Building Rating System.
The Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas is said to be one of the world's largest green projects built with the LEED Gold certified Green Building Rating System.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

LEED guidelines are structured similarly for both homes and businesses. They separate credit points and prerequisites into several areas of compliance, including water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, site selection, use of materials and resources, and energy use. The difference between the two rating systems shows up in the specific requirements and credit points described in each of those areas, and those variations arise in how homes and businesses are used by their tenants or owners. A business has a lot more people moving around throughout the day, and it uses more energy. A home usually has more outdoor spaces, uses more water per person, and has household appliances that businesses usually don't. So, the differences in the two sets of guidelines reflect those variables.

For example, sustainable site selection is one of the subdivisions of the LEED guidelines. This focuses on making sure that the structure is built in a place where it won't have a negative environmental impact. Businesses are awarded points for reducing light pollution from outdoor lighting, providing underground parking and creating shade that reduces ambient heat in their neighborhoods [source: U.S. Green Building Council]. Businesses also receive credits for locating facilities closer to mass transportation, and for offering onsite bike storage and changing rooms to encourage employees to bike to work [source: U.S. Green Building Council]. None of those improvements apply to residential construction, however homes do get points for maintaining 40 percent of a lot as a "no-disturbance zone" where plants and trees are left alone. Generally, LEED has more guidelines for landscaping when it comes to residential construction, including a ban on "invasive plants" that don't fit with the regional ecosystem and credits for landscaping that resists erosion and drought [source: U.S. Green Building Council].

Water efficiency is another area of LEED certification, and the guidelines establish different priorities for homes and businesses. Businesses are required to meet specific water efficiency standards for all toilets and faucets as prerequisites to certification. Water use for toilets is set at a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf), or 1 gpf for urinals. Faucet pressure is capped at .5 gallons per minute [source: U.S. Green Building Council]. Homes can earn credits for water efficiency, but there are no prerequisite usage standards. Instead, LEED for homes has tiered standards -- the more efficient a home's toilets, faucets and washing machines are, the more credits it can receive. LEED guidelines also include credits for homes (but not businesses) that use rainwater harvesting systems, or gray water recycling systems [source: U.S. Green Building Council]. Gray water recycling is the process of reusing water from clothes washers, sink drains and showers [source: Barker].