If you're interested in building a green home -- or making your existing home greener -- chances are you've come across the acronym "LEED." It stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and it's a green building rating system that the U.S. Green Building Council developed to promote (and provide tools and guidelines for achieving) energy savings, water efficiency, reduction in carbon emissions, reduction in waste sent to landfills, improved indoor air quality, protection of natural resources, and the choice of environmentally and socially responsible sites for the construction of new buildings [source: Natural Resources Defense Council].
There are LEED certification programs for commercial buildings and public facilities, as well as a program for residential buildings, known as LEED for Homes. Achieving certification is an involved process that requires a home to earn a certain number of points, and there are four available levels of certification. The maximum number of points any home can earn is 136.
A home awarded 90 to 136 points gets Platinum certification; 75 to 89 points equals Gold; 60 to 74 points earns Silver; and 45 to 59 points means a home is simply certified, but hasn't achieved enough points to earn a Gold, Silver or Platinum status [source: Natural Resources Defense Council]. Earning points -- and certification -- requires verification by a designated third party, so you can't just claim that you've followed LEED guidelines and get certified. A LEED for Homes Providers or Green Raters needs to make sure you've done what you're supposed to do.
Whether or not you go through the process of getting certified, following LEED guidelines as you build a new home or renovate an existing property can mean significant energy and money savings. It also lessens your home's negative impact on the environment and creates a healthier space for you and your family. And if you do actually get LEED certification, that can mean good things for your home's resale value and potential tax incentives, not to mention bragging rights to your eco-savvy friends. Here's a look at some good reasons to become a LEED-er.