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

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Energy and atmosphere guidelines set up to improve a LEED building's energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint are very different for homes and businesses. Homes are required to meet federal ENERGY STAR standards for home energy use [source: U.S. Green Building Council]. ENERGY STAR standards establish a baseline for energy efficiency for homes, based on a target of 20 to 30 percent improved efficiency over the average home [source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]. Exceeding those standards earns a project credit points [source: U.S. Green Building Council].

Since different business facilities use energy in different ways, businesses have to meet a much more detailed and complicated prerequisite requirement called "commissioning." Commissioning involves taking on a professional whose job is to oversee the energy planning for a project to make sure it is designed as efficiently as possible. The process is customized to the specific business, since a factory and an office building have very different energy needs. Businesses also have to meet requirements like using HVAC systems that don't emit harmful CFCs and making sure at least half of all the building's equipment is ENERGY STAR certified [source: U.S. Green Building Council].

LEED guidelines also cover materials and resources used during and after construction. Both businesses and homes are encouraged to reduce waste and recycle any unused materials. They are also required to keep wasted building materials below a maximum level. Commercial buildings have credits available that don't apply to homes. For example, a business facility can claim points if at least 30 percent of the furniture used in the building comes from "salvaged, refurbished or used" sources [source: U.S. Green Building Council].

One of the more offbeat areas of the LEED guidelines is the set of requirements and point credits surrounding indoor environmental quality. Those standards are based around the idea that the health and comfort of the people who use a building is important. The guidelines for homes include credits for systems that control moisture and temperature levels, and keep air clean of contaminants and impurities. In addition to those guidelines, businesses can claim credits for a range of improvements focused more on employee comfort than safety. For example, points are awarded to facilities where 50 percent of workers have access to individual temperature and lighting controls in their workspaces [source: U.S. Green Building Council]. They can also claim credit points for providing a certain amount of sunlight to employees. Credits are even available for designing work areas so that at least 90 percent of employees have a view out the window [source: U.S. Green Building Council].

LEED guidelines are extremely intricate for both businesses and homes. Keep reading for more information on these complex standards.

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