For architect Mark Sofield, the Brigham residence marks a career first. While he has long focused on green building and energy efficient design, he had never pursued LEED certification through the U.S. Green Building Council.
“We weren’t entirely convinced of its value at first. It is an expensive and extremely time-consuming process, and ultimately Kitty decided it was something she wanted to do. She wanted to put the home on the map and showcase what can be done,” Sofield says.
Though the application is on hold until hardscaping and irrigation systems are complete, Sofield is confident the home will earn all the points necessary for Platinum status once the list is complete.
The LEED for Homes Rating System measures the overall performance of the home by eight categories:
- Innovation and Design Process
- Location and Linkages
- Sustainable Sites
- Water Efficiency
- Energy and Atmosphere
- Materials and Resources
- Indoor Environmental Air Quality
- Awareness and Education
Every decision, large and small, plays into the point system. The slab-on-grade construction eliminated the materials necessary for an additional subfloor and finish flooring, meeting the requirements for material-efficient framing.
“[LEED certification] is a complicated process and unbelievably time-consuming,” Sofield says. “I appreciate the idea behind the criteria and it pushed me to learn new methods, but in some cases, I found the rating system to be an impediment to achieving our energy and sustainability goals. We ran into several frustrating junctures where we ended up spending more money and consuming more resources just for the sake of points.”
A second hot water heater in the laundry room, for example, was added to satisfy a LEED requirement. “This was one of the cases when I questioned the LEED process,” Sofield says. “We had to add a second small water heater to serve the washing machine and utility sink in the laundry room because the run from the primary heater was 5 feet too long to earn one LEED credit. It didn’t seem to make practical sense in terms of the heat lost through the run compared to the life-cycle footprint of an additional unit, but that’s what we had to do [to get the points needed].”
Sofield credits the rating system for introducing him to new techniques in exterior water management strategies and hardscaping—key points that fall under the Sustainable Sites category. Surface water management strategies include permanent erosion-control planting, permeable lot surfaces, and vegetative catch-basins and swales that direct all roof runoff to two infiltration ponds in the rear of the property.
To earn the one point for mitigating heat-island effects, light-colored, reflective paving stones were installed around the home’s exterior. But when the stones and concrete did not meet the high-albedo requirements (a solar reflective index of at least 29), the team decided to satisfy the requirement by shading the hardscaped areas with trees and trellises. Completely shaded hardscaped areas earn an additional innovation credit.