People often complain about LEED, wondering what is the point of spending all of that money on a plaque. But the real deal with LEED is that it is a third party certification to a tough and evolving standard. That's why, in a week when the Ideabox IKEA prefab is getting all the media exposure, it is appropriate to get beyond home show hype and look at a real house on a real piece of land. Like this 1300 series from Greenfab, the first to be certified LEED Platinum in the State of Washington.
My first reaction was that there should be points lost for making virtually the whole facade at grade a garage and a driveway; that's just a rude and unfriendly way to treat a street. But when you look closely, even that is done in a more interesting fashion, with permeable paving in the driveway and instead of the usual poured concrete retaining walls, they are built of gabions of loose rock, which has a lower carbon footprint to install and can be removed easily.
Inside, it is a lovely mix of simple clean design with lots of exposed wood; I particularly like the basic plywood handrail on the stair. The press release describes the materials and construction:
The 1,870 square foot Greenfab home consists of three bedrooms and focuses heavily on reducing energy use by incorporating double-glazed windows with a U-value of .35, R-26 exterior walls, which are 35 percent better than code (R-17), Energy Star rated appliances, energy recovery ventilation, heat pump electric heating, backup radiant electric heat, and a GE hybrid heat pump water heater. A digital monitoring system collects and measures realtime data about weather, energy and water use, and provides constant feedback to troubleshoot and monitor performance through an interactive iPad/iPhone based application. Necessary wiring for solar panels in the roof has also been installed and approved for future use.
I should note that R-26 is not a particularly high standard in these times, and that U-.35 windows are only R-2.85, and that LEED Platinum appears to set the bar pretty low. This ain't no Passivhaus.
The press release continues:
Water conservation strategies include a series of three, 300 gallon storage basins that filter and treat grey water from showers, bathroom sinks and the washing machine. A rain garden infiltrates overflow from the grey water treatment system to recharge ground water. A 1,400 gallon above ground water storage cistern captures rainwater for on-site irrigation and toilet flushing. Low-flow plumbing fixtures and dual-flush toilets contribute to a significant reduction in water usage.
Clean indoor air circulates throughout because all of materials used to construct the home were stored and assembled in a controlled factory environment, meaning that there is no risk of mold or mildew, which can happen during traditional construction when building materials are stored outdoors and susceptible to rain and damp weather. The indoor setting also prevents dust and dirt from contaminating ductwork, which can cause long-term adverse indoor air quality problems. All materials, including paints, finishes and adhesives are low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds), and formaldehyde-free.
Lots of nice green stuff. There is no question that this is a lovely house, built to very high standards, deserving of much praise and LEED certification. But should a single family house with R26 walls, electric heating and a sunken garage to the front be able to get the absolute highest rating that the certification system has to offer? I am not so sure; I think the bar is set too low. Perhaps they need that Protactinium level after all.
More at Greenfab.