Over the past few weeks, I've had moments when I've thought 'Why didn't I just choose to build a house?' - oh, you know, that house or that one, a house that doesn't require one to feel chained to an excel spreadsheet and an 184-page document. And points. In order for my 1661 sq ft home (at least on paper, this square footage is not firm) to obtain Platinum LEED for Homes certification, I will need to accumulate 87 points.
This house is a process - and yes, hopefully, eventually, it will become a home. Please bear with me until then.
A component of the LEED for Homes certification process is something called 'Location and Linkages' - you get loads of LEED 'points' (maximum points: 10) for something called LEED-ND (LEED for Neighborhood Development) - a program that is either now in place, or will be soon. However - for the individual building a LEED home that isn't part of a larger neighborhood initiative, those are points that can't be claimed...so it goes.
My home will be built on my existing lot - and not in a LEED neighborhood. LEED does evaluate 'site selection' - complete with a list of areas where one shouldn't build - the obvious areas are on the list: land which is habitat for any species on the Federal or State endangered/threatened species list, land which prior to purchase was public parkland, land defined as prime farmland by the USDA. One area on the list includes any land within 100' of any water...including wetlands. Oops. There's a tidal canal behind my house - but it's manmade (although nicely naturalized now), constructed as part of stormwater mitigation practices, so it is excluded. Okay, we could get 2 points there.
LEED encourages the building of homes near/within existing communities - you get 1 point for building on an 'edge development site', 2 points for building on an 'infill site', and 1 point for building on a 'previously developed site'. Okay, I get another point here.
Infrastructure - LEED encourages folks to build near existing infrastructure. Makes sense. I pick up another point here for building within 1/2 mile of existing water/sewer service lines.
I don't do so well on the 'community resources' part - where LEED encourages folks to build in areas that allow for walking, biking or public transit as alternate means of transportation. I'm about five or six miles from the nearest CARTA stop. Maximum points for this is three, I don't think I get any points here. Nada. To even pick up 1 point here, I'd have to live within walking distance to four (within 1/4 mile) or seven (within 1/2 mile) basic community resources (places like a bank, daycare center, pharmacy, school, etc).
Next, 'access to open space'. No points here either. To get 1 point, you have to live within 1/2 mile of a community-based open space that is 3/4 acre, minimum. My neighborhood has land on the marsh with a small boat-landing - but it's probably just 1/3 of an acre. Does the marsh count? (No, it doesn't - but it should).
Okay, I have 4 points...
Now - the next section is something I like, it's titled 'Sustainable Sites.' It starts with 'Site Stewardship' - first, it's mandatory to include erosion controls during construction - basic stuff, like protecting disturbed topsoil, using strawbales to reduce runoff, reasonable stuff. But now it starts getting interesting: I can pick up a point for minimizing the disturbance to the site by developing a plant preservation plan which includes 'no disturbance zones' - zones that are both included in site drawings and that are obvious on the site. In addition - 40% of the site must be left undisturbed. Okay, I can get that point! So 1 more point.
Even easier - I need to 'design landscape features to minimize demand for water and synthetic chemicals'. A landscape plan! This is the latest 'homework' that my architherapist has give me - I need to come up with a landscape plan. I'll draw it on paper, he'll incorporate it into his design drawings.
Easier said than done. First, it is mandatory that there are no invasive plants. Here's the list of South Carolina's Invasive and Noxious Weeds according to the USDA - here's another list, Invasive Plant Pest Species of South Carolina - the latter starts off listing plants by severity, starting with the chinese tallow tree as being a severe threat. Hmmmm. I've got those, a few - lining the tidal creeks. Here they are. Also on the list: chinese wisteria (yep, got it, can do without it), bamboo ( got it, love it, won't get rid of it), nandina ( got it, undecided about it) - I'll have to look through this list more carefully. BUT...LEED states: 'introduce no invasive plant species into the landscape'. Hey - I can argue this point - if it is existing - and I don't add it to my landscape plan, then I don't have to remove it, right? I'll have to clarify this point.
So, regarding my landscape plan: I can get 2 points for a basic landscape design, and up to 3 additional points for a landscape plan that limits turf - 1 point if I limit turf to 60% of the total landscaped area, 2 points for 40%, and 3 points if turf is limited to 20% of the landscaped area. Maybe I can go for 2 points here, I can't imagine getting down to only 20% turf - I'd have to really get planting for that (but then, that's not a bad option...). I'll have to really think about what 20% means.
Then there's 2 points if one installs drought tolerant plants - or minimizes their water budget. 'Installs' refers to any new plants that I add to the landscape - that should be easy - and I'll have to look at how they evaluate the water budget. I'll be adding water catchments - cisterns ('rainwater reuse systems') - for irrigation purposes, and I won't be installing an irrigation system. Okay, I think this is 2 points I can go obtain.
Okay. So maybe I can claim ~10 points? So 77 points to go...
Enough for tonight - I'll have to wait and read through 'Shading of Hardscapes' and 'Surface Water Management' sections another time. For now, I'll think about my landscape plan...I mean, I don't think I've ever had a plan -- a vision perhaps, a dream of what my place might look like one day, but a plan?