Here is an excerpt from a white paper I just published on how and where a ground source heat pump can be utilized to gain LEED certification.

By now, nearly everyone has at least heard of LEED but not many understand what it means to be LEED-certified or how best to earn certification. Developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”. Simply put, LEED is a grading system for sustainable building design and construction.

The goal of the program is to encourage the construction of buildings that use less energy, water and natural resources in order to minimize the impact of a structure on the local environment during construction and throughout its useful life. Needless to say, geothermal heating and cooling systems can go a long way to supporting all of these goals.

The LEED rating system works by requiring a minimum level of performance through prerequisites organized under eight different categories. Once you are able to meet the minimum performance requirements in each category, any improvements above and beyond are rewarded through a points system. The eight categories are:

Innovation & Design Process (ID) Find innovative ways to enhance your home’s efficiency, comfort and durability. A maximum of 11 points is available in this category.

Location & Linkages (LL) Select property that is close to work, school, shopping, access to mass transit, etc. A maximum of 10 points is available in this category.

Sustainable Sites (SS) Protect natural habitat, minimize the effect of storm runoff and water usage on site, etc. through non-destructive construction practices and site development. A maximum of 22 points is available in this category.

Water Efficiency (WE) Reduce water usage in your home and find creative ways to reuse it, inside and out. A maximum of 15 points is available in this category.

Energy & Atmosphere (EA) Cut the energy usage of your home and resulting environmental pollution, mainly through improvements to the building envelope and heating and cooling system design. A maximum of 38 points is available in this category.

Materials & Resources (MR) Use construction materials manufactured via sustainable methods from recycled or environmentally-friendly raw material. Minimize waste during construction. A maximum of 16 points is available in this category.

Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ) Minimize the creation of and exposure to pollutants and maximize fresh air indoors through energy efficient means. A maximum of 21 points is available in this category.

Awareness & Education (AE) Educate you, the homeowner, tenant, or building manager about the operation and maintenance of the green features of your home. A maximum of 3 points is available in this category.

With nearly 52% of all U.S. residential electricity consumption going to comfort systems and hot water generation it only makes sense that the Energy and Atmosphere (EA) category makes up a big chunk of your possible LEED points. A maximum of 38 points is available in the EA category which is nearly 28% of the 136 available points. The 38 EA points are spread across multiple subcategories the most important of which are space heating & cooling, domestic hot water generation and refrigerant management.

And wouldn’t you guess… a major portion of the points available in this category can be captured with the right HVAC system (and by right I mean geothermal). The remarkable GSHP system, dubbed by the EPA as “the most energy efficient, environmentally clean and cost effective space conditioning system available” can help you capture 10 of the 38 points within this category.

At first blush, 10 points may not seem like much, but it is always important to keep things in perspective. As you can see from Table 1, if the goal is to achieve LEED Silver status on your new home, the 10 points you earn with a GSHP system will account for 17% of the 60 points needed. If you decide to shoot for the moon and achieve LEED Platinum status, the points from the GSHP system will account for 11% of the 90 points needed.

To obtain the remaining 28 points in Energy and Atmosphere, you will need to upgrade your insulation, take measures to tighten up your home and reduce air infiltration (envelope leakage), upgrade your windows, use high-efficiency lighting, buy Energy Star rated appliances, etc.

By installing a GSHP system, you will be able to maximize your LEED score in three subcategories in this category: space heating and cooling, domestic hot water and refrigerant management.

Download the Full White Paper

You can download the full white paper “Let Geo LEED the way” here to understand the role geothermal heating and cooling systems play in the achievement of LEED certification. The paper breaks down how LEED points are accumulated, the specific categories GSHP systems affect and how to maximize your points with GSHP. To find geothermal training, taught by Ryan Carda go to HeatSpring Learning Institute course pages or check out GeoConnections.