YouthBuild Akron Ohio LEED Platinum Rehab

Akron Summit Community Action, Inc. (Akron YouthBuild) partnered with Saint-Gobain through the Saint-Gobain Corporation Foundation with support from the Saint-Gobain family of companies, to complete a green renovation at 887 Garfield Street in PIC of house - afterAkron, OH.  Saint-Gobain was founded in 1665 to manufacture glass for the Palace of Versailles in Paris, France. They are the Worlds largest building materials company. Recognized as a 2009 & 2010 Energy Star partner of the year by the US EPA, Saint-Gobain earned the 2011, 2012, & 2013 Energy Star Sustained Excellence Award, the highest level of recognition for outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through energy efficiency. The YouthBuild program started in 1978 in East Harlem, New York. The program concentrates on youths aged 16-24 who work full-time for 6-24 months while working toward their GED’s or High School Diplomas while at the same time learning job skills by building affordable housing in their communities.

The Garfield Project is the first YouthBuild Akron home to achieve the prestigious LEED Platinum certification.  Saint-Gobain and its family of companies have donated a range of building materials and many hours of on-site support from CertainTeed Building Scientists to complete the green home renovation. The homGarfield House - in progresse features a heat recovery system and very efficient CertaSpray Closed Cell Foam Insulation which contribute to its energy efficiency. The home received a HERS score of 65 meaning that it is 35% more efficient than other comparable homes. In addition to energy efficiency measures the home incorporates several landscaping features that reduce it’s irrigation needs. For example, drought tolerant plants were installed along with a slow-growing grass that needs no fertilizers, little mowing, and relatively little water. The home harvests rainwater from its roof. These aspects have accumulated a 59% water reduction due to the sites landscape architecture alone. 

CertainTeed (an affiliate of Saint-Gobain) donated many of the building materials. These materials contributed significantly to the overall efficiency and sustainability of the home. Grenite Engineered Stone Countertop’s were used and constructed with up to Garfield House - After 185% post-consumer recycled content. Air-Renew Gypsum Board boasts industry only technology that removes VOC’s from the air and converts them into safe inert compounds, once they are captured in the board they cannot be released into the air. This Gypsum Board also aids in the reduction of moisture and mold. On the rooftop, LandMark Solaris – Solar Reflecting Roofing Shingles were utilized. They reflect the suns rays and reduce roof temperatures up to 20%.

Garfield House - Label


Print and Share the Project Profile – PDF

Press Release

Video – Garfield Project

Saint-Gobain & YouthBuild Akron (Garfield House) – PDF

Choosing Sustainable Insulation

* Guest post by Emma Pritchard – “Updates by Brett Little in Captions”

Good insulation is an important part of creating a sustainable home design, and of retrofitting an existing home to include more sustainable features. If you’re working with an existing home, there’s a lot you can do to make it more sustainable, and replacing insulation is perhaps the most effective method. Whether you’re doing a remodel or just fitting new insulation, it’s a great opportunity to replace old and outdated materials with new or recycled sustainable ones, or alternatively, those made from natural materials. The initial outlay might set you back a few dollars but since good insulation makes it much less expensive to heat your home, over time, lower energy bills mean you’ll recoup the costs and more.

 The concept of sustainability integrates several different themes:

  • Using renewable energy sources instead of non-renewables like fossil fuels
  • Using non-toxic chemicals in production and processing of goods and services
  • Avoiding practices that harm the environment
  • Adopting practices that conserve resources to ensure they are available in the long term.
  • Maintaining acceptable levels of comfort (for example, in terms of home heating) while keeping to these standards.
  • “Air sealing prior to insulation and making  sure it is appropriately installed too ensure maximum effectiveness cannot be overlooked either”
  • “Insulation affordability is also important to ensure budgets are met”

In terms of insulation, a product is “environmentally” sustainable if it’s made using at least partly-recycled materials via sustainable methods, and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals. Preferably the insulation should also be recyclable, or the material it’s made from should be recyclable. Another important factor to consider is where materials are produced: to be truly sustainable, insulation should be made locally, relative to where you live. Depending on where you live you may be able to source materials made in your city or state.

 Removing Old Insulation

If you are working with a home built in the 1970s or earlier, or if the current insulation was fitted in that period, it’s important to be aware of the possibility that asbestos might be present either in the insulation or in other building materials. Asbestos is an excellent insulator, but it’s also highly toxic. If your insulation upgrade involves the removal of asbestos, it’s necessary to take precautions to prevent exposure. If you’re not sure whether asbestos is present in your home, and it was constructed or remodeled in the relevant time period, you may want to consider having your home professionally evaluated for asbestos. It may even be necessary to have any asbestos-containing materials removed by professionals to eliminate the risk of exposure.

You may also have other problems to contend with, like exposure to lead paint, or the chemicals present in certain older types of insulation. As well as these issues, most types of insulation have the potential to release particulate matter that can causes irritation when inhaled, so a protective dust mask should be worn whenever working with insulation, even if it doesn’t contain any toxins.

Types of Sustainable Insulation

When you’re replacing old insulation in favor of sustainable insulation, you’ll generally have two main objectives in mind: to use materials with better insulating capability, and to use materials that are free from chemicals that negatively impact the environment. Other considerations will include the production methods used to manufacture the insulation, where it was produced, whether it’s reusable or recyclable, and whether it contains recycled materials.

Loose fill cellulose contains at least 75% recycled newspaper, and it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals. It’s also made via production methods that use much less energy than most other options, and it can be made locally. “Blown in cellulose can be added wet or dry and can be easy to put in behind the siding of existing homes, this can be done by a professional or DYI interested person who rents a machine”

Cotton is made from a renewable resource, and is typically at least 75% recycled too. It can be recycled, and it’s not treated with toxic chemicals. The flip side is that cotton farming is resource-intensive, with a high level of dependence on pesticides, and climatic requirements that make it difficult to grow in many parts of the world. In addition, cotton insulation picks up moisture very easily and can develop mold. *”Cotton has been associated with fire control problems”

Fiberglass is typically at least 50% recycled material, with some brands achieving 70% to 90% recycled material, and it’s made from silica, which is a naturally abundant substance. However, it’s made using energy-intensive production methods, and some types contain the toxic gas formaldehyde. As well as this fiberglass typically has lower R values than other types of insulation, meaning it’s less effective at resisting heat flow. “Fiberglass tends to get installed poorly on average and in cold weather climate regions has thermal convection looping which means more air loss compared to other insulation” – Brett Little, edit * “Also note that there are blow in fiberglass methods that are easier to install, have higher r value and can be less likely for toxic exposure”

Foam insulation can be tricky—some types are recyclable but some aren’t, and some are treated with highly toxic flame retardants. Most types of foam insulation are made using non-renewable petrochemicals, however, so regardless of any other factors, these can’t be sustainable. However, some types of foam have replaced the petrochemical component with renewable alternatives that include formulations made from sugar beets, sugar cane, and corn, creating products that are less expensive, and more sustainable. “If foam is installed poorly it can be a danger to the installer and occupant as well reduce it’s effectiveness, foam can also off gas during it’s life time, loosing it’s heat resistance properties and reduce indoor air quality in the home.”

 Mineral wool (also called rock wool) is made from rock or steel slag—both abundant natural resources—and typically contains at least 75% recycled material; however, it releases low levels of irritants that can cause problems for people who are sensitive to airborne particles. It’s naturally highly fire-resistant so it doesn’t need extra chemical treatment.

“Strawbale & Strawclay are products made from waste materials from farming and from digging up the ground for new construction builds. These products are mostly used for new homes and/or additions and are natural, non toxic, fire and pest resistant materials if installed properly with appropriate moisture control levels. These products can be more labor intensive but often can result in community building parties that overall improve your fun score! These products tend to be more popular in dryer climates with larger temperature swings as moisture can be damaging to them and they are good at holding heat and letting it off at night when the temperature cools down”

Sourcing Sustainable Materials

When it comes to insulation, it’s relatively simple to buy sustainable, since so many products are made from partly recycled materials. Any home store that carries a large product range should have at least a few that fit the bill. It’s usually easy to tell whether products contain recycled materials, as most labels include this information.

“It’s also makes it easy if you specify only insulation products with 3rd party certifications, look for

Another option is stores like Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore chain, which deal mostly in used building materials, fixtures and fittings, and home accessories. Stock in these types of stores tends to be highly variable, but you might be able to score a great deal and support a great cause at the same time.


American Planning Association. “Policy Guide on Planning for Sustainability.” Accessed April 4, 2014. APA sustainability guidelines.

Earth 911. “Green Fiber Turns Recycled Paper into Insulation.” Accessed April 4, 2014. Sustainable insulation made from recycled paper.

Environmental Protection Agency. “Asbestos Containing Materials.” Accessed April 4, 2014. List of construction materials that may contain asbestos.

 Environmental Protection Agency. “Choosing Green Materials and Products.” Accessed April 4, 2014. Advice on finding sustainable building materials.

Foive. “Asbestos Testing Companies.” Accessed April 4, 2014. How asbestos testing works.

Habitat for Humanity. “Habitat for Humanity ReStores.” Accessed April 4, 2014. Store finder for Habitat ReStore locations.

North American Insulation Manufacturers. Fiber Glass, Rock Wool, and Slag Wool Have High Percentage of Recycled Content.” Accessed April 29, 2014. Recycled content in fiberglass insulation.

LEED AP Homes Credential to still remain under version 4

I just got this news in an email from the Manger of USGBC Education Partners, Sabrina Morelli – Fantastic news for the residential greenbuilding industry!

Email screenshot below


Hi Brett,

Well turns out the LEED AP Homes is not retiring and will be updated with the other v4 exams. The LEED AP Homes as well as the Green Rater certificate are good options for residential focus.

Sorry for any confusion. Let me know if you need anything else.


Sabrina Morelli, LEED Green Associate
Manager, USGBC Education Partners
U.S. Green Building Council
Direct: 202-828-1152
Mobile: 202-378-0297

Further proof – Read the comment section 

V4 LEED APH Stays!

USGBC certifies 50,000th LEED Homes

Quoted text from ” ”

“Since its start in 2007, 50,000 housing units have been certified under LEED for Homes and 44 percent of those homes were classified as affordable housing.” “As one of the most rigorous green residential rating systems in the world, LEED for Homes is the standard against which all other such programs are measured,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “Despite its demanding technical aspects that set a high bar for green residential construction, LEED for Homes has also seen the broadest adoption among its peers — indicative of its position as the rating system of choice to guide the design and construction of healthier, high-performance homes.””

“Since the launch of the LEED for Homes rating system in 2007, the growth trajectory of the world’s most widely used residential green building program has been dramatic. From 392 housing units LEED-certified in 2007, the figure jumped to nearly 900 units certified within the year 2008 and nearly 3,000 certified within 2009. In 2012 and 2013 alone, USGBC certified more than 15,000 and 17,000 housing units, respectively.”

“Of the 50,000-plus certified units, 74 percent are within multifamily buildings, while 44 percent are classified as affordable housing. In addition, nearly 65 percent of the total units were certified in the past two years, a strong indicator of the continued momentum of the rating system. There are also more than 82,000 units under construction and in the pipeline for LEED certification.”

is excited to be apart of this movement. As an ordinal LEED for Homes provider we have certified nearly 4,000 of these homes with another 3,000 in the pipeline. Learn why LEED excites us. 

“The continued growth of LEED for Homes is attributable to its many proven benefits, including enhanced property value, healthier indoor environments, and energy and water savings that average 20 to 30 percent. LEED-certified homes are third-party inspected, tested and performance-verified, offering homeowners and renters piece of mind that their places of residence are efficient, saving them money and also better for the natural environment.”

“In December 2013, USGBC also announced the LEED certification of its 20,000th commercial project.”

GreenStar Residential Remodeling Certification is Here.

and Minnesota GreenStar (MNGS) have teamed up to deliver the GreenStar remodeling & new homes certification to the Midwest and North East. The program is backed by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry(NARI) as part of their Green Certified Professional (GCP) program and is incorporated into the training.GreenStar CGH&R CMYK-600

Why GreenStar Remodeling ? 

Many looking for authentic 3rd party verification/certification on their home remodels find  local state program within the Midwest & North East can be cost prohibitive, require major guts, are exclusive based on membership and/or are lacking any remodeling components.

Not anymore  – GreenStar can certify without requiring expensive energy modeling for kitchen, bathroom, whole house or landscape remodeling projects that can qualify under the program. Remodeling projects tend to be in phases and so you complete your phases through out the years as you have more revenue and time. From there you can submit documentation to get to certain stages of certification in the program.

Become Qualified to register your project!

Take 1 hour to learn about the program navigation, case studies, requirements, qualification/credentialing, up coming courses and how you can get involved locally to jump start GreenStar in your city or State.

Learning Outcomes 

  1. Basic Knowledge of How to get started with the GreenStar program locally in your state
  2. Introduction to the GreenStar Checklist, Manual and Online Submittal Process
  3. Run through an actual certified Green Retrofit from Start to Finish
  4. Know where to get more knowledge for education, training, membership in your state or how to be a local champion

CEUs  – GBCI – AIA LU/SD – NARI Green and Local Contractor Credits

Up coming Courses & Webinar Schedule 

Green Expo 365 – Introduction to GreenStar Remodeling Free Webinar.

Part 1 of 3 back to back webinar GreenStar Online Qualification Course 12/3 – 12/5 10 am to 12 pm – 2 hour segmants

– Demystifying GreenBuilding Certification Options & State Codes*

– Learn about local / state and regional green building programs and how they compare/contrast

– Understand basics of Green Remodeling Opportunities & Challenges

Pt 2 – 12/4 Understanding GreenStar Remodeling Certification

Pt 3 – 12/5 Navigating the GreenStar Checklist & Documentation Requirements

* This course can be skipped if you are a Green Home Professional (LEED APH, Green Rater/Verifier, GCP, Master Green Builder (NGBS) or comparable accreditation. )

Sign up Today!

Full & Half Day Qualification Courses / Webinars – TBD – Email for interest 

GreenStar Full Program Manual! Free!

Get the checklists! IL MI MN OH

Other ways to qualify: In House or Webinar Design Charrette Half Day Meeting – Qualify multiple team members for extra points! Email for details.

Find Qualified Contractors, Remodelers, Builders, Raters and/or Consultants: MI IL MN 

Founded in 2007, Minnesota GreenStar is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, has developed a leading residential building standards and certification program created to promote healthy, durable, high-performance design and construction for both new and existing homes.  An objective, third-party verification system assures consumers that the new home or remodeling project meets the program requirements and is constructed as designed. A whole-systems approach applies the five (5) key concepts of green building programs – Energy Efficiency, Resource Efficiency (including durability), Indoor Environmental Quality, Water Conservation, Site and Community – to the traditional building process.  The MNGS program improves the impact of green building programs on individuals, their families, the community, and the environment.

Volunteer of the year 2013: Danny McGee

Danny McGee approached after talking to the director at the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, who pointed him our way.. Danny came to our office in Grand Rapids MI asking how he could help get involved in our many initiatives. After our ED, Brett Little explained to him the several new initiatives is hoping to launch, Danny dove into assisting us with many of them and showed up several times a week to work in our office and get to know our staff.
Danny Mcgee

Danny hails from the East Coast where he got his feet wet with green building by interning with Sasaki Associates and overseeing the LEED Documentation of a commercial project & worked on a street corridor plan in Boston. Danny went on to seek his Masters Degree of Architectural Engineering at Colorado University of Bolder. While there he served as an Energy Solutions Provider for Sustainable Tribal Housing in Wyoming and sought his BPI Accreditation.

Danny took his BPI to the next level by becoming a MI GreenStar Qualified Rater and is working on the certification of the Man up House with Bethany Christian Services Youth Build for the Urban Transformation Ministries. Danny has also assisted with our new MPG for Existing Homes label by testing it out, learning how to use the tool and giving us feedback on what works.

When Danny learned about the new non profit forming, Homes of Hope, he loved the idea of helping with a veteran house build and West Michigan’s first Living Building Challenge registered home. He has showed up to every meeting to help with project management, website set up, building science & product research, volunteer recruitment and management and community engagement.

Lastly, Danny has just recently become Srinergy’s West Michigan Solar Community Rep to help reach out to local residents and business to get solar up and to help with performance energy analysis before projects move forward with solar. Learn More

We are very grateful for Danny’s time, talent and just overall being a great and exciting person to be around. is making Danny our Volunteer of the Year. Thank you Danny!

Learn More about Danny McGee Here

Making Sense of GreenHome Certifications and Labels 101

WI Platinum 2.5k Square foot Home averages $30 energy bills

Thanks to Jetson Green for sharing this awesome post! (Article written by Christine Walsh on Nov. 28, 2013)


Architect Virge Temme of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin recently received the LEED Platinum for Homes certification for a private residence she designed near Gills Rock. The home was built by Bay Lakes Builders, and the plans were based on the collaboration of all members of the construction and design team so as to ensure proper integration of all systems. The electric and fuel bills for this 2,600-square-foot house were less than $30 per month on average during its first year. This is only the seventh home in Wisconsin to receive the LEED Platinum certification.

The building process started with the excavation of the meadow where the house stands, while the top soil was stockpiled and used for final grading later. Once the foundation was complete, the foundation forms were stripped and the below-slab plumbing and electrical runs installed. The builders continued with laying thermal tarp to protect the home from freezing rains. This was followed by the installing of under-slab insulation. All the joints were staggered and sealed in this process to prevent air movement between layers. Furthermore, all the penetrations through insulation were foam sealed, which protects against cold seepage and potential Radon gasses.

The roof was then installed, using 16″ I-joists to reduce thermal transmission and to provide additional insulation depth. The I-joists were placed directly over the studs below and the framed walls with studs at 24″ on center to reduce redundant top plate, which also reduced the overall framing materials need. The rafters were then screwed and strapped to studs to provide additional protection from wind. All the intersections were then foam-sealed.

To provide a continuous envelope 3/8″ OSB was added to the under side of rafters. Double 2-4 plates were screwed below the rafters to provide an electrical chase, eliminating the need for roof penetrations. The builders also used ladder framing, which greatly reduced the amount of redundant materials at wall-to-wall connections. Double-wall construction also eliminated thermal bridging and provided space for additional insulation.



The house has insulation values of R-45 for walls, R-60 for the roof, and R-30 for ground insulation. Together with passive solar orientation and specially-coated windows to introduce solar warming, and which also feature overhangs to protect from summer over-heating, there is no need for a furnace or a boiler for space heating.

Other sustainable features of the home include:

– Sustainably-harvested framing materials
– Recycled/recyclable metal siding, roofing and insulation
– Drought-tolerant plants replanted around the home
– Rain gardens for roof runoff
– Only low- or no-VOC paints, adhesives and insulation were used to ensure better air quality
– Floors are made of concrete and sustainably harvested bamboo
– Only highly efficient appliances, lighting fixtures, and plumbing were installed
– The building process resulted in almost no construction waste

View LEED project Profile Here 





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Banked & Recorded Green Home Webinars – Free! CEUs

The webinars below are a summary of educational offerings that is prepared to deliver upon request or are recorded and accessible for free.  Many are approved for AIA and GBCI continuing education credit.  Contact us to schedule a presentation or if you would like to present through our network.

  1. Demystifying LEED for Homes Version 4 webinar featuring lead LEED home reviewer Jay Hall – 1 hour – CEUS
  2. Rosemarie Rossetti from the Universal Design Living Laboratory has 1 hour recorded webinar that takes you through her ZeroStep Certified Gold Home in Columbus Ohio and explains the thought behind the design and construction. This is a free webinar worth 1 AIA/GBCI/Nari Green & Potential State Contractor CEU. 
  3. Introduction to the GreenStar Remodeling Certification Program – 1 Hour Webinar (AIA/GBCI/NARI Green)
  4. Materials Matter- Design Trends for a Sustainable Future – (AIA/GBCI) 
  5. How I made Million Dollars as a Green Remodeler – GreenStar Remodeling Certification Kick Off 
  6. Energy Star Version 3 for HOMES – Lessons Learned for HVAC Contractor Design/Install AIA/GBCI CEs
  7. Selecting Appropriate Natural Building Materials in Cold & Wet Climates 5/7/13 on Demand AIA/GBCI CEs
  8. PHIUS + Passive Building Certification – Webinar Recorded 3/18/13 – 1 AIA/GBCI on demand
  9. Journey to Passive House & LEED – A Homeowner’s Tale – Record Feb 2013 (1 hour)
  10. Making Green with Green – Introduction to Green Remodeling for Homes – 1 AIA/GBCI
  11. LEED for Homes Post Occupancy Report – Recorded Jan 2013. GBCI Only
  12. Achieving Success in Education & Awareness – LEED for Homes – 2012 Recording 1 AIA/GBCI (LEED Specific)
  13. LEED Multifamily Certification Options (1 AIA/GBCI)
  14. Overview of LEED for Homes (1 AIA/GBCI)
  15. 10 tested tips for LEED for Homes Gut Rehabs – (1 AIA/GBCI)

As a 501(c)3 charitable organization (view our details), we deliver green building education courses throughout the Midwest at minimal cost and at no profit. Please support us to help keep these going. Your donation to the Green Home Institute may be tax-deductible. Please check with your accountant or tax attorney for details.

Thank you for your support!

By USGBC – FREE webinars on Affordable Housing:

  • Affordable Green Multifamily Retrofits
  • Operations & Maintenance of Green Affordable Housing
  • Data Collection and Analysis of Green Affordable Housing

Green Building & Remodeling Tax Credits

There are currently 2 Federal tax credits for energy efficiency and 1 commercial tax deduction. Information on the forms needed to claim these are in bold below. Most LEED for Homes or GreenStar projects will also meet the eligible requirements of the tax credits

Tax Credits for Energy-Efficient Home Improvements

What: Tax credits equal to 10% of the material costs paid by the taxpayer for qualified energy-efficient improvements installed from January 2012 through December 2013.

Who: Homeowners

Limits: Improvements installed in 2012 and 2013, can get a maximum credit of $500. If you have claimed more than $500 in energy-efficient tax credits since January 1, 2005—you are not eligible to make a tax credit claim in 2012 or 2013.

Claim: Use IRS Tax Form 5695 (version 2009).

NOTE: For insulation to qualify, its primary purpose must be to insulate. It must be expected to last five years OR have a two-year warranty. Installation costs are not included. GreenStar Remodeling Certification Can help!

Builder Tax Credit for Energy-Efficient Homes:

What: $2,000 tax credit for new, energy-efficient homes that achieve 50% heating and cooling savings over a comparable dwelling unit constructed in accordance with the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and supplements. LEED for Homes certified projects with applicable HERS scores will qualify.

Who: Home builders

Limits: The credit is retroactive to January 1, 2012 and covers homes built through December 31, 2013 for homes sold or leased in 2012 and 2013.

Claim: Eligible contractors should fill out IRS Form 8908.

Commercial Tax Deduction:

What: Tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot for new or existing commercial buildings that save at least 50% of the heating and cooling energy of a building that meets ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2001.

Who: Owners or designers of new or existing commercial buildings.

Limits: Available for systems “placed in service” from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2013.

NOTE: Partial deductions of up to $.60 per square foot can be taken for measures affecting any one of three building systems: the building envelope, lighting, or heating and cooling systems. LEED for Homes Midrise Certified Buildings will help to achieve requirements 

Claim: Check with your accountant to claim this deduction.

Will this be renewed in 2014?​

No word yet. Most of them have been renewed for several years. But with all that’s going on, I don’t think it’s at the top of the agenda. Usually if it’s renewed it happens at the very end of the calendar year or the first couple of months of the next.


You also can find a list of local tax incentives at