Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a green building certification program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to help identify and implement practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

To qualify as LEED certified, homes must earn a minimum of 45 points in eight categories including: Innovative Design Process (ID), Location and Linkages (LL), Sustainable Sites (SS), Water Efficiency (WE), Energy and Atmosphere (EA), Materials and Resources (MR), Indoor Environmental Quality (IQ), and Awareness and Education (AE).

LEED certified homes save more energy, conserve more water, create less waste and are healthier for homeowners than non-LEED certified homes. These green homes offer homeowners health benefits, significantly reduce their utility bills and lessen their impact and dependence on the environment. While not every home will be built or retrofit to LEED certification standards, a number of smaller steps can be taken by homeowners and builders with the LEED standards in mind.

Federal stimulus packages create additional incentives for homeowners to incorporate energy-efficient products into their homes including a 30 percent tax credit (up to $1,500) on windows and doors, insulation, roofs (metal and asphalt), HVAC, water heaters (non-solar) and biomass stoves for those products purchased for existing homes from now until 2010. Tax credits for existing homes and new construction are available at 30 percent of the cost on geothermal heat pumps, solar panels, solar water heaters, small wind energy systems and fuel cells through 2016. With more than 1,800 exhibitors — many of which boast LEED credits for homes — and 100 educational sessions on sustainable building including a keynote opening by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, GreenBuild 2009 demonstrated the growing interest, importance and need for eco friendly building and design. Touting the theme, “green building on every street” and through its first-ever Green Job Fair, the conference and expo proved that going green has never been more mainstream.

What does this mean for homeowners? Not only will your homes be healthier for your family and the environment, but as more and more companies offer green products and services, more options and competitive pricing will emerge for homeowners looking to go green. For homeowners interested in more information on LEED, green building or to view a list of builders dedicated to sustainable homes, visit the USGBC Web site.

GreenBuild is an international conference and expo on bringing green living to Main Street. It is being covered for BobVila.com by the editors of EcoNewsNetwork.org, a blog that provides news, trends and commentary on ecological issues, challenges, products, processes, science and leisure.