The LEED Reference Guide describes the LEED for Homes credit categories as follows: 

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes is a voluntary rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes, including affordable housing, mass-production homes, custom designs, stand-alone single-family homes, duplexes and townhouses, suburban and urban apartments and condominiums and lofts in historic buildings.

LEED recognizes performance in eight areas:

selectionLocations and Linkages Building projects have substantial site-related environmental effects. Location and Linkages credits reward the choice of site locations that promote environmentally responsible land-use patterns and neighborhoods and offer environmental advantages over conventional developments.

developmentSustainable Sites Although the focus of green building is typically on the built structures, the design of the site and its natural elements can have significant environmental consequences, good or bad. The Sustainable Sites category rewards project teams for designing the site to minimize adverse effects.

waterWater Efficiency Wasteful water use is both costly and risky, as population growth and a changing climate make clean, safe water an increasingly scarce resource. It is also directly tied to wasteful energy use: As much as 1/4-1/2 of the electricity used by most U.S. cities is consumed at municipal water and wastewater treatment facilities according to the U.S. Department of Energy. LEED homes use innovative strategies to reduce a home’s water use and to find creative ways to reuse water.

energyEnergy and Atmosphere Buildings consume approximately 41% of the energy and 74% of the electricity produced in the U.S. annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. In 2010, total emissions from residential buildings were responsible for 1.2 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions, or 22% of the U.S. total.

Building green homes is one of the best strategies for meeting the challenge of climate change because the technology to reduce energy and CO2 emissions already exists. The average certified LEED home uses 30% to 40% less electricity and saves more than 100 metric tons of CO2 emissions over its lifetime. Modest investments in energy-saving and other climate-friendly technologies can make homes and communities more healthful, comfortable, durable, energy-efficient, and environmentally responsible places to live.

materialMaterials & Resources The choice of building materials is important for sustainable homebuilding because of the extraction, processing, and transportation they require. Activities to produce building materials may pollute air and water, destroy natural habitats, and deplete natural resources. Construction and demolition wastes constitute about 40% of the total solid waste stream in the U.S.  The Materials & Resources credit category encourages project teams to use less, waste less, and install materials that protect residents and ecosystems.

indoorIndoor Environmental Quality Americans spend, on average, 90% of their time indoors, where levels of pollutants may run two to five times—and occasionally more than 100 times—higher than outdoors, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Similarly, the World Health Organization reports that most of an individual’s exposure to many air pollutants comes through inhalation of indoor air. Many of the pollutants found indoors can cause health reactions in the estimated 17 million Americans who suffer from asthma and 40 million who have allergies, contributing to millions of days absent from school and work. The Indoor Environmental Quality credit category encourages builders to prevent air pollution and improve air quality and comfort in the homes they build.

residentsAwareness & Education The performance and durability of a LEED home depend on the proper use of its features and the maintenance of it systems throughout its service life.  Thus, awareness and education of the occupants are critical to achieving long-term sustainability goals in the residential sector.  The Awareness & Education credit category promotes broad awareness among homebuyers and tenants that LEED Homes are built differently and need to be operated and maintained accordingly.

inovationInnovation and Design Process Sustainable design strategies and measures are constantly evolving and improving. New technologies are continually introduced to the marketplace, and up-to-date scientific research influences building design strategies.  Occasionally, a strategy results in building performance that greatly exceeds that required in an existing LEED credit.  Other strategies may not be addressed by any LEED prerequisite or credit but warrant consideration for their sustainability benefits.  The Innovation & Design Process credit category encourages project planning and design to improve the coordination and integration of the various elements in a green home. This category also creates an opportunity for projects to earn credit for implementing strategies or measures not addressed in the current LEED for Homes rating system.

See the Green Home Guide for more information.