East Lansing to help homeowners meet environmental standards on new construction

East Lansing, MI – The city of East Lansing is supplying building incentives for those who build more environmentally efficient homes. New homes in East Lansing which meet certain ecological standards could be eligible for tax credits from the city to offset LEED certification costs.

The city added LEED certification incentives last month to their Green Building Initiative.

Those who are building new homes with LEED specifications, like Shanna Dreheim and her family, are now eligible for $2,600 to offset certification costs.

It was Dreheim and her husband who pushed the East Lansing city council to add the LEED incentives for home construction to the city's green building initiative.

"Both my husband and I work in the environmental energy field, and so we were very interested in building a highly energy efficient house, and we actually set out to build a LEED certified house. It wasn't, 'Let's build a house and eventually get it LEED certified,' it was 'Let's build a LEED-certified house.'"

The LEED program is overseen by the US Green Building Council. Both the structure and the construction's blueprints will be inspected by LEED officials and, if compliant, will be awarded official "LEED for Homes" recognition.

Gene Townsend is the contractor in charge of the Dreheim home's construction. He represents Vesta Building Industries, a company which specializes on green construction. Townsend says "LEED for Homes" sets itself apart from most construction strategies with its stress on pre-build planning

"The design process is somewhat unique for a LEED house," Townsend said. "It's required that the heating contractor and the framing contractor and the plumbing contractor and the builder all sit down together and figure out where there might be problems in the house and solve those problems on paper, in advance, before they get to the stage of actually building the house."

East Lansing officials are excited about the program because it could bolster the city's national environmental reputation and attract new business.

Tim Schmitt is with East Lansing's planning and community development department. Schmitt says the LEED program is also better for the city's bottom line. For each faucet that uses less water, for each building that emphasizes solar heating or the use of high-density insulation, Schmitt says less strain is put on city resources.

"Any reduction we get, in terms of water usage or electrical usage on a house on an individual basis is incrementally going to help the system," Schmitt said. "You're not going to have to do major upgrades because you're serving more and more houses if you have these individual houses using that much less, you can, in the long run, save money that way."

Back at the Dreheim construction, in a couple of months the puzzle of concrete slabs and pre-insulated wooden panels will be assembled, and the Dreheims will move into their new home. And though the new residence will look much like every other home architecturally within East Lansing's Historic District, it will be different in the ways which matter most for the Dreheim family and for the city.