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The residential question: Homes, Midrise, or New Construction?

Published on Written by Posted in LEED

Whether it's single family or multifamily development, two floors or 18 floors - these are factors that come into play when choosing the right rating system for your residential project. But we've heard from many of you out in the real world that it's been a tough call trying to choose the *right* rating system. So, let's go over some details to help guide your understanding of the rating systems:

Recognize the factors at play.

For residential projects, there are three paths available to you for LEED certification. Determining which path you should take is based on two major factors: the intended number of family units and the number of floors.

Family units: Do you intend for your project to be occupied by a single family? Will your project accommodate multiple families in a single building like a two-flat or duplex? Or is your project more on the scale of a multifamily dwelling like an apartment building? This factor focuses on distinguishing between traditional houses or townhomes and larger apartment complexes in order to define the intent of the project.

Number of floors: The next factor only comes into play if your project is intended for multiple residential units within one building. By accommodating for the number of floors in a project, we're trying to define the scope of the project.

Understand your choices.

The particular details of your LEED project will ultimately guide you down one of these three paths:

Homes and Multifamily Lowrise. Single-family homes and multi-family residential buildings of 1 to 3 stories.

Multifamily Midrise. Multifamily residential buildings of 4 to 8 occupiable stories above grade. The building must have 50% or more residential space. (Buildings near 8 stories can inquire with USGBC about using Midrise or New Construction, if appropriate.)

BD+C: New Construction and Major Renovation. New construction or major renovation of buildings that do not primarily serve K-12 educational, retail, data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality, or healthcare uses. New construction also includes high-rise residential buildings 9 stories or more.

Put it all together.

Now that you know your choices and the differences, you should have a better idea of where your project should fall. We've mapped out the decision tree below to provide visual guidance. 

Final thoughts 

If your project is a multifamily development with around 8 floors (either 6 or 7 to be more precise), you might wonder whether BD+C: New Construction is more appropriate for your project. If that's you, talk to us first. We'll help you determine which path to take.

If you still have questions, that's what we're here for. Contact us for more information or for help determining the right rating system for your project.


Examples from our project directory

Homes and Multifamily Lowrise

The Vandemusser Residence


Multifamily Midrise

Alvarado Road Apartments


LEED BD+C: New Construction

Charlottetown Terrace Renovations


Editor's note: When we released LEED v4, we listed the residential credits under LEED BD+C because all of the requirements are for design and construction projects. In order to simplify and streamline, we're starting to drop the "BD+C" and replaced it with "Homes". What does this change for you? Not much. The credits will not change (they are still for design and construction projects) and Homes has always had its own reference guide and even its own section in LEED online. All of the information will remain the same and in the same place – you'll just notice, we are removing the prefix. 

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    Tiffany Coyle made 10 contributions in the last 6 months

Tiffany Coyle

U.S. Green Building Council
USGBC Articles can be accessed in the USGBC app for iOS or Android on your iPhone, iPad or Android device.
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4 commentsLeave a comment

Please note that this guidance is for LEED v4 projects only. The rating system selection for v2009 (or Homes v2008) is different and unaffected by the v4 guidance detailed in this article. Namely, any multifamily project 4 stories or taller may use NC v2009, and most have the option of using Midrise v2008 as well. Consult GBCI if you have any questions on what the most appropriate rating system for your project.
Sustainability Consultant, SUSTAIN O.E.
thank you for your answer
Sustainability Consultant, SUSTAIN O.E.
How about multifamily midrise international projects?
U.S. Green Building Council
International projects should use the exact same guidance. All of the rating systems are applicable internationally.

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