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Energy Efficient Programs for Builders
Home builders have the unique opportunity to impact the efficiency of new homes built in Pennsylvania. Because we have a significant heating season and an increasing cooling season it is especially important to design a home that takes these climate issues into consideration. There are nearly 50 regional and national green home labeling programs around the country. While each program approaches green building a little differently, each incorporates the following important elements:
- Energy-efficient construction techniques and products;
- Improved indoor environments through environmentally-preferable materials and building practices;
- Water-efficient fixtures and appliances;
- Renewable energy options, when feasible;
- Waste reduction and recycling during the construction process; and
- Smart growth and sustainable land development practices.
Whether you specifically enroll in one of these programs or just follow their guidelines you will be on a path to develop features that will make the home more energy efficient.
The following is a description of three prominent green home building programs:
LEED for Homes Program.
The LEED Green Building Rating System for Homes Program is a voluntary, consensus-base, market-driven program based on existing, proven technology. It evaluates environmental performance from a whole-building approach over a building’s life cycle, providing a definitive measure for what constitutes a green home. The development of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System was initiated by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), a nonprofit corporation. The rating system has five environmental categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality. Points are earned by satisfying criteria that address specific environmental impacts inherent in the design, construction, and operation and maintenance of the home. The size of the home is also important where smaller is better. Larger home sizes must accrue more points to reach certification thresholds.
Different levels of LEED green building certification are awarded based on the total points earned. The green design field is growing and changing almost daily. New technologies and products are coming into the marketplace, and innovative designs are proving their effectiveness. The Rating Systems and the LEED for Homes Reference Guides are evolving as well. Teams wishing to certify their projects with LEED should comply with the version of the Rating System that is current at the time of their registration. USGBC highlights new developments on its website on a continual basis, at www.usgbc.org/homes.
ENERGY STAR Program.
ENERGY STAR qualified homes are at least 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC).
Any home three stories or less can earn the ENERGY STAR label if it has been verified to meet EPA’s guidelines for energy efficiency. This includes site-constructed homes, attached or detached homes, single or low-rise multi-family residential buildings, manufactured homes, systems-built (e.g., SIP or modular) and log homes, existing homes, or retrofitted homes.
ENERGY STAR qualified homes achieve energy savings through established, reliable building technologies. Builders work with Home Energy Raters to select from a number of features when planning and building homes. Typical features to look for in ENERGY STAR qualified homes include:
- An Efficient Home Envelope, with effective levels of wall, floor, and attic insulation properly installed, comprehensive air barrier details, and high-performance windows;
- Efficient Air Distribution, where ducts are installed with minimum air leakage and effectively insulated;
- Efficient Equipment for heating, cooling and water heating;
- Efficient Lighting including ENERGY STAR fixtures; and
- Efficient Appliances, including ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers, refrigerators, and clothes washers.
The LEED for Homes Program mentioned previously also incorporates this ENERGY STAR program under its category of Energy and Atmosphere as an option. So it is possible under the LEED for Homes Program to achieve both LEED for Homes and ENERGY STAR certification.
The EPA has recently released new guidelines to accompany ENERGY STAR New Homes Version 3.0 (also known as ENERGY STAR 2011), which will begin a phased implementation in 2011. According to the EPA, version 3.0 is designed to address several key areas that were overlooked in previous versions of the ENERGY STAR program. Several ways in which Version 3.0 meets these problem areas are by:
- Requiring third-party inspectors to enforce quality control of installation and commissioning;
- Instituting mandatory requirements for efficient hot water delivery;
- Requiring adoption of the Advanced Lighting Package or use of 80% screw-in ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs; and
- Penalizing "wasteful largeness" by requiring larger-than-average homes to achieve a more stringent HERS index threshold for ENERGY STAR qualification.
For more information: www.energystar.gov
The Passive House is a German concept which represents today's highest energy standard with the promise of slashing the heating energy consumption of buildings by an amazing 90%. Widespread application of the Passive House design would have a dramatic impact on energy conservation. It has been abundantly clear for some time that the buildings are a primary consumer of fossil fuels. In the realm of super energy efficiency, the Passive House presents an intriguing option for new and retrofit construction.
A Passive House is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building that is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people, electrical equipment, etc. Energy losses are minimized. Any remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load, which is similarly minimized. An energy recovery ventilator provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply. The result is an impressive system that not only saves up to 90% of space heating costs, but also provides a uniquely terrific indoor air quality.
A Passive House is a comprehensive system and describes well this passive approach to the system's design. Working with natural resources, free solar energy is captured and applied efficiently.. High performance triple-glazed windows, super-insulation, an airtight building shell, limitation of thermal bridging and balanced energy recovery ventilation make possible extraordinary reductions in energy use and carbon emission.
For more information: www.passivehouse.us