This article was originally published in the May/June 1994 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.



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Home Energy Magazine Online May/June 1994

EEBA Does Dallas

Homebuilders from across the U.S. and Canada, and as far away as India and New Zealand, convened in Dallas February 23-26 for the twelfth annual Energy Efficient Builders Association conference. Highlights included tours of an energy-efficient and affordable demonstration house and an update on the greening trend among homebuilders in a green building technology track, presentations on new eco home rating programs and a continuing focus on indoor air quality. The keynote address, delivered by real estate journalist Lew Sickelman, provided a retrospective on the energy-efficient mortgage, and sixty conference sessions and 14 pre- and post-conference workshops covered energy efficient building issues in eight categories. In general, there is a feeling of flux in the field, with reports that window technologies are changing faster than ever before, and a new conference track this year covering mechanical systems which are evolving with the increasingly efficient housing industry.

Nobody was talking about duct leakage five years ago, and nobody was talking about sustainability, said Michael Uniacke, an Arizona-based building science consultant and trainer who has attended the past five EEBA conferences. Now we have whole workshops on duct leakage, and resource efficiency has come along like a freight train in the past three or four years. Uniacke was joined by developer Paul Aslanian of Parkside & HTS Builders in presenting a workshop on the comprehensive design process behind their affordable, energy-efficient 117--unit subdivision now under construction in Chino Valley, Arizona.

Green is the new emphasis, agreed Tom Farkas, who presented the Edison Electric Institute's new E Seal certification program, designed to unite efficiency, environment, electricity. E Seal's core criteria cover energy efficiency and renewable energy, indoor air quality, waste management, water quality and conservation, comfort and safety and information. Optional modules look at energy and load management, construction practices, transportation, home site evaluation, environmental testing, home operations, electric service and custom environmental features.

Attendees were treated to tours of the first E Seal-certified home at Esperanza del Sol, a project that will eventually consist of twelve, 1,273 ft2, two-story single-family homes. Esperanza is the brainchild of affordable housing developer Barbara Harwood. Her husband and business partner Richard Harwood, a builder of 40 years, is fond of saying that he was a Neanderthal builder until he met Barbara, and the new homes at Esperanza del Sol are evidence of his evolution. The houses will cost less than $80,000, within the reach of households earning less than $35,000 a year (and with subsidies available for low-income homebuyers, households with an annual income as low as $24,000 may qualify). Plus, the Harwood's BBH Enterprises guarantees that average heating and cooling costs will not exceed $1 per day. To achieve those savings, the houses were oriented to take advantage of solar heating and natural ventilation, and trees were preserved and planted for summer shade and protection from winter winds. Added insulation and a tightened envelope allowed downsizing of the geothermal heat pump, saving almost enough money to cover the controlled ventilation system.

In other sustainable news, Peggy Harmon, of Southern Electric International, introduced the Good Cents Program's Environmental Home Program, by saying that with the improvement in building codes and products, energy efficiency in housing has become the norm. Rising lumber prices and the scarcity of quality lumber, rising waste disposal costs and recent indoor air quality lawsuits filed against builders, she said, are leading the industry down a new path. The Environmental Home Program adds environmental criteria to the popular Good Cents Program--currently being used by 280 utilities nationwide--namely in the areas of building materials, construction practices, water efficiency, building design and ecological living. A software program, developed jointly by Arizona Public Service and Tempe-based consultant EcoGroup, Incorporated, awards an eco-score based on a total of 200 prescriptive options. EcoGroup's Tom Hines said that five southern utilities--Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Savannah Electric and Power, Alabama Power and Mississippi Power--are currently implementing the program.

Green building pioneer Doug Seiter was on hand with an update on the City of Austin, Texas' Green Builder Program, the eco-home rating system which was recognized at the 1992 United Nations eco-summit in Rio. The program rates new homes in four areas: water, energy, building materials and solid waste. Seiter, who has also managed Austin's Energy Star Home Rating Program since its inception in the mid-80s, says that Green Builder has hit a nerve among consumers that Energy Star never managed to find. We always assumed that the consumer was only interested in the bottom line, which is their monthly bill, he said of the traditional approach to selling energy efficiency. Seiter has found that the public is responding far more enthusiastically to the Green Builder program.

Keynote speaker Sickelman took a look back at the development of the energy efficient mortgage, an idea that has been around for more than a decade, but whose time seems finally to have come...well, almost. Pilot energy efficient mortgage programs are currently underway in five states through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), as required by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992 (see HUD's Energy-Efficient Mortgage Pilot, HE Nov/Dec '93 p.14). The pilots enable a homebuyer to finance up to 5% of a property's value for energy efficiency improvements through the home loan. They are getting a slow start due in part to the size of the job of educating and coaxing the lending and real estate industries to do something there is little incentive to do, and in part to the lack of resources supporting that effort. Although actual numbers are hard to pin down at this point, processed mortgages seem to be numbering in the dozens in most pilots, and even less in at least one.

Pre- and post-conference workshops included John Tooley on the intricacies of mechanical air distribution; Tim Mayo on Canada's Advanced House Program; Terry Brennan and Joe Lstiburek on indoor air quality; and an excellent, if too brief, guided tour of the Lighting Research Center's recent publication The Lighting Pattern Book for Homes, by Kathryn Conway and Russell Leslie (see Lighting Help, HE Nov/Dec '93 p.47).

Proceedings are available for $35 for members and $45 for non-members from EEBA Headquarters, William Lemke, Northcentral Technical College, 1000 West Campus Drive, Wausau, WI 54401-1899. Tel: (715)675-6331; Fax: (715)675-6331. Next year, EEBA will be held in Minneapolis.

-- Abba Anderson


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