Back Porch: RESNET's Building Performance Conference
RESNET convened its Building Performance Conference in Scottsdale this March, a hospitable time of year in the Arizona desert. I roamed the sessions, and a few of the bars, to keep abreast of developments in home energy rating and performance. RESNET celebrated its 30th anniversary this year with another milestone of 1.7 million rated homes. In fact, the number of HERS-rated homes in 2015 increased by 30% over 2014, and 30% of all new homes were HERS rated.
2016 Priorities: Improving Quality and Lowering Costs of Home Building
The many young attendees wearing new company jerseys at this year’s conference were a sign that the energy-rating business, at least for new homes, has picked up since the Great Recession. Scott Hilton, CEO of Scottsdale-based Meritage Homes, closed on over 6,500 homes in 2015. But according to Hilton’s keynote address, their home-building volume is still well below prerecession production levels, and while revenue is up, profits are down due to increased costs of building.
Executive Director Steve Baden announced that RESNET’s priorities in 2016 are to ensure the quality and consistent calculation of HERS index scores by improving RESNET’s quality assurance infrastructure, standards, and accreditation; and to develop an ANSI standard-based Water Efficiency Rating (WER) index that will harmonize with the HERS Index. Hot-water energy consumption is accounting for more home energy use, and in some climates, it has surpassed space conditioning to become the number one consumer of energy. Steve also announced new partnerships with the International Code Council (ICC) and the Appraisal Institute.
Given the temperature extremes in the Sonoran desert, it’s not surprising that there are over 129,000 EPA Energy Star-certified new homes to meet the demand posed by steady migration to the greater Phoenix metro area.
RESNET is a longtime partner of EPA, which has used the HERS index as the whole-house energy analysis and verification tool for Energy Star-certified new homes since 1997. In July 2015, EPA released Rev. 08 of the Energy Star Certified New Home version 3 standard. Many of the sessions dealt with the cost and time-saving upgrades of Rev. 08, including improvements to the HVAC design component and related software improvements.
Energy Raters = Energy Code Inspectors?
The 2015 International Energy Conservation Code has been adopted by over 180 state and local jurisdictions, and this new code includes an Energy Rating Index compliance option. Many sessions were devoted to helping HERS raters to promote their services to code officials who may want to outsource energy inspections to third-party verifiers for this compliance path.
For information on the Appraisal Institute and the Green MLS, go to: appraisalinstitute.org.
For information on high-performance home standards, go to: iccsafe.org
Realizing Market Value
Appraisers can now access HERS scores and energy savings via a RESNET registry of HERS-rated homes. According to Scott Robinson, president of the Appraisal Institute, valuing the home starts with auditable data, and these data are a marketable item for the seller and listing agent. “When telling a story about a home, you want to make sure your appraisal of the value is based on verified features, and HERS ratings are the honey in the tree. Energy efficiency features help the homebuyer to qualify for a more valuable home, using energy savings to pay a higher mortgage,” he says.
Reaching for Better Solutions
“The easy fruit has been picked,” Baden said in his opening address, “and it’s time to develop the new technologies and strategies that are going to get homes to zero energy. Think big and redefine the services you offer. It’s time for us to move from selling a commodity to providing better solutions for builders and consumers.”
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