Evergreen Certified Homes Playing a Role in Energy Star’s “Next Steps” Pilot

Three Evergreen Certified projects have been selected to participate in a two year pilot program that is working to identify the logical “Next Steps” for builders who want to go beyond Energy Star and DOE Builder’s Challenge guidelines. Unit 11 in Dwell Development’s Columbia Station, one home from  Asani’s Grow Community on Bainbridge Island, and the Habitat for Humanity’s House of the Immediate Future (joint project with Miller Hull, Method Homes and Dwell) will all play a key role in the program.  Evergreen Certified provided services for all three homes that included energy modeling, green building consulting, and third party verification for Built Green and Energy Star.

Funded by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) and administered by Northwest Energy Star Homes (NWESH), the two-year pilot program is already underway and will study the post-occupancy performance of over 20 newly built northwest homes by the time it is finished.  Participating homes have been fully vetted by NWESH to meet certain minimum standards on things like envelope heat loss, heating system efficiency, ventilation, heating distribution, and air leakage (max 2ACH at 50 Pascals).

Participating homes will be fitted with equipment to collect data on a number of post occupancy performance measures. These measures include: overall energy use, the behavior of non-standard technologies such as heat pumps and heat recovery ventilators, CO2 levels, relative humidity, and temperature variation throughout the home.  Monitoring sensors will even be installed INSIDE the walls to measure for the presence of humidity and condensation just inside the exterior sheathing. 

In addition to the hard data collection, the study also includes interviews with builders that will help clarify the biggest challenges and road blocks associated with building, marketing and selling a super energy efficient home. Once all the data is collected, the goal is to be able to identify those elements of cutting edge design that offer the most benefit for the least cost and effort, making them logical next steps for builders who have already started down the path but may need some encouragement to take bigger risks.

The pilot program is part of NEEA’s and NWESH’s wider goal of “market transformation”, says Dan Wildenhaus, Senior Building Science Specialist for Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes.  “We want to target DOE Challenge home builders, Built Green and ENERGY STAR builders to go further” says Wildenhaus, and “we hope to work closely with the Department of Energy and utility partners to create incentives that encourage builders to do so”. Having data that proves the benefits of certain energy efficient building measures will help to clarify the best design choices for builders and home-buyers and will hopefully help to shape policy and incentive programs at the government level.

More than 11 homes have already finished the full battery of testing and measuring, including those built by Dwell and Asani but a full report won’t be made available until next year when the study is finished.  Stay tuned for another post.  In the meantime, thanks to Dwell Development, Habitat for Humanity and Asani LLC for blazing the trail in energy efficient home design!