Builders and Efficiency Advocates Reach Energy Code Agreement

August 21, 2013 | IMT

Efficiency Rating System Proposal Would Lead to the Largest Triennial Energy Use Reduction in U.S. History

Washington, DC – August 21, 2013 – Three energy efficiency proponents interested in stronger and more cost-effective residential energy codes have reached an unprecedented agreement with the Leading Builders of America, which represents almost 40 percent of the new single-family home market, to support a proposal that could save homebuyers about $850 annually and give builders greater flexibility to meet energy-saving targets.

Today’s announcement by the Leading Builders of America (LBA), Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Britt/Makela Group comes in advance of next week’s (Aug. 26) publication of proposals to be considered by the International Code Council (ICC) in October, when code officials vote on proposed changes to the 2015 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

Air Conditioning Contractors of America, Insulate America, and Masco Home Services have signed on in support of the agreement, along with almost 90 other utilities, custom home builders, energy efficiency service providers, homeowner warranty providers, and other organizations from around the country. (To see the full list of supporters, click here).

“This agreement is an example of what can be accomplished when diverse groups work together to achieve a common goal. The result in this case will benefit literally hundreds of thousands of homeowners for decades to come,” said Steve Hilton, Chairman and CEO of Phoenix-based Meritage Homes and chair of LBA’s Energy Working Group.

The groups are supporting standards to reduce energy use in new homes by about 20 percent in 2015, taking energy efficiency to a new level and representing one of the largest triennial reductions ever under the U.S. model building energy code. The agreement gives builders the ability to use a “whole house” approach known as an Energy Rating Index (ERI), which is a consumer-friendly benchmark that will allow buyers to estimate annual energy savings and compare efficiencies between homes in each of the eight U.S. climate zones.

“This is the first time that the nation’s foremost home builders—both large and small—have joined forces with efficiency advocacy organizations in support of stronger building energy codes,” said David Goldstein, co-director of NRDC’s Energy Program. “This shows that builders are responding to what new homebuyers want – houses that use less energy while keeping their occupants comfortable and saving them money on utility bills.”

Under the agreement, builders who select the Energy Rating Index option would meet specific mandatory envelope and hot water (such as pipe insulation) requirements, but have the flexibility to achieve the target ERI by the most cost-effective means available. One of the most common examples of an energy rating index is the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) administered by the Residential Energy Services Network. Over the past three years, “Certified Home Energy Raters” have used the index to estimate energy consumption of well over one-third of the new homes built. LBA reports this type of approach would add only $1,300 to the cost of a typical new home compared to $3,000 for meeting the current prescriptive standard.

If the ICC adopts the code change proposal (RE188) as part of the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the HERS Index system could be used to assess compliance. The updated code would save utility customers an estimated $300 annually for a typical new house compared to the 2012 IECC, which has been adopted in only a few jurisdictions, or $850 compared to the widely used 2006 IECC.

“This would be a win-win for both builders and the people who buy new homes,” said Ryan Meres, IMT’s Code Compliance Specialist. “By using this simpler, consumer-friendly rating system, a homebuyer can understand the efficiency of the house and compare House A to House B. Meanwhile, this also would give builders more flexibility in meeting market demand for more energy-efficient living.”

For more information, see David Goldstein’s blog  or download the fact sheet.

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About the Institute for Market Transformation: The Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting energy efficiency, green building, and environmental protection in the United States and abroad. Much of IMT’s work addresses market failures that inhibit investment in energy efficiency.

About the Natural Resources Defense Council: The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

About the Leading Builders of America: Leading Builders of America, Inc. is a national trade association representing 20 of the nation’s largest homebuilders both public and private. LBA members build approximately one-third of the single-family homes built each year. In 2012, Member companies generated over $25 billion in combined revenue and employed over 300,000 Americans either directly or through sub-contractor engagement. More information available at www.leadingbuildersofamerica.org

About Britt/Makela Group: Britt/Makela Group, Inc. was formed in 2001 by Eric Makela and Michelle Britt to meet the growing need for independent code development, training, and analysis resources. Their complementary backgrounds encompass building energy, land use and transportation planning, and regulatory issues. BMG brings a combination of national and local experience, research and practice on best practices, new ideas, and lessons learned. BMG provides states and jurisdictions with expertise to develop the plans and programs best suited to the needs of their community. BMG is committed to fostering the changes needed so that one day energy efficiency and sustainability will be the norm. For more information, visit www.brittmakela.com

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