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HERS Index Rating a positive change for Building Codes

HERS Index

Did I insinuate a “positive code” change?  These two words used together normally mix like oil and water!  Well you heard me right, positive.

According to RESNET, Leading Builders of America, or 20 of the nation’s largest builders (responsible for about 40% of the single-family new builds), along with the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), reached an agreement for a proposed change to the 2015 IECC.  The proposed change would result in a new voluntary Performance Compliance Path to meet the 2015 IECC.  Incorporation of this Compliance Path would allow builders greater flexibility in meeting the energy code.

How would this new Performance Compliance Path work?  In addition to the current Prescriptive Compliance Path (which seems to be rarely used because there’s absolutely no flexibility allowed) and the current Performance Path, the proposed new Path would include the following:  First, as with all the approaches, mandatory requirements would still have to be met, such as air leakage (section 402.4) and the 2009 IECC envelope requirements.  But then the builder would be able to meet an “Energy Rating Index” (ERI) score.  The score would be a number between 0 and 100, the lower of which is better.  A score of 100 represents meeting the 2006 IECC.  A score of 0 equates to a net-zero home.  If you’re a builder that’s already using the RESNET HERS Index Rating system, you’re already doing this part of the proposed new code change.  Just to make things perfectly clear, the RESNET HERS Index Rating is compatible with the new ERI score requirements, and it can be used to comply with this new path.  In Climate Zone 5, the score would need to be 63 or under.  A score of 63 means that the rated home utilizes 37% less energy than the same home built to minimum 2006 IECC code.

In summary, our nation’s leading home builders, both large and small, have joined forces with efficiency advocacy groups to propose this code change.  This is unprecedented and says a lot about the future of the building industry.  I believe this shows that “cutting-edge” builders are committed to building new homes that home buyers want, and that is, 1) homes that are comfortable to live in with, 2) lower utility bills.

In closing, the HERS Index Rating (and the newly proposed ERI score) are just like the MPG rating for a car.  It allows homeowners and builders to compare the energy usage of homes, and more importantly, to make smart educated decisions concerning energy efficiency, comfort and (utility) costs.  If you’re a builder that’s currently not getting HERS Index Ratings, you’re seriously falling behind your competition that does.  The builders that are obtaining them are showing their customers they care about the environment along with their commitment to lower utility costs, which their customers love.  So in the end, this is a win win for all parties involved, including future generations which are still years away from building their own homes.

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