Thursday, November 21, 2013

Debunking ENERGY STAR © Certification of Modular Homes

I try to understand what is involved in becoming an Energy Star expert but at the end of the day, the only thing I really know is that the new refrigerator I've got my eye on has a Energy Star label on it. So, when I received this article about Debunking Energy Star from Justin Mackovyak, Complete Home Solutions, I knew I had to share with all modular home builders.

Debunking ENERGY STAR © Certification of Modular Homes

While there are a number of Green Programs for residential new construction, I am a firm believer that ENERGY STAR is the best bang-for-your-buck certification.  ENERGY STAR’s goals of energy efficiency, occupant comfort, and occupant safety are met through third party verification, but boast lower admin costs when compared to other certification programs.  Additionally, the Architect, Builder, and Homeowner are not penalized for non-performance related material selections or the home’s physical location.  With the growing number of federal, state, and local incentives for building energy efficient homes, it is hard not to consider ENERGY STAR Certification when constructing a new home.  

However, there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the certification process of modular homes. I hope to debunk the process and offer some best practice suggestions for obtaining the ENERGY STAR Certification for your next modular project.

There are two main paths to obtaining certification of a modular home. In both instances, the builder must be registered as an ENERGY STAR Partner and must work with a certified HERS Rater who is also an ENERGY STAR Partner.  

STEP 1:   Builder/Installer becomes ENERGY STAR Partner
The builder/installer will need to demonstrate his or her knowledge of the ENERGY STAR program and sign a partner agreement. This can be completed at:

STEP 2:  Builder/Installer must work with HERS Rater who is registered as an ENERGY STAR Partner. 
The ENERGY STAR website has a locator at the link below which allows a quick search by region. This rater will be responsible for all final site verifications and for submitting the necessary documentation to their RESNET provider for the ENERGY STAR certificate.  

Step 3 offers two separate methods for obtaining certification based on the plant’s certification. The builder/installer must find out if the plant is certified through the Systems Research Building Alliance (SRBA). SRBA has a listing of their certified plants at the link below:
SRBA has a process that has been approved by the EPA for ENERGY STAR Certifications of modular home plants. Since this article is geared more towards the builder/installer process, we will leave that for another time. 

STEP 3a:  Modular Plant is NOT certified through Systems Building Research Alliance.
The plant must have a certified HERS rater on staff who is an ENERGY STAR partner OR the builder/installer’s rater make the trip to the plant to verify all pre-drywall requirements of the Thermal Enclosure Checklist and HVAC Quality Install Rater Checklist are met. The unit must have a unique identifier (such as serial number) to ensure that the home at the plant is the home that ends up on site. 

STEP 3b:  Modular Plant IS certified through Systems Building Research Alliance.
The plant will issue an ENERGY STAR label to each unit with a unique identifier that indicates to the field inspector that all ENERGY STAR requirements have been met.
Regardless of which path you take, it is important to understand that the homes are only “ENERGY STAR Certified” after they are inspected and verified on site and receive the blue ENERGY STAR Certified Home Label.

STEP 4:  On-site rater completes final inspection to ensure that home meets ENERGY STAR Requirements.  
Once the home passes final inspection, the rater submits the REMRate file and all necessary documentation to their HERS Provider for the ENERGY STAR Certificate. By having your field verifier as the primary rater on the project, he or she is able to adjust the final REMRate model for site conditions eliminating any delays in getting certification.

Which Guidelines Should I Use?
Currently the EPA has mandated that modular homes ordered before December 31, 2013 can follow ENERGY STAR 2.5 guidelines. Homes ordered after January 1st must follow ENERGY STAR 3.0 requirements.  

Are there builder incentives?

Aside from excellent marketing opportunities, there are a number of federal, state, and local incentive programs available for building energy efficient homes. Some of these programs require ENERGY STAR certification. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency is a comprehensive source of information on incentives that support energy efficiency. That page is located at the link below:

If you haven’t considered constructing ENERGY STAR Certified Modular homes, now may be the time to consider. As building codes become more stringent and consumers demand more efficiency, ENERGY STAR may be the program that sets you apart from the competition. 
In addition to being a Maryland-based builder, I’ve worked as technical support in a number of the utility-based incentive programs that require ENERGY STAR Certifications. I have found that builders who have been working with raters and certifying homes have struggled less transitioning into the 2012 IECC. As more and more states begin adopting the 2012 IECC, earning the ENERGY STAR label can be your ticket to success. 

 Complete Home Solutions

Justin Mackovyak is currently the operations manager for the D.C. Metro-based Complete Home Solutions (CHS). He is a licensed Home Improvement Contractor, HERS Rater, BPI Building Analyst, and Envelope Specialist. Prior to joining CHS, Justin worked as the Quality Assurance Manager for a number of the Maryland Utility-based ENERGY STAR Certified New Homes Programs through ICF International.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From my understanding not all states recognize the Sbra for qualifying homes as energy star.