WIN-WIN Home Energy Programs
Energy conservation has become a very popular topic over the past few years, but few Americans appear to understand what it means. They read about buildings built to “LEED Standards” and they notice new homes advertising “Energy Star” certification, but benefits to individuals are cloaked in mysterious statistics which defy personal value definition, even more-so when described by a fast-talking new home salesman. What does it all mean?
The modern energy conservation movement began about 1990 when innovator David Gottfried and his architect colleagues (AIA) organized the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), based in Washington, DC, as a non-government entity dedicated to development of cost-efficient, energy-saving buildings and land. USGBC developed the “LEED Certification System” for rating property development and rehabilitation relative to documented energy-saving and sustainability criteria. It became known as the “Green Movement” as it grew to worldwide status “to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated . . .toward a healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.” The World Green Building Council now has over 100 GB Councils in countries around the world.
Unfortunately, this movement’s rapid growth led to errors in certification that resulted in many buildings qualified to advertise LEED status that did not meet the documented criteria, but used the designation for advertising purposes. Adverse publicity caused USGBC to re-define its standards and certification process with consequent increases in certification costs.
During this same time period, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under the authority of the 1992 Clean Air Act (Section 103G), sponsored “a voluntary program designed to help businesses and individuals save money and protect the climate through superior energy efficiency.” As this program grew in efficiency, the U.S. Congress passed the Energy Policy Act in 2005 that specified the responsible agency and functions of EPA’s “Energy Star Portfolio Manager” that measures and tracks energy and water consumption as well as Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in existing and new property development. This program is directed at the same principles as the LEED certification program, but at lower cost to users. It grew rapidly through 2012 to be used by 35 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 50 percent of U.S. health-care organizations, as well as major league sports teams, colleges/universities and entire cities (e.g., New York and Boston). A recent EPA study identified more than 1.4 million new homes and 20,000 other facilities estimated to save $239 billion on utility bills as well as preventing 1.9 billion metric tons of GHG emissions by December 2012. It identifies 18,000 Energy Star partners across every sector of the economy. An increase in EPA standards in 2012 resulted in current Energy Star homes being at least 15 percent more efficient than those built prior to 2009. One example is that an Energy Star-approved clothes washer uses 75 percent less water and 70 percent less energy than a standard washing machine of 20 years ago.
The new wave of cutting-edge home builders enrolled in the Energy Star program is exemplified by Designer/Builder David Shacter who chartered a new company called TerraWise Homes, Inc. specifically to remodel and build new homes in metropolitan Jacksonville, FL. He is incorporating every category of Energy Star products and techniques into his homes resulting in competitive savings in both the selling price and operating costs (here’s how to upgrade your kitchen cabinets to save money and look good to potential buyers, for example). His model home includes a special electric meter that measures the surplus power sold to the public utility attributable to roof-top solar energy panels, in addition to wall insulation and sealed windows and doors. Roof water is drained to an outside storage receptacle for outdoor irrigation. Energy Star appliances conserve both water and power use. He reports surprisingly well-informed buyers who exhibit understanding and desire for these improvements. Shacter is planning a small community of new net zero homes to expand his offerings from single lot and contract homes.
Regardless of the deep concerns expressed by scientists over diminishing air quality and consequent Global Warming, the advances in energy, clean air and water conservation by LEED and Energy Star programs are a positive sign that increasing numbers of builders and land developers are on target toward a better environment.
If you would like to explore further details on this or other blog articles, please contact Dr. David F. Parker at (904) 992-9888, or firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.parkerassociates.com to read more about what Parker Associates can do for you.