EVHA Winners Provide Tips on Energy-Efficient Building
Winners of the EnergyValue Housing Award (EVHA) have shared some tips that can be helpful to builders who have decided to improve the energy efficiency of the homes they build.
In the opinion of one EVHA winner, a good builder is one who knows there is always something new to learn and possibly a better way of doing things. No matter how well a builder builds, there is probably room for improvement. Many high performance builders are motivated to continually improve their homes by the desire to see how low can they get their HERS Index, infiltration, energy loads, etc. — and to find the innovative ideas and products that will help them get there.
Following are some of the suggestions EVHA winners have made on how to begin and continue the process of continual improvement toward the highest performing homes that can be achieved:
- Embrace the concept of energy efficiency. You have to believe in what you’re doing before you can convince others to carry the torch. Being enthusiastic about improving your homes will be contagious and will have a greater effect on others.
- Motivate your team. Building an energy-efficient home means that every person working on that home should understand how their contribution affects the entire project.
- Develop a plan. Start by looking at your typical home and determining what needs to be changed. This can be done in a variety of ways — including having an energy rater evaluate one or a few of your projects to identify areas that need improvement; convening a meeting of crew members to discuss their observations and ideas; and working with a design professional familiar with energy efficiency techniques to tweak plans and review current practices.
- Educate your staff and contractors. Clearly articulate your expectations and provide training to ensure that your team knows how to implement the details and applications critical to achieving energy efficiency. Because energy efficiency depends on the sum of the parts, be sure that all the players become familiar with the impact their work has on others in the process. For example, mechanical contractors should have a basic understanding of air sealing and insulation so they don’t compromise the integrity of those elements when installing lines and ducts. They should also know how to resolve a potential problem if it arises.
- Self examination. Create or obtain detailed scopes of work for all disciplines, and periodically check to make sure they are up-to-date and are being followed. This review can be done by a project manager, foreman, team leader or any other person who has enough knowledge and experience to assess the quality of the work being performed and to take corrective actions if needed.
- Seek help and advice. Don’t try reinventing the wheel if you don’t need to. There is a wealth of information and advice available from local home builders associations, product manufacturers, NAHB, Building America teams, architects, utility companies and other contractors that can ease the transition into building a more efficient building. Use all available resources, suggestions and even walk-through visual assessments to accumulate the information and guidance you need to decide how best to proceed.
- Understand the bottom line. While it can sometimes cost more up-front to build efficiently, remember that this added expense can be offset by savings in material costs, man-hours, call-back reductions, increased customer satisfaction (good word-of-mouth publicity), tax credits, grants or other incentives. A more efficient home may also be more valuable to a buyer, allowing you to recoup some of your first costs in the sales price. The 2008 New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study by J.D. Power and Associates showed that home buyers are willing to pay more for a home that is built to be environmentally friendly and that can also save them money on energy costs down the road.
- Marketing. Training your staff and Realtors® to market energy improvements is the best strategy for attracting buyers who are willing to pay extra for your houses. Everyone in your organization who has contact with potential buyers should have a thorough knowledge of the energy-efficient features of your homes and the ability to discuss and explain them in understandable terms.
The application deadline for the 2010 EnergyValue Housing Award is June 30, but there’s plenty of time to plan for next year’s award using these steps to help plan your transition to building more energy-efficient homes. More tips from EVHA winners will appear in future issues of NBN.
Builders who are already building high performance homes may be interested in participating in Department of Energy programs like Building America and Builders Challenge. For further information on these programs, e-mail the NAHB Research Center or call 800-638-8556.
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