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  The Future of Energy Star® and LEED® For Multifamily Housing
Changes are Coming, Part Two
By Ben Millar and Tom Karras

Part One of this article appeared in the Nov-Dec 2010 issue of DCD, Click Here.

Multifamily housing market professionals have always dealt with financially complex projects. HUD, LIHTC and other financing requirements have influenced the structure of deals, and the design and cost of projects. Recently, “Green” and “Energy-Efficient” building certifications have also added to the complexity. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star Homes certification program represents the leading energy efficient building certification. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED for Homes certification program is the leading green building certification in the residential market.

Both programs are going through an evolution. Starting in January 2011, Energy Star® will be changing from the current Version 2.0 to an interim Version 2.5, and then on to Version 3.0. LEED® for Homes is going through the public comment period for LEED for Homes 2012. The changes in both of these programs will create some challenges for multifamily housing professionals. Thankfully, many of our clients are already participating in “Green” and “Energy-Efficient” building certification programs. Therefore, they will overcome most of these challenges quite easily. However, a few obstacles will require some serious consideration and perhaps additional finances.

We have isolated some of the more difficult obstacles and analyzed the differences between the current versions of Energy Star and LEED for Homes with the future versions of each program. We have also used climate zone 2 requirements for the baseline.

LEED for Homes
The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED for Homes certification program is the leading green building certification in the residential market. Per the USGBC, LEED for Homes 2008 is a consensus-developed, third party-verified, voluntary rating system which promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes. LEED for Homes 2008 is a point based rating and certification system which includes prerequisites. Projects attempting LEED for Homes 2008 Certification must meet all of the prerequisites and the minimum amount of points (currently 45 for a typical home). There are four levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Currently, the LEED for Homes 2008 Rating System is undergoing an update. The updated system shall be known as LEED for Homes 2012. It is currently undergoing a public comment period and should be on target to become an active version after GreenBuild 2012. While the form of the LEED for Homes Rating System is changing significantly to become more in-line with LEED NC, the function and intent of the system isn’t changing much. Many of the changes will yield little to no cost increases above and beyond what was necessary for LEED for Homes 2008. However, there are a few large changes. The largest changes to the LEED for Homes Rating System can be broken down into several topics: energy modeling goals & energy related design changes, additional checklists and energy & water metering.

Energy Modeling Goals & Design Related Changes
Energy Modeling is used to determine the energy efficiency of a home when the performance path is chosen by a builder. The performance path offers the greatest amount of flexibility when considering energy conservation measures (ECM’s). It allows a builder or developer to gauge the effectiveness (based on cost versus efficiency gained) of an ECM. The current LEED for Homes 2008 System references Energy Star (V2.0). Energy Star V2.0 uses a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index as the primary gauge of efficiency. LEED for Homes 2012 uses the new Energy Star V3.0 modeling process with a couple of significant twists. (See previous article for Energy Star V3.0 modeling process.)

The “target” modeled specifications shall be slightly different from the Energy Star V3.0 specifications. In fact the “target” specifications shall be called the LEED Index Target. The LEED Index Target will be based on the Energy Star V3.0 system, but include the modeling of items such as pool equipment and driveway heaters (if applicable). Also, the LEED for Homes 2012 Rating System will not use the HERS Index generated from the “target” and “as designed” modeled specifications used in Energy Star® V3.0 as the measure of energy efficiency. Instead the LEED® for Homes 2012 Rating System will make use of the estimated annual energy usage (MMBtu) measure which is calculated at the same time as the HERS Indexes. Points will be awarded based upon the reduction in estimated annual energy usage.

The energy modeling process can be an extensive and iterative. The cost of the modeling can range from $1,200 to $6,000 based upon the complexity of the project. There is about a 66% cost increase for modeling under the LEED for Homes 2012 Rating System.

The best way to understand the most influential design changes for LEED for Homes 2012 projects is to compare the Energy Star V2.0 and V3.0 Reference Home. The significant design changes are to the windows, the lighting, and the HVAC system. The total costs per unit for these changes may vary; however, they can be estimated to be between $610 and $990. A more in-depth discussion of these changes is written in the previous article (Nov-Dec 2010 Design Cost Data).

Additional Checklist Requirements
The LEED for Homes 2012 Rating System also makes use of the additional checklist requirements of Energy Star V3.0. The checklists are the Thermal Enclosure Checklist, the HVAC Quality Installation Contractor Checklist, the HVAC System Quality Installation Rater Checklist and the Water Management System Builder Checklist. These checklists require a more thorough look at the building shell and HVAC system by the contractor, engineers, and rater. Once completed, the rater will be responsible for reviewing each of the checklists. A more in depth discussion of the additional checklists is located in the previous article. The cost for completing the additional checklists may range from $75 to $175 per unit depending on the project and market.

Energy and Water Metering
“What gets measured gets done,” is the USGBC’s new stance on energy and water. Previously, the LEED for Homes 2008 Rating System made project teams focus on energy and water consumption estimates in the planning phase. It also provided testing and inspection protocols for the systems of the project. Now the USGBC has added energy and water metering as a prerequisite of LEED for Homes 2012.

The energy monitors must: be permanently installed, record at intervals of one hour or less, transmit data to the occupants at a remote location (e.g. computer, in house), separate energy usage information for at least four end uses (space conditioning, water heating, major plug loads, and etc.). The cost of this type of energy meter can range from $150-$350. The water meter must act as a sub-meter for irrigation. However, many multi-family developers already install sub-meters for the irrigation on their projects. Therefore, there should be little to no additional cost to developers.

LEED for Homes Summary
There are a few big changes to the LEED for Homes Rating System coming up. However, because LEED for Homes 2008 already held a high standard, the new LEED for Homes Rating System shouldn’t worry any forward thinking developer. The additional cost associated with LEED for Homes 2012 can be estimated to be around $1,100 -$1,400 per unit. This estimate is based on projects initially designed to the bare minimum of LEED for Homes 2008. Projects which “overachieved” on 2008 may qualify under the new 2012 program with little or no added cost.

For more information about LEED for Homes Certification contact a Provider for the LEED for Homes Rating System. You can find one as well as more information on the rating system on the USGBC’s website: http://usgbc.org/homes

About the authors: Ben Millar, LEED AP is the director of Business Development and Tom Karras is Vice President of Operations at E3 Building Sciences in Bonita Springs, Fla. Ben can be reached at Ben.Millar@E3BUILDINGSCIENCES.COM.


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