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,
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
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
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
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
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