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HERS rating and new Energy Codes

I have attended several new building code seminars here in Massachusetts that discuss the implications of the 2009 IECC Code as part of the 2008 Green Communities Act. In addition, this act allows municipalities the option of setting above code energy efficiency requirements for commercial and residential projects. Labeled the 'Stretch Code' and backed by $10M in funding, this code is noted as a practical way to demonstrate life-cycle energy efficiency.

The Stretch Code employs the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) with thresholds related to home sizes. New homes and additions will require blower door tests and several inspections by a HERS rater.

Now to my question. Are other states doing the same? Does anyone have any experience with HERS raters or training? The cost of rating a new home under the Stretch Code was said to be anywhere from $500 to $1,500, which would be offset by energy efficiency rebates.


Asked by Jon Wyman
Posted Feb 18, 2010 1:46 PM ET


2 Answers

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The Boulder County building department in Colordo implemented a program called BuildSmart in 2007. It requires a HERS rating and the required score is based on the size of the house. The larger the house, the more energy eficient it needs to be. My company has completed a duplex and a remodel/addition/retrofit under the new rules. They were all at HERS 60. Getting familiar with the requirements was daunting. After completing the projects, I have found that there were not too many adjustments that we needed to do in order to get the requuired scores. We already built a tight envelope, we just had not had them measured. Adding insulation, using higher performance windows, and energy efficient equipment and appliances was the remainder of what we needed to do to meet the new requirements. I feel that the benefit of the program is well worth the extras required to meet the standards. I would suggest that you use a HERS rater that will work with you to explore what varied techniques will mean to the final score. I explored many different options to find the final path.

Answered by Jeff Fruth
Posted Feb 18, 2010 3:12 PM ET


Vermont has required, since July 1988, that all new homes and additions larger than 500 sf be certified to the Residential Building Energy Standard. If it's contractor built, a detailed certificate of compliance must be completed and filed with the state - but it's a self-reporting system that doesn't necessarily require third-party inspections or certifications.

If the house is owner-built, it does not need to comply with the state's energy standards, but an Owner-Builder Disclosure Statement (basically the same detailed certificate) must be filed and disclosed to future buyers. This is a wonder provision that allows self-built or self-GCed affordable housing balanced with full disclosure.

For those who choose to build to the state's Energy Star program, administered by the utility-funded non-profit Efficiency Vermont agency, plan reviews, site inspections, blower door testing and HERS rating are free as long as the house meets the minimum E.S. standards. In addition, considerable rebates are possible.

So, typically-enlightened Vermont pays owners and builders to comply with higher-than-code standards while still allowing builders to self-certify their projects and owner-builders to build affordably in the tradition of self-reliance.

Answered by Riversong
Posted Feb 18, 2010 3:46 PM ET

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