Environments for Living

A Rating System Based on Performance Rather Than Points

Intro

High-Performance Houses

According to the Masco Corporation, the construction and home improvement conglomerate that developed the Environments for Living(EFL). A green building program that focuses on building science to improve home energy efficiency and comfort. EFL is administered by Masco Contractor Services. (EFL) label, the EFL program failed to get adequate traction because it was ahead of the curve. EFL was launched at a time when homebuyers weren’t especially interested in green building.

Now that the green market has blossomed, the company is looking for a new foothold. Masco targets the EFL program at large-scale production builders like Pulte that can generate enough money in certification fees to support field testers. Eventually, the company hopes the program will filter into smaller markets and even to the custom-home level.

EFL's requirements for energy performance are very specific. Some of the program requirements can be explored in these tabbed boxes.


Airtight

Air Tightness

Required measures:

  • The conditioned spaceInsulated, air-sealed part of a building that is actively heated and/or cooled for occupant comfort. must be enclosed by an air barrierBuilding assembly components that work as a system to restrict air flow through the building envelope. Air barriers may or may not act as a vapor barrier. The air barrier can be on the exterior, the interior of the assembly, or both.. Air barrier continuity is required throughout the structure, including at features such as kneewalls, soffits, garage interfaces, intersecting walls, tubs and showers, and dropped ceilings.
  • All exterior sheathings must be a rigid material capable of stopping airflow. It is recommended that roof sheathings include a reflective barrier except when cathedralized insulation strategies are implemented. (Note: radiant barrier side must face an air space.)

Pre-Drywall:

  • Holes must be sealed with a material capable of stopping airflow. Fibrous insulation must not be used as an air barrier in any application.
  • All penetrations in the top and bottom plates must be sealed, including bottom plates to concrete slabs.
  • All soffits, chases, drop ceilings, and tub and shower surrounds must be capped with a rigid material capable of stopping airflow.
  • The insulation in kneewalls must be in physical contact with the air barrier.

Post-Drywall: Penetrations through drywall must be sealed with a material capable of stopping airflow.

Blower Door Test Requirements:
Gold = .35 cfm or less air leakage per square foot of envelope area at 50 pascals.

Platinum = .25 cfm or less air leakage per square foot of envelope area at 50 pascals.


Insulation

Thermal Envelope

  • Insulation must be installed according to manufacturer’s specifications; avoid gaps, voids, or compression, and install wind blocks to stop wind intrusion. Insulation and the air barrierBuilding assembly components that work as a system to restrict air flow through the building envelope. Air barriers may or may not act as a vapor barrier. The air barrier can be on the exterior, the interior of the assembly, or both. must be installed in physical contact with each other.
  • When state and local code allows, crawl spaces must be constructed as a tempered space separated from outdoor conditions. Where vented crawl spaces are required, the thermal, air, and vapor control layers must be in the floor between the crawl space and the conditioned area.
  • Window need a solar heat gain coefficient(SHGC) The fraction of solar gain admitted through a window, expressed as a number between 0 and 1. (SHGCSolar heat gain coefficient. The fraction of solar gain admitted through a window, expressed as a number between 0 and 1.) of 0.53 or less in cold climates (Zone 7) and 0.40 or lessr in other climates.
  • Windows must have an overall U-factorMeasure of the heat conducted through a given product or material—the number of British thermal units (Btus) of heat that move through a square foot of the material in one hour for every 1 degree Fahrenheit difference in temperature across the material (Btu/ft2°F hr). U-factor is the inverse of R-value. of .35 or lower in cold climates (Zone 7) and .65 or lower in other climates. Climate regions follow the Department of Energy Climate Map.


HVAC

HVAC

  • Mechanical system sizing and room-by-room load calculations must be calculated according to ACCA Manual J.
  • Furnaces, water heaters, and boilers within the conditioned spaces (including basements) must be sealed-combustion or power-vented units. All other combustion appliances must be vented to the outside. Ventless fireplaces or space heaters are not allowed.
  • Airflow to each room must be within 10% of designed airflow calculations for that room.
  • Airflow across the indoor cooling coil and refrigerant charge must conform to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Inert gas (nitrogen) must be used during any brazing or soldering of refrigerant lines.
  • Indoor and outdoor HVAC system components must be “matched” according to the ARI Directory.


Ducts

Ducts

  • Insulate ducts located in unconditioned spaces to a minimum of R-6.
  • Seal all duct connections with mastic.
  • Seal all register boot-to-house connections with sealant or mastic.
  • Test duct system with a Duct BlasterCalibrated air-flow measurement system developed to test the airtightness of forced-air duct systems. All outlets for the duct system, except for the one attached to the duct blaster, are sealed off and the system is either pressurized or depressurized; the work needed by the fan to maintain a given pressure difference provides a measure of duct leakage..
  • Duct tightness requirements:
    * Gold = 3% of the conditioned floor space area in cubic feet per minute or less at 25 pascals.
    * Platinum = 3% of the conditioned floor space area in cubic feet per minute or less at 25 pascals.
    *If ducts are within conditioned space, 7% of the conditioned floor space area in cubic feet per minute or less at 25 pascals.
  • All rooms except bathrooms and laundry must have no more than a 3 pascals pressure difference with respect to the outside when interior doors are closed and the air handler is operating.


Ventilation

Ventilation

  • A mechanical ventilation system that supplies outside air at a minimum rate of 7.5 cfm per person plus .01 cfm per square foot of conditioned floor area is required.
  • Outside air supply must not exceed the minimum ventilation rate by more than 10% unless accounted for in the design cooling load calculation.
  • Outside air supplied by supply-only or balanced ventilationMechanical ventilation system in which separate, balanced fans exhaust stale indoor air and bring in fresh outdoor air in equal amounts; often includes heat recovery or heat and moisture recovery (see heat-recovery ventilator and energy-recovery ventilator). systems must be filtered and must include a manual damper.
  • All kitchens must have an exhaust fan rated at a minimum of 100 cfm.
  • All bathrooms must have an exhaust fan rated at 20 cfm continuous or 50 cfm intermittent.


CO

CO Detector

In houses having attached garages, fireplaces, wood stoves, or combustion appliances, carbon monoxide (CO) detectors must be installed as follows:

  • A minimum of one detector per house level or story is required.
  • Removable detectors must be installed within one foot of the ceiling (manufacturer must approve this location).
  • Alarms must be installed near or outside each sleeping area (one alarm can serve the typical three bedrooms at the end of a hall). In homes with two or more sleeping areas, one alarm for each area is required.
  • Any bedroom having a fireplace must have one alarm in the room in addition to the alarm outside that room.
  • Homes with elevators that open to a garage must have one alarm near each elevator door opening to the interior of the house.


Moisture

Moisture Management

  • All water management details specified in the EEBA Water Management Guide must be provided.
  • Moisture that enters building assemblies must be able to dry either to the interior, exterior, or both.
  • Low-permeance paints (less than one perm per ASTMAmerican Society for Testing and Materials. Not-for-profit international standards organization that provides a forum for the development and publication of voluntary technical standards for materials, products, systems, and services. Originally the American Society for Testing and Materials. E96), vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). wallpaper, sheet polyethylene, foil-backed gypsum board, or any other low-permeance material must not be used on the interior of walls and ceilings in Zones 1-3. Very low permeance materials (less than 0.1 perm, ASTM E96), such as polyethylene, must not be used on the interior of walls and ceilings in Zones 4-5. Climate regions follow the Department of Energy Climate Map.


EFL aims at the bottom line

Lower costs mean added value
Masco’s EFL Certified Green is looking for a sweet spot in the green building market. It’s what Rick Davenport, the company’s vice president for building science, calls a “value proposition” for builders. That’s the point where builders are getting the economic benefits of green building — fewer callbacks and claims as well as green marketing advantages — without paying an arm and leg for the privilege.

He cites a McGraw-Hill study that found homebuyers on average are willing to pay $17,500 for the added benefits of a green house. Masco thinks the number is much lower. The company would like to see the incremental costs of jumping from basic code compliant to green at about $2,000. Beyond that, Davenport says, interest in green among builders starts to fade.

“This is green from a business standpoint,” Davenport says of Certified Green, an efficient way to get to green that’s based on a builder’s return on investment.

Utility bill guarantees
Guarantees offered under EFL, another unique attribute, probably help make the program attractive because it offers a powerful advertising tool. A “comfort guarantee” assures homeowners that the temperature at the center of each room will be within 3ºF of the thermostat setting. An “energy guarantee” limits the amount of energy, in Btus, that will be required for heating and cooling. If energy use is higher than that, Masco pays the difference, Davenport says.

These numbers come from what Masco calls an “ecovaluation plan review,” required under EFL guidelines. This is a pre-construction evaluation costing $450 per production plan or $550 per custom plan. Each is subject to a surcharge of 5 cents for each square foot over 2,500. Guarantees are extra, with rates ranging from $230 to $605, depending on the type of home, the length of the guarantee and how much testing is required.

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTS FOR LIVING

BUILDING SCIENCE FORMS THE FOUNDATION

EFL Certified Green grew from guidelines originally written by two influential building scientists, John Tooley of the Advanced Energy Corporation and Joseph Lstiburek of Building Science Corporation.

The original EFL program introduced in 2001 sets a number of performance standards for buildings for “gold” and “platinum” status. Unlike LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. or NGBSNational Green Building Standard Based on the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines and passed through ANSI. This standard can be applied to both new homes, remodeling projects, and additions. , there is no scavenging for points. A building either meets the standards or it doesn’t.

Builders don’t have to use Masco building products to participate, although a companion rating system called “Ecomagination” is essentially a marketing tool for GE products.

PERFORMANCE-BASED, NOT PRESCRIPTIVE

GOLD AND PLATINUM ARE CLOSE

Masco launched its original Environments for Living(EFL). A green building program that focuses on building science to improve home energy efficiency and comfort. EFL is administered by Masco Contractor Services. (EFL) program in 2001, and decided to pursue a more comprehensive green program in 2005. The effort faltered, but Masco relaunched it as “Environments for Living Certified Green” at the 2009 International Builders Show. Certified Green homes must meet additional requirements beyond the energy-efficiency requirements on which the program was founded.

EFL's program has always been based on performance, not points, and has some unusual features, including an energy-use guarantee. Its scope is more limited than either LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. or NGBSNational Green Building Standard Based on the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines and passed through ANSI. This standard can be applied to both new homes, remodeling projects, and additions. .

Requirements for "certified green" homes are grouped into four main topic areas: energy efficiency, water efficiency (inside the house), durability, and indoor environmental quality. Detailed standards cover a variety of building details: framing, air barriers, insulation, window specifications, heating and cooling system design, ducts, ventilation, pressure balancing, and moisture management, to name a few.

Tight Ducts and a Tight Shell

There are few differences between gold and platinum houses. Tougher standards for platinum are detailed in only two areas other than energy efficiency: airtightness of the house overall and the tightness of heating and cooling ducts. For example, under requirements for air tightness, leakage rates in a gold house must be no more than .35 cubic feet per minute per square foot of envelope area at 50 pascals of pressure. For a platinum certification, it’s .25 cfm.

At the gold level, houses must have a score on the E-Scale of 85, meaning the house is 15% more efficient than required by the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. For a platinum certification, the energy score must be 70. (The E-Scale is essentially the same as the more widely known HERSIndex or scoring system for energy efficiency established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) that compares a given home to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Reference Home based on the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. A home matching the reference home has a HERS Index of 100. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is. A typical existing home has a HERS Index of 130; a net zero energy home has a HERS Index of 0. Older versions of the HERS index were based on a scale that was largely just the opposite in structure--a HERS rating of 100 represented a net zero energy home, while the reference home had a score of 80. There are issues that complicate converting old to new or new to old scores, but the basic formula is: New HERS index = (100 - Old HERS score) * 5. Index).

Houses meeting the tougher and more comprehensive Certified Green standards first have to reach gold-level performance. Then, a number of additional requirements apply. Together they are designed to lower carbon dioxide emissions and reduce water use by 20%, and qualify for a HERS Index of 80 or less.

CERTIFIED GREEN BEATS GOLD

STRICTER SPECS FOR APPLIANCES

To go from gold to Certified Green, here are some additional requirements:

  • Meet minimum energy efficiency levels for air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces.
  • Use advanced framingHouse-framing techniques in which lumber use is optimized, saving material and improving the energy performance of the building envelope. where possible.
  • Install low-flow showerheads and faucets, along with high-efficiency toilets, energy efficient dishwashers and clothes washers.
  • Install water heaters that meet minimum energy requirements.
  • Meet various indoor air quality standards, including the use of low-VOCVolatile organic compound. An organic compound that evaporates readily into the atmosphere; as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic compounds that volatize and then become involved in photochemical smog production. paints, carpet that meets for green-labeling requirements, and wood composite products that meet formaldehydeChemical found in many building products; most binders used for manufactured wood products are formaldehyde compounds. Reclassified by the United Nations International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2004 as a “known human carcinogen." emission standards.
  • Make sure that at least 60% of hard-wired lights are compact fluorescents or LEDs.
  • Follow plumbing practices that reduce water and energy use.

EFL Certified Green does not set standards for the building site itself, outdoor water use or efficiency, landscape design, plants and soil, the house’s relationship to the community at large, or homeowner education.

A summary of program requirements for EFL can be found here.


Image Credits:

  1. Daniel Morrison
  2. Waldsee Biohaus
  3. Chris Ermides/Fine Homebuilding #189
  4. Atwood Mobile Products
  5. Chuck Bickford/Fine Homebuilding
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