For builders who find established green-building rating systems too daunting, a startup called ecoSelect is offering a simplified building standard that will be easier and cheaper to follow.
Mike Collignon, the executive director of the non-for-profit Green Builder Coalition, writes in an online post that ecoSelect fills the gap between basic building code compliance and more complex requirements of other green-building programs.
“More and more builders are recognizing the importance of creating a unique ‘green’ identity, but navigating through the myriad of green building programs can be overwhelming,” Collignon writes. “Similarly, even knowledgeable home buyers are confused by the plethora of options.”
A common complaint from builders who’d like to market green houses is that established programs lack a “simple checklist of measures that help them ‘get it done,'” Collignon writes. EcoSelect, he adds, is less expensive, easier-to-follow, and easy to market.
It’s already a crowded field. In addition to the well-established LEED for Homes and the National Green Building Standard, builders can choose from a long list of green-building standards: Passivhaus, the Living Building Challenge, Energy Star, plus a variety of regional and state programs.
A pass/fail standard for compliance
EcoSelect deals only with new construction, and makes requirements in only three areas — energy, indoor air quality and water — with a checklist of prescriptive steps that are mostly rated on a pass/fail basis. The entire checklist is on a single page.
Most of the requirements are equivalent to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code, Collignon writes, and because most of the requirements for certification are already in model building codes in one form or another, “it doesn’t take building much above code to achieve certification.”
Builders who want their houses certified work with a HERS rater, who handles required inspections and testing. There are no points to add up, and the documentation, Collignon says, is simple.
“All that is needed are the plans, REM file, an ecoSelect performance label, a picture of the home and a completed checklist,” he says. Costs for a small-volume builder would average between $500 and $600, most of which is paid to the HERS rater, Collignon writes.
Just what does ecoSelect require?
The checklist of requirements is not posted in a public area of the ecoSelect website, but a partial list is available at the Green Builder Coalition website. A chart available there compares ecoSelect to the 2009 IECC and the 2009 International Residential Code, calling out sections that are either above or below those codes, or not mentioned at all.
Bob Kingery, ecoSelect’s co-founder and president, provided the checklist of requirements for certification (see Images #2 and #3, below). Among them:
- Air leakage of 5 air changes per hour at a pressure difference of 50 pascals.
- Window U-factors and solar heat gain coefficients by climate zone.
- Duct insulation in unconditioned spaces.
- EPA WaterSense lavatory faucets and toilets.
- Energy-efficient lighting.
- Energy Star dishwasher and refrigerator.
Insulation must be installed to RESNET Grade II requirements, but there are no specific levels of insulation required in the building envelope. Kingery said it would be up to the homeowner or builder to require a certain HERS rating for the building.
An alternative to Energy Star
So why one more rating system when there are already so many out there?
“We are finding great success with builders who are not interested in moving forward with the continual changes to Energy Star,” Kingery said in an email. “Our sales training and marketing support are great value adds for both raters and builders too.”
Michael Chandler, a North Carolina builder and frequent contributor to GBA, said much the same thing. EcoSelect emerged as an alternative to Energy Star because the government program was “constantly changing the rules and making it increasingly challenging to participate without offering any differentiation between the old Energy Star and the new,” he said in an email.
“All we really want is a Duct Blaster and blower door testing and a certified HERS rating, so if we don’t play with Energy Star then we just find it a lot easier to go ecoSelect along with the [National Green Building Standard] green rating,” Chandler continued. “It’s not an alternative to the National Green Building Standard, just a lot less cumbersome alternative to Energy Star.”
Kingery said more than 1,500 homes have been certified to date in the Southeast. EcoSelect hopes to expand into new territory, includuing Colorado and the Minneapolis area.