PORTLAND, Ore. — Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), in collaboration with its utility and energy efficiency partners and regional builders, is piloting a new residential homes program to lay the foundation to increase the energy efficiency and comfort of new homes across the region.

According to NEEA, the voluntary pilot takes energy-efficient homebuilding to a new level with strategies including tighter home envelopes that incorporate advanced framing techniques, increased insulation, and more efficient windows. The pilot homes also incorporate advanced HVAC systems that use technologies such as ductless heat pumps and heat recovery ventilators. The end result is homes designed to offer consumers more comfort, better indoor air quality, and lower monthly energy costs.

A select group of regional homebuilders, including Billings, Mont.-based McCall Homes, Vancouver, Wash.-based New Tradition Homes, and Seattle-based Dwell Development, are building test homes that incorporate the advanced building practices that meet the pilot specification.

Participating builders in the pilot have the opportunity to learn how to incorporate advanced building products and practices in a cost-effective manner while staying ahead of state energy code requirements.

For instance, McCall Homes’ project demonstrates available strategies, technologies, and products under the pilot including a double-wall system to minimize thermal bridging, super-efficient windows, radiant floor heating, and polyisocyanurate sheathing on the exterior for additional insulation.

“McCall Homes is focused on building community, not just homes,” said Brad McCall, owner of McCall Homes. “We are also committed to emerging building sciences and energy efficiency. Building Willow River under the pilot is important to us. It lets us lay the groundwork for building even higher performing homes for customers while the region benefits in potential future overall energy savings.”

NEEA continues to work with its utility and energy efficiency partners throughout the region to advance building practices in the market through the Next Step Home Pilot. Many local utilities are offering additional support to builders with a pilot home in their territories.

“The pilot is an important step to make newly constructed homes across Montana even more energy efficient and perform better for homeowners,” said Bill Thomas, manager of regulatory support services, NorthWestern Energy. “By participating in the pilot and working with NEEA, we can help our builder customers be more competitive and help set the stage for Montana to lower home energy use.”

Once the homebuilding market is in a position to embrace more stringent codes, NEEA advocates for an even higher level of stringency in future codes throughout state and federal code adoption processes while providing education and training throughout the region to increase compliance.

“These higher performance homes will be used to identify the most cost-effective methods for achieving the greatest amount of energy savings while paving a pathway for future code adoption,” said Neil Grigsby, who manages NEEA’s homes initiative. “The best practices and technologies of the pilot will help get builders ahead of code changes, achieve greater cost-effective energy savings, and increased comfort for customers in the long-term.”

Grigsby noted, “We estimate that homes built for the pilot have the potential to be at least 30 percent more efficient than those built to state energy code requirements.”

For more information, visit www.neea.org.

Publication date: 6/17/2013