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NEEA and Northwest builders test the market with new homes pilot

Portland, Ore. – Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), in collaboration with its utility partners, are piloting a new residential homes program to lay the foundation to increase the energy efficiency and comfort of new homes across the region. Results from the Next Step Home Pilot will guide NEEA and its utility partners in evaluating the energy savings impact of these homes.

Information from the pilot will also help the region’s homebuilding industry better understand the most cost-effective methods to achieve higher energy performance. This will lead to better performing homes constructed with higher standards for the region’s homebuyers.

 The Next Step Home Pilot builds on the success of the Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes program, a regional collaboration between NEEA and utilities to promote the construction of energy-efficient homes. Houses built through the Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes program over the past eight years are at least 15 percent more efficient than new homes built to code.

 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 results are homes that offer consumers more comfort, better air quality, and lower monthly energy costs.

 “By building homes under this pilot, Northwest home builders will help the region understand what methods work best for achieving cost-effective energy savings that accelerate the next phase of energy efficiency in new homes,” said Neil Grigsby, who manages NEEA’s homes initiative. “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.”

 NEEA continues to work with its utility partners to advance building practices in the market through the results of the Next Step Home Pilot. Many local utilities are offering additional support to builders with a pilot home in their territories. Utilities, such as Clark Public Utilities, have also promoted building programs to local builders, enabling them to offer energy-efficient homes to their customers.

 “We’re fortunate to work with builders who see value in the added comfort and lower energy use these steps can provide for homeowners well into the future,” said DuWayne Dunham, Clark Public Utilities. “The Next Step Home Pilot is taking our work with home builders to the next level and helps us be an ongoing resource as they work to build in energy efficiency from the foundation up. Energy efficiency is something local home buyers want when they buy new and this program will help our builders deliver.”

 A select group of regional home builders, including Vancouver, Wash.-based New Tradition Homes, are taking leadership in the market to build test homes that incorporate advanced building practices to meet the pilot specification.

 New Tradition Homes’ latest project in Portland demonstrates available strategies, technologies and products under the pilot including advanced framing, increased insulation with high R values including blown-in-blanket, ductless mini-split heat pumps, and compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) lighting throughout the entire home.

New Tradition Homes has been building 100 percent of their homes to Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes specifications for several years and believes the pilot will help increase their energy efficiency knowledge in the marketplace.

 “Participating in the pilot takes our long-term commitment to building energy efficient homes to the next level. It also gives us a deeper understanding of where residential homebuilding and energy efficiency is headed in the local market,” said Kelly Helmes, vice president of New Tradition Homes. “Our Building Sciences Team is pleased to help steer the direction of the industry in our region by having our building practices evaluated and homes measured to better understand costs and performance. We see this as another way to provide New Tradition Homes buyers with the latest innovations that directly impact the enduring value of their home and spur even greater energy savings.”

 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.

 “Utilities, energy efficiency organizations and NEEA’s work toward stronger codes in the region will transform the market with a 40 percent energy savings between now and 2030 as a result of increased codes and standards,” said Grigsby.

 Utilities and energy efficiency organizations participating in the pilot include Energy Trust of Oregon, Bonneville Power Administration, Seattle City Light, Clark Public Utilities, NorthWestern Energy, and more than 100 regional utilities.