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NEEA and Northwest builders test the market with new homes pilot (Billings)

Next Step Home Pilot will help region evaluate durability and energy efficiency for Northwest homes

Billings, MT. – Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), in collaboration with NorthWestern Energy and local builders like McCall Homes, are piloting a new residential homes program to lay the foundation to increase the energy efficiency and comfort of new homes across the region.

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.

A select group of regional homebuilders, including Billings, Mont.-based McCall Homes, are taking leadership in the market to build test homes that incorporate advanced building practices that meet the pilot specification. Builders participating 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.

McCall Homes’ Willow River project in Billings 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 polyisocynurate sheathing on the exterior for additional insulation.

All of McCall Homes are ENERGY STAR®-certified and typically offer a 35 percent to 60 percent savings over standard code built homes. The Willow River project was built under the Next Step Home Pilot.

“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 partners 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.”

As part of its work with Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes, McCall also works closely with RESNET Home Energy Rating System (HERS) raters from the community, many trained by local non-profit National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). The organization helps educate local raters and sees the pilot as important to making homes even more energy efficient in Montana and the region.

“New homes continue to evolve to perform at higher levels of energy efficiency, comfort, indoor air quality, and durability. Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes Verifiers and Home Energy Raters are the vanguard of this evolution. We will continue to train Home Energy Raters to verify how these types of homes perform,” said Dale Horton, Energy Program Manager at NCAT. “The Next Step Home pilot will help advance homebuilding in Montana and increase the number of homes being built above the state energy code.” 

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.

“By building homes under this pilot, Northwest homebuilders 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.”

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.

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

About the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) is a non-profit organization working to accelerate energy efficiency to meet our future energy needs. NEEA is supported by and works in collaboration with the Bonneville Power Administration, Energy Trust of Oregon and more than 100 Northwest utilities on behalf of more than 12 million energy consumers. NEEA uses the market power of the region to accelerate the innovation and adoption of energy-efficient products, services and practices. Since 1997, NEEA and its partners have saved enough energy to power more than 600,000 homes each year. Energy efficiency can satisfy more than half of our new demand for energy, saving money and keeping the Northwest a healthy and vibrant place to live.

About NorthWestern Energy

NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately 673,200 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company's Web site at

About McCall Homes

McCall Homes’ mission is empowering people, from our team who bring homes to life, to our neighbors who bring life to homes. We create unique, sustainable and affordable homes in an environment where community it nurtured.