Certifications for New Homes

– to view answers, click the question link

ENERGY STAR is the building block on which many other green certifications are built. Through energy modeling and on-site inspections, ENERGY STAR homes include a variety of energy- efficient features that contribute to improved home quality and homeowner comfort, and to lower energy demand and reduced air pollution, such as:
• Effective insulation
• High-performance windows
• Tight construction and ducts
• Efficient Heating and cooling equipment
• Efficient appliances, lighting, and water heater
• Third-party verification

While Energy Star is primarily focused on the energy usage of the house, the Green Built NC Program encompasses all aspects of environmental design and construction, which also includes:
• Site and Landscape: using erosion control / saving existing trees
• Water Efficiency: high efficiency irrigation / plumbing fixtures
• Indoor Air Quality: non-toxic finishes / supplemental ventilation
• Materials: using durable, local, and recycled content materials
ENERGY STAR and Green Built NC are an unbelievably cost-effective combination of green certifications that looks at all aspects of creating an energy-effecient and healthy home to live in.

Once we put the house into the energy model, it will generate something called a HERS Index. The HERS Index is a scoring system in which a home built to the specifications of the HERS Reference Home (based on the 2006 IEC) scores a HERS Index of 100, while a net zero energy home scores a HERS Index of 0. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is in comparison to the HERS Reference Home. Each 1-point decrease in the HERS Index corresponds to a 1 percent reduction in energy consumption compared to the HERS Reference Home. Thus, a home with a HERS Index of 85 (the maximum Index score allowed for ENERGY STAR certification in this region) is 15 percent more energy efficient than the HERS Reference Home.

The answer is highly dependent on how green you would like your home to be. We work with a number of builders who are routinely meeting the requirements for ENERGY STAR and Green Built NC certification without spending any more for the actual materials used to build the houses than they normally would have – much of the energy efficiency is coming from improved construction techniques. The only tangible additional cost is for the third-party certifications themselves. That being said, the better you want your house to perform energy-wise (i.e., the lower your HERS Index), the more it can cost to get the house to perform at that level of efficiency. This is often achieved by adding renewable energy technologies, increasing insulation values, increasing HVAC and water heating efficiency, and improving the thermal efficiencies of windows.

That’s where our expertise comes in! Using the energy model, we have the opportunity to look at multiple energy usage scenarios by applying different kinds of materials, equipment, and appliances to see what combination gives you the best bang for your buck. We understand that a new home is a major investment – the money you put into it needs to be money well spent. We can help make recommendations on which green technologies and construction techniques make the most sense to implement.

The standard answer to this is no, unfortunately. While many of the steps required for certification can be verified post-construction, the biggest obstacle is that the the insulation and air barrier inspections that are required for several of the certifications (Energy Star and Green Built NC being two of the big ones) cannot usually be verified for the exterior walls if the house is already completed. Once the drywall is installed, there’s no way to inspect for these items. For it to be possible, the drywall would need to be removed from the exterior walls – this can be both extremely messy and costly, but definitely possible.

About Us

Headquartered in Asheville, NC, VandeMusser Design provides technical consulting and certification services for green residential construction to builders, architects, developers, and homeowners in Western North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.

Contact Us

Vandemusser Design, PLLC

26 Crabapple Lane
Asheville, NC 28804
P (828)348-4723
F (828)253-8347
E info@vandemusser.com