ICC/RESNET Partnership Helping Industry, Homes, Be More Efficient
While news reports are awash with flooding from hurricanes and more localized storms, experts know potable water is becoming harder to find and more expensive for communities and homeowners.
But a partnership between the International Code Council (ICC) and the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) is helping to address that issue by developing a new standard builders can use to evaluate and market a home’s water usage efficiency.
The standard will work much like the successful partnership between the two in adopting the Energy Rating Index (ERI) most commonly used as the RESNET HERS (Home Energy Rating System Index) into the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The ERI shows residents which homes have the best energy efficiency, and it’s now included in the 2018 IECC.
All of this energy synergy started some four years ago. Dave Karmol, former ICC Vice President of Federal Affairs and now a consultant to ICC, said he had watched as RESNET President Steve Baden developed RESNET from a regional operation into a thriving national organization.
At the same time, he said ICC was facing pushback from builders on the energy code, and having trouble even getting code inspectors to pay attention to IECC inspections. Karmol was impressed by how Baden had successfully figured out how to not only get builders to build more energy-efficient homes, but also get the builder to pay a RESNET inspector about $300 to inspect the home to achieve and market the rating.
At the same time, Baden noticed ICC was getting more into energy conservation and sustainability. He wondered if they could help provide some visibility, cross-training and credentialing for his contracted inspectors and for building officials.
RESNET was founded in 1995 as an independent, non-profit organization to help homeowners reduce the cost of their utility bills by making their homes more energy efficient. They contract with inspectors who evaluate homes using a list of variables, including:
- All exterior walls (both above and below grade);
- Floors over unconditioned spaces (like garages or cellars);
- Ceilings and roofs;
- Attics, foundations and crawlspaces;
- Windows and doors, vents and ductwork; and
- HVAC systems, water heating system and thermostats.
“Our HERs rating is like an MPG rating for your car,” Baden said. “The lowest-rated home so far has been a minus-45 (on a 0-100 scale). That home is producing more energy than it uses. And, yes, solar roofing is involved.”
So RESNET had the tools, and ICC had the experience and delivery system. At Karmol’s urging, ICC Executive Director Dominic Sims met Baden in early 2013.
Mark Johnson, ICC’s Executive Vice President and Director of Business Development, attended the meeting. He, too, saw an opportunity to get RESNET home energy ratings more visibility, while at the same time getting RESNET’s contracted inspectors familiar with the International Codes (I-Codes) “RESNET inspectors would be able to take certification exams that applied to energy efficiency,” Johnson said.
At the 2013 ICC Annual Business Meeting and Public Comment Hearings both home builders and energy efficiency groups supported a change in the codes to allow use of the Energy Rating Index rating as a new compliance option meet IECC energy requirements in new homes. “Usually, said Karmol, those two groups collide.”
The 2018 IECC recognizes the ANSI RESNET/ICC Standard 301 to define how an Energy Rating Index is calculated.
But looking back on it, Karmol said, it made sense for home builders, as well as cents. “It can be tough for home builders to market codes to buyers,” he said. “But they could market a home being energy efficient and have an independent rating to back it up.”
As a result of the those hearings, a reference to the Energy Rating Index was included in the 2015 IECC, and now that the Energy Rating Index rating is officially an ANSI standard, the 2018 IECC provides a “how-to” for builders to use the standard as well, Johnson said.
Thanks to the partnership between RESNET and ICC, inspections are up from 1,000 a year after the company began to more than 200,000 a year, for a total of more than 2 million since RESNET began.
“The HERs Energy Rating Index in the 2018 IECC is another tool to help builders meet energy standards and achieve code compliance,” Karmol added.
And soon there will be yet another tool, courtesy of a partnership between ICC and RESNET.
With the droughts in California and aquifers starting to dry up in high-populated areas such as those around Chicago, RESNET and ICC officials put their heads together to work on a water efficiency rating index, similar to the one for energy.
The result was the RESNET/ICC Standard Development Committee (SDC) 1100—Water Rating Index. The SDC 1100 will oversee RESNET’s water rating standards. The committee will build upon the technical guidelines developed by the RESNET Water Index Working Group. A public review and comment process has just been opened on the draft guidelines.
“The index will allow home buyers to know how efficiently water is being used in the homes they are considering buying,” Baden said. “It will also provide an opportunity for home builders to monetize the efficiency of their homes in the same fashion that the energy rating index plays for energy efficiency.
“Imagine the efficiencies if raters are able to provide inspections for both water and energy efficiency.”
Members of the SDC 1100—Water Rating Index are:
- Jacob Atalla, Vice President of Sustainability, KB Home
- Brett Cook, Building Code Official, City of Boardman, Oregon
- Mary Ann Dickinson, Alliance for Water Efficiency
- Andrew Espinoza, Building Code Official, City of San Antonio, Texas
- Philip Fairey, Deputy Director, Florida Solar Energy Center
- Ed Osann, Team Leader—Water Use Efficiency, Natural Resources Defense Council
- David Sauter, Building Code Official, Hatfield Township, Pennsylvania
- Jonah Schein, WaterSense Program Manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Kelly Stephens, Director of Operations, SunRiver Development
Like the energy rating index, the draft Water Rating Index standard will be submitted to the RESNET ANSI standards public review and comment process in the final quarter of 2017. Baden said he hopes ANSI would approve it by the end of 2018 so it will officially be ready for adoption into the 2021 IECC.
“But I imagine the industry will begin using it before then,” Baden said.
Once approved, the Water Rating Index standard can be used by builders to market the water efficiency of the homes they build, by state and local water boards to provide incentives for builders to build water efficient homes, and by code jurisdictions to have a Water Rating Index option in their building codes.
“Water rates, on average, increase about 11 percent each year,” Baden said. “The cheapest way to live is not use as much water. That will lower utility bills. That will be something home builders will be able to market as well.”Variables for water efficiency rating could include appliances, outdoor sprinklers, toilets, showers and faucets that use less water, and even landscaping and water recovery systems, said Dave Walls, ICC’s Director of Sustainability.
“Energy has been an issue, and now we have a standard for that,” he said. “Now, it’swater. The goal is to help the industry deal with this challenge. This water rating index will be another tool.”