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Energy Efficiency Standard
The Energy Star indication is a universally accepted standard. It can be applied to appliances, or systems, like air conditioning. EPA recently started applying it to entire buildings. The Energy Star only signifies energy efficiency. Water conservation, and use of low VOC carpets and paints are not evaluated during certification. The EPA does provide certification for these issues through Water Sense and Indoor Air Plus programs which round out the government's family for green building certification.
The first step to getting an Energy Star, is to consult with government trained raters. For new buildings, raters work with owners during the design phase to promote air tight seals, high levels of insulation, energy efficient heating and cooling equipment, windows, ducts, and appliances. Once the building is complete, the same rater comes out to field test and inspect the building to make sure the design elements have been implemented properly, at which time the Energy Star is awarded. The consult fee is generally between $300 - $500 for a residential home.
Non-government certifications encompassing all green building issues can be obtained through the US Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED program or the National Home Builders Association's (NHBA) National Green Building Standard. The USGBC's LEED certification is time-consuming and costly. The NHBA is not costly but only covers residential buildings and developments. The best thing about NHBA's rating system is that it is based on the building code; exceeding standards by 15% in energy efficiency, water use, and sustainable healthy materials, therefore making it much easier to implement. Contractors, realtors and appraisers are already aware of the standard building code ensuring that the transition of green building into the valuing, buying and selling of homes is seamless. The Energy Star rating is becoming more popular because it does not cost anything to implement and is the only government issued standard.
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Energy Star Home
One homeowner in Jersey City opted for Energy Star instead of LEED. According to Nicole Robertson, partner at GRO Architects, PLLC (see resources below), the homeowner was adamant about green design and set on getting LEED certification. Once they found out the process would add about $8,000 to the total budget of $250,000, they chose Energy Star which provides monetary incentives for compliance. The green design for the house, dubbed PREttyFab, consisted of pre-fabricated insulated concrete wall panels and a sloping roof to optimize solar and rainwater collection.
According to Jonathan Passe, Communication Coordinator for the residential Energy Star program, insulation and tight sealing of duct work are key elements to receiving the Energy Star indication. As for monetary incentives, Mr. Passe noted that there are some Federal tax credits for energy efficiency, but better rebates are being offered through State energy offices to Boards of Public Utilities and Affordable Housing Agencies, specifically to Energy Star builders and buyers. Ms. Robertson indicated that the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency became interested in doing more homes like PREttyFab in urban renewal areas after seeing the finished project which won an AIA New Jersey Merit Award in 2009.
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Energy Star Benefits
Energy Star indicated is the only government sponsored standard for energy efficiency in green building. It is an inexpensive way to build green; in most cases you can get money back with Energy Star. Annual energy costs are significantly lower for Energy Star buildings. and less pollution is emitted. Overall, Energy Star benefits the environment, homeowners and the surrounding communities. The EPA's Energy Star website (see resources below) is a good place to start looking for more information to getting you moving in the green direction.