High-performance buildings go beyond code, focusing on a building-science-based systems approach to improve energy efficiency. According to the National Institute of Building Sciences™, building science is defined as a field of knowledge that draws upon physics, chemistry, engineering, architecture, and the life sciences. Understanding the physical behavior of the building as a system and how this impacts energy efficiency, durability, comfort, and indoor air quality is essential to innovating high-performance buildings.
Achieving a third-party certification is one way builders can validate their high-performance building practices. A few certifications applicable to single family and multifamily projects include LEED®, Living Building Challenge, ENERGY STAR®, Department of Energy (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH), and Passive House. Understanding certification goals early in the project will help determine requirements for the building envelope system.
Often, achieving third-party performance requirements opens opportunities for builders and building owners to earn energy tax incentives. One example of this is the Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law in August 2022.
LEED & PRODUCT TRANSPARENCY
LEED certification can be applied to all types of residential projects, including new construction and major renovation of multifamily with any number of stories. In addition to reducing energy and water consumption, LEED-certified homes focus on indoor air quality, natural light, and safe building materials. Heath Product Declarations and Environmental Product Declarations are two documents that focus on product transparency that can be used as documentation to meet the requirements of certification systems and standards, like LEED.
A Health Product Declaration (HPD) is a standard format for reporting product ingredients developed by the Health Product Declaration Collaborative. An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) provides third-party verified information about the life cycle environmental impacts of a product. An EPD can help you select the right product for your project by reporting on life cycle assessment details – such as carbon footprint – from raw material extraction to disposal.
Living Building Challenge
The Living Building Challenge by the International Living Future Institute (IFLI) is a certification program for new or existing buildings that focuses on seven performance categories, or petals. The petals include Place, Water, Energy, Health + Happiness, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. The certification can apply to building project, including single family and multifamily residential buildings.
Material vetting is an important component of the Living Building Challenge framework. IFLI compiled the Living Building Challenge “Red List”, which is a list of materials that builders should try to avoid. Henry voluntarily discloses building product ingredients. You can find our Red-List-Free products here.
ENERGY STAR certified homes and apartments are at least 10% more energy-efficient than those built to code and achieve 20% improvement on average. Ultimately, this creates better environments for homeowners and residents, positively impacting quality, performance, and comfort.
ENERGY STAR program requirements have specific guidance by climate zone for cooling and heating equipment, water heaters, lighting and appliances, thermostat and ductwork, and the building envelope. The building envelope plays a critical role in reducing energy consumption and utility costs. The goal is to reduce air leakage since it accounts for 25-40% of the energy used for heating and cooling in a typical residence. A blower door test measures such leaks in single and multifamily dwellings. The goal for builders is to design and construct an airtight home that reduces energy usage and keeps homeowners comfortable.
Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready
Building on ENERGY STAR program requirements, Zero Energy Ready Homes (ZERH) is focused on increasing energy efficiency, improving indoor air quality, and making homes zero energy ready. Each residential dwelling must meet the requirements specified in the program; be verified and field-tested in accordance with HERS standards by an approved verifier; and meet all applicable codes. A HERS score (Home Energy Rating System) is a standard that measures a home’s energy efficiency. A lower score indicates increased energy efficiency. Zero Energy Ready Homes feature greater efficiency with HERS scores typically in the 50s. To certify homes, work with a registered third-party verifier to model and inspect each home. See how this project used Blueskin® VP100 to get zero energy ready.
Passive House is another performance-based building certification that helps developers meet current rigorous codes and significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions. It started with single family homes, but the principles can easily be scaled up to apply to multifamily properties. Passive House has an emphasis on fundamental principles associated with both physics and good building practices. It’s all about functioning in harmony with the environment instead of against it. Passive House Institute US, Inc. (PHIUS) is the leading passive-building standard-setting, research and information provider, and certification institute in North America.
Henry® Can Help
No matter the certification, high-performance buildings must focus on the building envelope – walls, roof, foundation – to meet program requirements. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, up to 40% of the energy costs required to heat and cool a building are consumed due to air leakage through the building envelope.
An air barrier system can substantially reduce the amount of this leakage, resulting in reduced building energy consumption. Self-adhered water and air barriers, like Blueskin® VP100, can help provide a continuous plane of airtightness and eliminate moisture intrusion to efficiently control air leakage into and out of the building envelope.
Contact a Henry weatherization expert for advice and support on your next job.