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Green Homes Go Further with EPA Partnership Programs

Setting the standard for healthy homes

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mission is to protect human health and the environment. One way the Agency achieves this is by promoting the efficient use of natural resources in the building sector. EPA has three whole-house labeling programs for residential new construction that address key elements of the green building and sustainability puzzle– energy efficiency, indoor air quality and water efficiency. 

These voluntary partnership programs– ENERGY STAR®, Indoor airPLUS® and WaterSense®, are working with builders to make significant strides in creating a healthier environment for everyone. A home built to the trio of these EPA programs can set the standard for efficiency, comfort and health in residential home construction.

ENERGY STAR is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency and one of the most trusted, recognized certifying brands in the U.S. In 1995, EPA first offered a label for homes to earn ENERGY STAR certification by meeting a rigorous, third-party verified energy efficiency specification. 

Over the past 25 years, more than 2.3 million ENERGY STAR certified homes and apartments have been built, with over 120,000 in 2021 alone. Single-family homes, multifamily apartments and manufactured homes are all eligible to earn the ENERGY STAR, delivering energy savings of at least 10% compared to those built to code. Nearly three thousand builders, developers and manufactured housing plants are program partners, including the nation’s twenty largest home builders. 

ENERGY STAR certified homes and apartments integrate energy savings from the ground up, with better high-efficiency systems and construction features found throughout. The program offers a long-standing, proven, whole-house approach to energy efficiency that continues to transform the residential market to a higher standard of construction quality. 

Indoor airPLUS is a voluntary partnership and labeling program that helps builders meet the growing consumer preference for homes with improved indoor air quality (IAQ). Indoor airPLUS provides construction specifications that minimize exposure to airborne pollutants and contaminants to offer comprehensive IAQ protections in new homes. The program requirements include the careful selection and installation of moisture control features, mechanical systems, radon-resistant construction and low-emitting building materials. 

EPA has seen a notable increase in new builders joining the program since early 2020. With the growing trends surrounding health and wellness in the home, Indoor airPLUS provides an excellent opportunity for these partners to advance their construction practices and deliver homes that are labeled for improved IAQ. 

EPA is currently developing Indoor airPLUS Version 2, which will not only advance program specifications for industry-leading high-performance housing but will also propose new eligibility criteria to increase adoption of fundamental IAQ protections for entry-level builders, affordable housing developers and occupants in existing homes. 

WaterSense is a voluntary partnership and labeling program that makes it easy to find high-performing and water-efficient products, homes, and programs that meet EPA’s criteria for efficiency and performance. 

WaterSense labeled homes use at least 30% less water than typical new construction – this includes water used inside homes as well as water used to irrigate outdoor landscaping. Not only do WaterSense labeled homes save water, they’re verified to be free of leaks and include WaterSense labeled plumbing products that meet consumer expectations while also using less water. This can save a household thousands of gallons of water and hundreds of dollars on water, wastewater, and energy bills each year. 

WaterSense labeled homes also offer communities a reference point in planning for growth that balances the need to add housing with the desire to minimize demands on water resources and infrastructure costs. EPA anticipates future growth for the program with the February 2021 launch of Version 2, which offers greater flexibility and opportunities for builders and verifiers.

“Thanks to EPA’s new home certification programs like ENERGY STAR, Indoor airPLUS and WaterSense, new home buyers have an impressive suite of green tools to ensure improved energy efficiency, indoor air quality and water efficiency.” – Janet McCabe, EPA Deputy Administrator

“At EPA, one of our top priorities is building a more sustainable future for all, but we can’t do it alone,” Janet McCabe, EPA Deputy Administrator said. “Thanks to EPA’s new home certification programs like ENERGY STAR, Indoor airPLUS and WaterSense, new home buyers have an impressive suite of green tools to ensure improved energy efficiency, indoor air quality and water efficiency. These tools, when used together, can save new home buyers money, make for healthier homes for families, and deliver important environmental benefits for the community.” 

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