Industry expert discusses how builders can better their practices sustainably, transition to a water-smart society and what’s next for green home design
Green Home Builder: How can builders, contractors and developers effectively contribute to reducing carbon emissions at the residential scale?
Aaron Smith: The first goal the residential construction industry can pursue is eliminating onsite emissions from the projects we build. Think about electrifying everything under the ENERGY STAR NextGen program.
The second goal should be reducing operational emissions within our own companies and supply chains. Think about electric vehicles (EV) in your fleet and solar or wind power options for your business. Builders, contractors and developers need to move to electrify everything while helping their customers, employees and suppliers take advantage of rebates and incentives for doing so.
At the Energy & Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA), we are ramping up building science education to train on electrifying homes to the NextGen program and understanding carbon reduction strategies through EEBA Net Zero Carbon Building Professional certification.
GHB: How can builders contribute to the transition towards a water-smart society?
AS: We recently had Will Sarni, CEO of Water Foundry, speak at our annual High-Performance Home Builder Summit about water issues that developers and builders are facing – especially in the western United States. Builders need to become educated on water-related challenges and consider the decisions we can make to conserve water, which, in turn, conserves energy and reduces carbon emissions.
Topics mentioned at our summit included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program, low-flow fixtures, – featuring some excellent 1.28 toilets – xeriscaping, the elimination of irrigation systems and water reclamation strategies from products like HydraLoop. Homeowners can and should be educated on these water-smart selections for their homes.
At EEBA, we are ramping up building science education to train on electrifying homes to the NextGen program and understanding carbon reduction strategies through EEBA Net Zero Carbon Building Professional certification.”
GHB: What advancements and innovations can we expect in the field of green home design education in 2024?
AS: We have developed training modules for builders on the ENERGY STAR NextGen Certified Homes and Apartments Program, a new optional level of recognition that incorporates leading-edge electric technologies and EV charging capabilities. Several utilities are providing significant rebates on top of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) directly to builders. We are seeing a lot of interest in builders attaining ENERGY STAR 3.2, Zero Energy Ready Home 2.0 and the new ENERGY STAR NextGen program due to the power of the incentives now offered under the IRA.
GHB: Tell us about EEBA’s evolution over the past 40 years in providing resources to the construction industry.
AS: Forty-two years ago, EEBA started with builders helping each other build more energy-efficient homes. Over the years, we focused on teaching building science that took builders beyond code compliance to constructing high-performance homes that meet ENERGY STAR, Indoor airPLUS, Zero Energy Ready Homes, PHIUS, LEED and NGBS program requirements.
Today, EEBA continues to drive the market forward by creating a community where builders and their partners can come together to learn, share and collaborate to build the latest generation of healthy, electric, resilient, decarbonized, sustainable homes and communities.
GHB: How does EEBA navigate and support the residential construction community in adapting to the latest codes, rating systems and evolving homeowner expectations?
AS: Through online and in-person training, benchmarking groups and our annual EEBA Summit. The EEBA Academy offers online training and designations 24/7/365 on the latest codes, rating systems and building science. Today, we have over 380 hours of online training, designations, education sessions and product presentations, all focused on the residential construction community.
EEBA also offers regional training events in local markets for builders and others interested in building science. Look for upcoming events in Colorado and Minnesota. The EEBA Builder Benchmark Group is similar to Builder Top 20 groups found in local markets but tailored towards high-performance builders who are often innovators and early adopters in their markets. This support community meets monthly, both online and in person, to share best business and construction practices in a supportive coaching group. Site visits to Builder Benchmark Group participants allow us to meet in person twice a year and see another organization in action.