Leading the Way in Energy Efficient Building Design & Construction
Building a High Performance Home - Energy Code
December 8, 2013
People ask all the time for advice on what steps they should take to build a high performance home. The easiest answer is to have the home built to the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code standard (IECC 2012 for short)
Some municipalitites already require this standard, whereas in other places it hasn't yet been adopted, and the standard is IECC 2009, or even less. Just because the area you are building in doesn't require high efficiency construction, doesn't mean you can't demand a better-than-average home. You probably wouldn't want to buy a car with low gas milage, so why do so with something much larger?
According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), it costs an extra $5,668 to build a house to the IECC 2012 standard, with a payback period of 13 years. Admittedly, this is longer than the 7 years home buyers say they'd prefer, but at $27 extra per month (30 years at 4%), this is less than some people pay a month on coffee. Plus, when the house goes up for sale, it'll have the extra selling point of having the lowest utility bills on the block.
As with most things, it pays to be an educated consumer. Know what you're buying, and know what to ask for. If you're building a new home, work with an architect you trust, who is familiar with energy-saving building methods. Try to find a contractor with a good reputation. It'll be him deciding between different subcontractors - the cheap ones make the bottom line look better, but we've made a living out of fixing the other guy's mistakes and owner headaches.
You don't have to get all the way to IECC 2012 to have a well performing home, though. The first step is being aware of better options. When selling his Model T, Henry Ford used to say "You can have it in any color, as long as it's black". We've got a whole lot more options than that when it comes to building construction, and it pays to understand them.
In the next few posts we'll explore the ways you can get better indoor comfort and lower energy bills.