Originally posted at LiveHB.com.
Energy Star and EarthCraft are the two major programs through which homes in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County can be independently certified for energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. The EarthCraft program is run by a nonprofit, EarthCraft Virginia, and Energy Star is a federal program jointly overseen by the U.S. EPA and the Department of Energy.
The benefits of having a home built to either program’s standards include improved energy efficiency and lower utility bills. A new house with either certification will generally see energy and utility savings of between 15 and 20 percent, says Benjamin Meredith of Building Knowledge, a home and environmental inspection company in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.
A certified home will also be more comfortable and have better air quality, Meredith says. It can also be a simple source of pride, and can boost resale value among buyers who share similar ideas about efficiency and sustainability.
While it’s entirely possible to achieve these efficiency goals without getting an official Energy Star or EarthCraft certification, the independent inspection that’s required for certification gives homeowners confidence that their builder has indeed met certain benchmarks.
“Third-party verification produces numbers that don’t lie,” says Meredith, who conducts tests throughout the construction process to ensure the various systems in the home are being built to the programs’ minimumstandards.
Building Knowledge is the only local company certified as an inspector for the Energy Star and EarthCraft programs. Changes to Energy Star standards, formerly the easier of the two, mean that an EarthCraft certification is now somewhat easier to attain, Meredith says.
Meeting either program’s standards costs roughly the same, adding between 5 and 10 percent to up-front building costs for the same house built to code, says Meredith. Earning a certification shouldn’t be thought of as a luxury item, he adds – all Habitat for Humanity homes in the area are built to EarthCraft standards, as were dozens of units remodeled in recent years by the Harrisonburg Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
A final benefit of pursing an environmental certification is that the third-party certifier will be involved throughout the process, and will take a whole-house view of the project. This can ensure, for example, that the HVAC contractor installs proper ventilation equipment in a house that’s been thoroughly and tightly sealed by a different contractor (more on this topichere).
Despite the benefits of achieving either certification, very few new homes in the area are built to either standard. Since 2008, 125 homes built in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County have received Energy Star certifications. A total of 55 new homes have been certified by EarthCraft in the city and county since 2007, plus an additional 236 multifamily units, the majority of which were renovations.
For more information about Harrisonburg Real Estate, see LiveHB.com.