All Builder Newsletter Articles
Before getting too far down the road, we want to take a moment to thank you for your trust in us, and our work. Thank you for allowing us to help you with your code and program compliance, generation of the HERS Index, and quality assurance needs. We hope your new year is prosperous and successful!
We completed just over 4,600 inspections in 2016. That work is broken out in the table to the right. We are not only proud of our people, we are proud to have worked with our partners through such a successful year. We are thankful for the opportunities our partners, and their teams, have provided by allowing us to collaborate with them in reaching their goals.
As we continue to serve your inspection and quality assurance needs, I want to remind you that we are continuing to grow and innovate to better meet the challenges of our industry. Here are a couple of highlights:
- We have restructured our company to create field teams, which allows us to have better communication both internally and externally. This ensures that our consistency, accuracy, and professionalism perform at its highest level.
- We have excitedly expanded our service offerings to include water management inspections to complement our existing quality assurance 3rd party work, warranty inspection to better determine warranty issues and solutions, as well as HVAC design and quality installation services.
Lastly, we are continually growing and training our field staff of Raters to be at the top of their game andto maintain our expanding knowledge base and skill set to continue leading the industry.
Thank you. We look forward to a wonderful 2017!
Robby Schwarz and the EnergyLogic Team
New rebate structure update and highlights of the Xcel Energy ENERGY STAR® New Homes Program 2016 accomplishments.
Total year-end program results from 2016:
- 5,300 total completed houses
- 145,835 net Dekatherms and 4,957,801 net kilowatt-hours in energy savings
- $3,361,890 in builder rebates and energy rater administrative fees
- 1,800 earned the $100 ENERGY STAR rebate
Program and Rebate Changes for 2017/18, effective for homes submitted after March 1st:
- Homes will qualify for rebates based on the percent improvement better than the local adopted IECC code
- Rebate levels are increased for homes built in jurisdictions where IECC 2012 and newer codes are enforced
- The $10 ENERGY STAR dishwasher rebate is discontinued and the clothes washer rebate is reduced from $50 to $30
- The High Efficiency Lighting rebate is unchanged for homes built in jurisdictions where IECC 2009 and older codes are enforced
- For homes built in jurisdictions where IECC 2012 and newer codes are enforced, a $10 rebate is available if 100% of lighting is CFL or LED fixtures and/or bulbs
|Percent Better Than Local Code Improvement||Builder Rebate – IECC 2009 and older||Builder Rebate – IECC 2012 and newer|
|10.0 – 14.999%||$200||$250|
|15.0 – 19.999%||$350||$400|
|20.0 – 24.999%||$500||$600|
|25.0 – 29.999%||$650||$900|
|30.0 – 34.999%||$800||$1,300|
|35.0 – 39.999%||$1,000||$2,000|
|40% and higher||$1,400||$2,550|
|Appliance/Lamp||Builder Rebate – IECC 2009 & older||Builder Rebate – IECC 2012 & newer|
|Lighting Efficiency (CFL or LED)||$20 (20+ qualifying bulbs)||$10 (100% qualifying bulbs)|
|ENERGY STAR®, Xcel Gas & Electric||$100||$100|
Who to Contact:
Logistics/Customer Support Supervisor
EnergyLogic assesses compliance with the Federal tax credit for every home that we inspect. In addition, we provide a tax credit compliance report that is signed for every home that is tested.
Over the past several years EnergyLogic has had to reissue these tax credit documents due to software updates that have also changed the physical look and content of the document. Due to the need to reissue the reports, we were able to issue new passing tax credit certificates and lump them together for your convenience. The reports were typically sent in an email at the beginning of the year or a builder login was issued directing you to pull these reports from our DASH data system.
For 2016 homes, EnergyLogic will not need to re-run tax credit certificates or make any adjustments to the certificates you have already received. Therefore, builders will not be receiving an email containing all passing tax credits. EnergyLogic has already emailed all final report packets to you at the time the home has been rated and certified. Within those final report packets, you will find the tax credit certificate. It clearly states on the tax credit certificate if the home passes or not. In addition, the tax certificate is signed only for the homes that pass.
Builder Login for EnergyLogic’s DASH database
You can also access these final report packets using your builder login to EnergyLogic’s DASH database. Contact Tracy Larson at email@example.com if you need directions, username and password for the DASH builder login. Tracy will be sending you a spreadsheet in the next few weeks that lists all homes that qualified for the tax credit which will narrow down the list of packets you’ll need to locate and make your search easier.
The Federal tax credit expired on January 1st, 2017. As in the past, Energylogic will continue to issue tax credit certificates for all homes that we inspect. We will do this because historically every time the tax credit has expired it has been re-authorized and made effective retroactively to the date it expired. For example, on January 1st, 2015 the tax credit expired. In December of 2015. the tax credit was re-authorized to be effective from January 1st, 2015 through December 31st, 2016. The only way we can be sure that your homes will be able to get the credit if the tax credit is re-authorized is to keep track of whether they pass or not at the time of the final inspection. We strongly recommend that your office file the tax credit certificates for those homes that pass and are signed off on, so you are prepared to file for your credit if and when re-authorization occurs.
At this time, because nobody knows if re-authorization will occur, EnergyLogic does not recommend changing your building specification to optimize for the tax credit.
Additional information regarding the rebate structure and requirements is located on our website.
Who to Contact:
Principal, Director of Builder Relations
RESNET Adopts Standard Amendment on Persistence of the Use of Previous Versions of HERS Software When Standards Change
The latest release of Rating software, represented by the new ANSI/RESNET/ICC 301-2014, has dramatically demonstrated an issue that has been apparent for quite some time. To further expand on how various software versions impact changes to HERS Index scores, and how the recently adopted amendment, effective February 16, 2017, applies, please review the following:
- When standards and software are updated, the HERS Index score can change. In the case of ANSI/RESNET/ICC 301-2014 the score change is dramatic.
- As the HERS Index continues to grow in our national vocabulary, consistency of the scoring system becomes increasingly important.
As the standards are currently written, homes in a community with a buildout of twenty years can use old software because software does not have to be updated due to the notion of “Persistence”. If left open to interpretation, one Projected Rating could be applied to multiple building permits in production housing, allowing “Persistence” based on a Projected Rating to extend the use of older software versions to 5, 10, or even 20 years.
After the RESNET Standard Public Review and Comment process, the RESNET Standards Management Board has adopted Amendment #2017-01.
- The amendment requires that “Confirmed or Sampled Ratings on homes with a building permit date that is on or after the six-month anniversary of the release of the software must utilize the newly released software.
- Homes with a building permit date before the six-month anniversary of the release of the software will be allowed to complete a Confirmed or Sampled Rating based on the previous version of the software that was utilized for the Projected Rating.”
The amendment also allows the RESNET Board of Directors to stipulate a timeframe other than the six-month anniversary of the building permit date. The RESNET Board of Directors has not used this clause to date.
The adopted amendment is posted at RESNET Standard Amendment #2017-01
The amendment goes into effect on February 16, 2017.
Link to related article: HERS® Rating Scores Going Up
Who to Contact:
Principal, Director of Builder Relations
EnergyLogic is in the news! Check out this interview with Robby Schwarz, one of the founders and continuing principals here at EnergyLogic. You’ll find the article supporting how EnergyLogic continues to help builders, salespeople, and consumers in our industry better understand the long-term benefits that energy efficiency will bring to their lives.
To access the article, please click on the link below:
Who to Contact:
Principal, Director of Builder Relations
The Colorado Chapter of the International Code Council will be hosting the 32nd Annual Colorado Educational Institute the week of March 6, 2017, once again at the newly renovated Marriott Denver Tech Center.
The Educational Institute will again offer 13 full-week course paths with instruction by some of the best instructors in the country. Class offerings will include a number of new classes as well as updated versions of their most popular classes, all based on the 2015 International Codes and the 2014 National Electrical Code. Registration costs will remain at $400 for the week or $90 a day, including lunch.
The Colorado Chapter is an Approved Preferred Provider for ICC Continuing Education. Classes will also be eligible for continuing education Learning Units as required by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and designed to meet the continuing education requirements for Professional Development Units required by the State of Colorado Electrical Board (DORA).
Again, the Colorado Educational Institute will be held March 6-10, 2017, at the Marriott DTC, 4900 S Syracuse Street, Denver, CO. Room rates at the Marriott will be $139/night.
Who to Contact:
Principal, Director of Builder Relations
In July of 2015, EnergyLogic began informing you about upcoming software changes. As a reminder, the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) began to align the energy rating reference home to the 2006 IECC almost two years ago. The reference home, which currently reflects the 2004 IECC supplemental code, is what your home is compared to in order to create the HERS Index score. RESNET has gone through a process of taking the rule set for how to develop the HERS Index score through the ANSI process in order to create the ANSI/RESNET/ICC 301-2014 Standard for the Calculation and Labeling of the Energy Performance of Low-Rise Residential Buildings using an Energy Rating Index. The main impetus for this ANSI Standard arose from the desire to use the Index Score for code compliance and the adoption of the Energy Rating Index (ERI), a HERS path, as a compliance matrix for the 2015 IECC.
The alignment with the 2006 IECC has three primary effects on the HERS reference home.
- First, the updated 2006 IECC reference home infiltration rate became tighter to better reflect the improved tightness levels of newly constructed homes.
- Second, the updated 2006 IECC reference home window solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) went from 0.55 in climate zones 4 through 8 to a SHGC of 0.40 in those climate zones. This updated value reflects the market penetration of improvements in basic window technology and is in alignment with the 2006 IECC.
- Lastly, revised mechanical ventilation requirements are used in the HERS reference home which are now aligned with the ASHRAE 62.2-2013 ventilation standard.
Scores to Increase by 2 to 6 Points
Philip Fairey, Deputy Director of the Florida Solar Energy Center and a consultant for RESNET, performed research on the impact of these changes on the HERS Index values of rated homes in all eight climate zones. His research has demonstrated that the HERS Index values will increase across all climate zones by a range of 2 to 6 points due to the reference home alignment with the 2006 IECC that occurred through the creation of the ANSI/RESNET 301-2014 Standard. EnergyLogic has been working with the newly released software, and we are seeing results that are consistently on the high end of the range (3-8 HERS Index points) when comparing homes that were rated with software developed prior to the ANSI standard adoption. RESNET is mandating that HERS providers begin using the new software on January 1, 2017. EnergyLogic has worked with RESNET to find ways to reduce the impact of the implementation of the ANSI standard software. A few things are, or have been, changed but the impact of the score increase will remain significant, affecting every home across the country.
Incorporating Water Heating
The development of the ANSI standard has also given RESNET the opportunity to include additional features related to water heating. This is specific to energy use related to hot water distribution and does not take into account water conservation. RESNET is working on a Water Index score that will address water conservation. The ANSI standard addendum allows the HERS Index score to quantify the efficiency or loss of energy through; pipe runs from the water heater to the farthest fixture, hot water pipes that are insulated, on-demand recirculation systems, high-efficiency low flow fixtures, and drain water heat recovery systems. If all of these systems are deployed in a home, the technologies can provide builders approximately 1-3 point reduction in the HERS Index.
It is important to also understand that if a builder is currently utilizing a water delivery system that is not delivering the hot water efficiently then the HERS Index would be penalized. For example, if you are currently using a timer or continuous recirculation loop to deliver hot water, your home’s HERS Index will be penalized. This will result in a higher score than the normal transition to the ANSI approved software. So, in this example, if the transitioning to the ANSI approved software took a HERS Index from 60 to 65, the inefficient hot water circulation system could add another 5-10 points, taking the score to 70 or 75. It is important to evaluate your current specifications and choose the most efficient water distribution systems, such as an on-demand hot water recirculation system, or stop installing them all together.
Summary: All Homes will Be Affected
These changes will affect every home that is rated but should have minimal impact on the use of the Index score for demonstrating compliance with programs such as EnergyStar, as the program’s energy Index target will fluctuate in unison with the home that is being rated. In the same way, these changes should have minimal effects on code compliance when utilizing the Simulated Performance path as the code reference home is separate from the HERS reference home. For those few builders utilizing the 2015 IECC Energy Rating Index path (ERI), these changes will be significant. Lastly, builders utilizing the Index score in their marketing efforts will need to update HERS related marketing collaterals.
Principal / Director of Builder Relations
The Q3 Field Fusion event delved into air-sealing and sound transmission challenges in multi-family units through a guided discussion that included perspectives from Code Officials, Insulators, and Raters. Read more here.
There are many complexities that accompany building townhomes and duplexes. For example, townhomes and duplexes built with common fire separation walls (party walls) are twice as leaky as single family houses that are twice their size.
The shaft wall, which we see most often in Colorado, is open directly to the outside through the designed gap between the shaft liner and the framing, thus creating a leaky assembly. An additional complexity arises when the reduction of unit-to-unit sound transmission is taken into account, which requires correctly installed insulation.
EnergyLogic’s August 31st Field Fusion delved into the details of these assemblies through a guided discussion that included perspectives from Code Officials, Insulators, and Raters.
We must first define what part of the shaft wall assembly is fire-rated, as the entire assembly is not. This is an important distinction that allows for more air sealing options once understood.
In chapter 3 of the IRC, Section R302 “Fire Resistant Construction” and Section R302.2 “Townhouses” states, “The common wall shared by two townhouses shall be constructed without plumbing or mechanical equipment, ducts or vents in the cavity of the common wall. The wall shall be rated for fire exposure from both sides and shall extend to and be tight against exterior walls and the underside of the roof sheathing.”
This statement in the IRC is our first indication that the two layers of sheetrock in the shaft liner wall are the fire-rated two-hour wall, designed to slow the spread of fire from unit to unit. Thus, the two layers of 1” drywall cannot be penetrated with ducts.
The framing (which is held off the fire-rated assembly by a clip) often has ducts or plumbing in it and is specifically designed to burn and separate from the two-hour assembly when the clip melts. This allows one unit to burn and fall before fire is able to pass through to the adjacent unit. The UL (Underwriters Laboratory) listing for many of these assemblies’ references section 705 of the International Building Code (IBC) which states in Section 705.2 “Structural Stability”, “Fire walls shall have sufficient structural stability under fire conditions to allow collapse of construction on either side without collapse of the wall for the duration of time indicated by the required fire-resistance rating.” This is another indication that UL listings and the code are in agreement that the fire assembly is the two layers of 1” drywall and not the framing adjacent to the drywall.
It is important to point this out because throughout Colorado there is not a common understanding of what constitutes a shaft liner fire-rated party wall assembly. Some jurisdictions still hold that the assembly is the drywall, air gap, clip, framing and interior drywall while others hold that it is as explained above. What is consistent is the understanding that the assembly must be built continuously from the foundation to the roof deck.
EnergyLogic suggests having a discussion with jurisdictions, in an effort to:
- Ensure a common understanding of this assembly
- Determine how the assembly will be air sealed to control airflow to meet the air leakage requirements of the energy code.
One thing to note: jurisdictions throughout the state require that the two layers of sheetrock run continuously from the foundation to the roof deck, but not the entirety of the rest of the assembly. The most conspicuous example is the interior drywall, which is always missing on the ventilated attic side of the party wall.
Challenge: How to Achieve 3 ACH50?
Now that a common understanding of the assembly has been achieved, it is time to determine how the assembly can be air sealed in order to meet the air leakage target of 3 ACH50 for the 2012 and 2015 IECC. Most jurisdictions have not amended the requirement to meet this airtightness level, so pre-planning is crucial in order to be successful.
The clip that holds the framing off the two-hour party wall assembly creates a 1” gap that is connected directly to the outside at the front and back of the unit, as well as to the attic. This is where the UL listing of the assembly comes into play. UL is an American safety consulting and certification company that provides the one or two-hour rating for fire-rated assemblies by testing them in a laboratory environment. The UL listing for these assemblies is often mixed up with code’s definition of the assembly, which creates confusion regarding what materials are allowed to be used to seal them.
UL often refers to fire-blocking materials. Fire blocking materials are usually defined within the UL assembly and can be any one of the following:
- 2” nominal lumber
- Two thicknesses of 1” nominal lumber with broken lap joints
- One thickness of 0.719” wood structural panel with joints backed by 0.719” wood structural panel
- One thickness of 0.75” particleboard with joints backed by 0.75” particleboard
- Gypsum board, including 1” DensGlass Ultra® Shaftliner and 5/8” DensArmor Plus drywall
- Batts or blankets of mineral wool or fiberglass
- Other approved materials installed in such a manner as to be securely retained in place shall be permitted as an acceptable fire block (Section 717.2.1, 2006 IBC).
As some fire blocking materials are air barriers and some are not it important to choose a material that can stop the flow of air. EnergyLogic has seen the most success when builders tackle fire blocking on each individual floor.
Application: The Picture Frame Method
When looking at the party wall assembly, envision a picture frame around the perimeter of the wall. All four sides need to be fire blocked. The material of choice right now is the same 1” gypsum board used in the 2-hour rated assembly. Install the 1” gypsum board in the 1” gap between the interior of the unit and the outside at the front and back of the units, between floors, and to the attic. Again, picture framing the party wall.
Depending on your foundation type, if you are standing on the first floor you will need to air-seal the two layers of gypsum and the bottom plate to the slab in the shaft wall, or address the rim joist connection in the basement or crawl space to the shaft wall. At the rim joist be sure sill seal has been installed between foundation and sill plate as it is your primary capillary break, then seal the sill plate to foundation, seal rim board to the sill plate, and seal the rim board to sub floor. Pay special attention to any knockouts for foundation bolts.
Once the large 1” gap has been fire blocked with an air-impermeable material such as gypsum, seal the smaller gaps between the fire block and the shaft wall and the fire block and the framing. A fire-rated caulk or expanding foam works for this. Following these steps, with careful attention to detail, should enable you to successfully achieve 3 ACH50.
A few words of caution:
- Ensure that the drywall lid is air-tight: duct boots and other penetrations need to be sealed. In addition, as required by ENERGY STAR, the drywall to top-plate should be sealed. (This is a requirement of code that is generally not enforced.)
- Mechanicals can derail all good air-sealing intentions. Undampered ducts run to the exterior for combustion or ventilation air as well as atmospherically vented appliances. These combustion air ducts can ruin one’s ability to build a tight home that gains control and predictability of the airflow in the building.
Don’t Forget: Sound Reduction
Lastly, these assemblies should reduce sound transmission from dwelling unit to dwelling unit. The party wall is assumed to be an adiabatic wall, i.e. there is no heat loss or gain through the wall between two conditioned spaces as the temperature is the same on each side. Therefore, the insulation is primarily installed to lower sound transmission. The principles of sound reduction and heat flow are the same, so proper installation of the insulation in the framed cavity of the party wall is imperative.
NAIMA, the North American Insulation Manufacture Association, states that the installation of insulation in a party wall application should “comply with the manufacturers’ instructions including filling the entire stud cavity and cut to fit around outlets, junction boxes, and other irregularities in the cavity.” In other words, the insulation in a common party wall should be installed to a RESNET, Grade 1.
To learn more please see EnergyLogic’s Tech Bulletin on “Fire-rated Party Walls” which includes an article by Building Science Corporation.
Have a technical question? Contact Robby Schwarz.
Our next event will take place on November 16th. It is focused on Selling High-Performance Homes. Our guest speaker, Todd Gamboa, President of Building Trust LLC., has a wealth of experience and perspectives to share. Please see details here.
If you have suggestions for topic you would like to see discussed in depth, please let us know. We will be releasing our Q1 2017 event topic and date soon.
Principal / Director of Builder Relations
Get in the Game by Selling High Performance
3:00 – 5:00 PM
Presenter: Todd Gamboa, President of Building Trust LLC
5:00 – 7:00 PM
EnergyLogic’s Mixer and networking
Drinks & hors d’oeuvres provided!
Todd Gamboa, President of Building Trust LLC, has been in the building industry for over 30 years, managing private and public companies. As a homebuilder, he has been responsible for the creation of thousands of homes. As a building science consultant, public speaker, and host of “New Home Solutions Radio”, he educates homebuilders, contractors, architects, appraisers, and realtors all over the country about the value and benefits of buying new construction. Mr Gamboa has launched and managed several, energy efficiency and “market transformation” programs for utility providers; home builder and realtor associations; and state and federal government agencies throughout the U.S. His fast-paced, fun, and informative sales training have been described as “Info-tainment” by attendees.
This Field Fusion event is generously supported by Tyvek.
EnergyLogic is proud to announce some exciting changes to our team! Get to know our new Field Services Manager & Software Technical Liaison, Steve Eagleburger.
Q&A: Learn more about Steve, his comprehensive background, and credentials!
What was your first job in the residential construction industry?
I’ve been involved in construction most of my life. I started as a painter/faux finisher around 30 years ago. I moved on to handyman work and eventually became a General Contractor around 2003.
How and when did you first become interested in high-performance homes and energy efficiency?
I’ve always been interested in environmental construction and design. I built the one and only Compressed Earth Block home in Denver and currently live there. It’s imperative that the construction industry realizes the impact it has on this planet and its inhabitants and take steps to move toward more efficient, cleaner and safer homes.
What insights did you gain in your time working as a general contractor?
Contractors can change the way we build homes and by making that change we can create longer- lasting, more comfortable, better performing homes. We often are focused on the bottom line when we should step back and look at the big picture. Success comes when we meet a triple bottom line -Economic Value, Environmental Sustainability and Social Responsibility. This is what drove me as a G.C. and eventually what lead me to work at Energylogic.
You’ve been with EnergyLogic since 2010 and have worked at a number of different roles. What are some things you can share about your background in residential energy consulting?
You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it and as soon as you know it you need to share it. This is a constantly evolving industry and as raters and builders, we have to stay informed. Codes and programs evolve over time. It’s our responsibility as energy consultants to keep our clients informed and be as pre-emptive as possible when change is coming. Nobody likes surprises!
What are some of the common design mistakes or misconceptions builders should watch out for?
Demand a detailed set of drawings from your architect and engineer before you start to build and make sure those drawing specify local codes and builder program details! Refresh your plan set to include updated codes or details that were missed originally so you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes. So many failures and re-inspections can be avoided by having a knee wall framing detail somewhere in your plan set, or air barrier detail drawn for double framed walls, or by making sure there’s room between the stairs and foundation wall to add insulation, etc. These details allow everyone to do their job better, from estimators to installers.
Little things do matter. Even though we don’t like to delay construction schedules over minor issues, small improvements on a national scale can make an impact. We call these things out to help you build a better product, not to be obstructive. The building code and national programs such as Energy Star and DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes exist to help you build a better product and get to that triple bottom line. Embrace it and accept the future of construction!
What do you like to do in your free time?
When I’m not working you’ll find me hiking or camping with my wife and dog, but nothing too extreme. We like the quiet places. Or maybe I’m down at the local brewery for a pint of cask-conditioned English ale. Once a week you’ll find me at Zenko Kyudojo in Boulder, practicing Japanese archery.