By Steve Rizer
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Passive House Institute US (PHIUS) have formed a partnership that the federal agency predicted will “provide a seamless path for builders to achieve maximum energy efficiency.” The partnership focuses on a voluntary certification process for homes that are energy-efficient enough to offset at least most of their utility bills with small renewable-energy systems. These homes are referred to as “zero-net-energy-ready” homes.
DOE’s Challenge Home program certifies homes that are 40-50 percent more energy efficient than typical homes while helping to minimize the risk of indoor air quality problems and ensuring compatibility with renewable-energy systems. Through the Challenge Home program and its original Builders Challenge specifications, DOE has certified more than 13,500 homes which are saving consumers more than $10 million each year. Among these certified homes, more than 1,350 are considered zero-net-energy-ready homes based on Home Energy Rating System scores of 55 or lower.
PHIUS certifies building designs that are 65-75 percent more energy efficient than a typical new home, even before installing renewable-energy systems. Also, they have trained nearly 400 construction professionals to build these homes.
Through the partnership, DOE Challenge Home certification will be a prerequisite for projects achieving PHIUS+ Certification. Also, DOE and PHIUS will promote, jointly, each other's programs, and the two organizations will share program participation results and guidance.
“Home builders participating in these programs gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace by providing their customers with homes featuring unparalleled energy savings, quality, comfort, health, and durability,” according to DOE.