NAHB Builder Urges Congress to Promote Green Initiatives

Filed in Affordability, Capitol Hill, Codes and Regulations by on September 20, 2019 8 Comments

NAHB told Congress today that it wants to work as a partner with officials at all levels of government to encourage energy efficiency, but also stressed that it is urgent that housing affordability is not jeopardized in the process.

Testifying on behalf of NAHB before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, Arn McIntyre, a green builder from Grand Rapids, Mich., urged Congress to promote voluntary, market-driven and viable green building initiatives.

“These programs lower total ownership costs through utility savings as well as provide the flexibility builders need to construct homes that are cost-effective, affordable and appropriate to a home’s geographic location,” said McIntyre.

New home construction is much more energy efficient than existing construction because of better insulation, energy-efficient appliances and HVAC equipment, and other improvements stemming from compliance to more modern and stringent building codes. Therefore, McIntyre said, it would make no sense to apply even more costly and rigorous energy conservation requirements to new homes.

“Targeting new homes would harm housing affordability and encourage people to remain in older, less energy-efficient homes. In turn, this would result in higher energy usage, higher greenhouse gas emissions and lower standards of living,” he said. “Improving the energy efficiency of the 130 million homes built before 2010 that are much less energy efficient than today’s new homes is a much more effective approach to reduce carbon emissions and achieve energy savings.”

McIntyre also emphasized the following points to lawmakers:

  • Climate change mitigation programs that recognize and promote voluntary-above code compliance for energy efficiency have a proven track record and demonstrate that mandates are not necessary.
  • Mandating net zero or near net zero energy emissions or usage is extremely difficult, costly and impractical in most, if not all, of the nation.
  • Any federal intrusion into the building codes adoption process could have a dramatic impact on each states’ ability to implement the codes that best fit their jurisdiction.
  • Incentives play an important role in providing home owners a cost-effective way to invest in energy efficiency.
  • Any federal mandates would have a negative impact on housing affordability and will prevent healthy competition in the marketplace.
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  1. Armando Cobo says:

    Amazing you guys keep writing the same bad song about Green Homes. If Mr. McIntyre builds homes as he describes on his website, he should know that his homes should price equal to a 2015 IRC code house in MI. Energy Star homes are the bottom of the barrel in the Energy Efficient homes today. We know that a ZERH cost is between 1%-3% (see RMI Report https://rmi.org/insight/economics-of-zero-energy-homes/) so many of the comments in this article are just plain not true.
    An ES home (ES v3.1 2009) requires a HERS 60s and a 3ACH50 minimum. A ZERH requires HERS mid 50s and 2.5ACH50. The difference in costs are very well demonstrated in the ZERH Program website on the The DOE Tour of Zero, where many affordable housing projects are displayed, among other custom homes.

    • James says:

      Well, buddy you seem well educated so if it is so easy you should go build and show is how it is done. Unfortunately all these studies don’t include the impact these regulations have on the building cost. The hidden cost of taxation and regulation is never included in the process. To build we need to make a living and pay for the certifications, licenses, sales taxes, permit fees and other cost that pile onto the cost. Housing is only affordable if you make a decent income and can afford the taxation on top of the ownership cost. Sure we save energy then every government and industry raises prices to offset the reduction in business. Let’s factor in life cycle cost from beginning to end and see the increased cost of ownership and maintenance on all this technology. At the end of the day like Europe government will tax based on our energy score. So much for affordable housing.

    • Jean D says:

      In MN our HERS Scores average 45 with less than 2.0 Air exchange per hour. These are homes built to the new energy codes. We are diligent with sealing any penetrations. Our ENTRY level housing costs are approximately $180 sq ft finished. First time buyers are finding it extremely difficult to purchase new construction due to the cost of building/developing. If we continue to add more regulations we may as well eliminate this sector of buyers. They will continue to purchase older, less efficient homes – which significantly contribute to the carbon footprint. I guess we need to decide what is more important. Building more efficient homes that buyers can afford OR putting more buyers into our existing housing stock.

    • NAHB Now says:

      NAHB strongly supports voluntary, above-code energy efficiency and green building programs. We developed, maintain and continue to promote the National Green Building Standard as well as support other above-code programs such as EnergyStar. NAHB wants to be sure that, for home buyers who desire and have the financial means to purchase high performing homes, there are programs available that demonstrate to the homebuyer that their new home will meet their needs.

      Our concern is with mandates that impact housing affordability for everyone. Current codes are roughly 40% more efficient than they were 15 years ago and a semi-systematic approach has already been taken to push each aspect of energy code to their limits. In some cases, however, the code has already gone beyond a reasonable level of affordability (e.g. R-49 attic insulation in Climate Zone 4 has a payback of over 80 years).

      If the ZERH cost is only 1% of the price of an affordable house, builders who choose to serve that market segment can be effective at promoting and selling those homes without federal mandates. But for consumers on the margin, a 1% increase in the price of a home can result in pricing out over 250,000 families from the home buying market. With the increase in energy efficiency of the building code, it would be a major oversight to continue turning the screws on new homes for minimal actual improvement and exponential impact on the cost to new home buyers, when the existing building stock will remain the main culprit of residential energy inefficiency.

      Energy codes are necessary to maintain a reasonable level of efficiency that maintains affordability. Having the federal government co-opt the energy codes will turn them into a misguided tool which will price consumers out of the market and increase the overall cost of housing.

      • Armando Cobo says:

        “a 1% increase in the price of a home can result in pricing out over 250,000 families from the home buying market.” Part of this problem is the industry.
        1. The Appraisal Institute has an addendum, Form 820.05, to help buyers and builders get a more accurate valuation for their above code homes, usually up to 10% more, but very few buyers and builders use it, or even know about it.
        2. Lenders do not required their approved Appraisers to be certified to use the AI form. Therefore when a buyer requests such Appraiser, there are none to few to be found.
        3. Builders do not place their custom above code house’s information on the MLS. Omitting such information reduces comps for future jobs. Also, they need to require their lenders to use approved said Appraisers.
        4. Fanny Mae has had the EE Mortgages for many years, where buyers can qualify for higher mortgages based on the energy savings. Has anyone uses this program? NO!
        I fully believe the argument of loosing 2500,000 buyers when an additional 1% increase in costs is and old argument and totally bogus. A better analysis is needed when all points are taken. With our clients is a plus on the right side.

  2. Everything depends on reasonableness. Climate change is real, it is the greatest threat we face for our children’s and grandchildren’s future. State and Federal incentives are desirable/necessary. Let’s not politicize this but join together to solve/mitigate this problem. Smaller more efficient better planned more livable homes are part of the solution. We have a large thermonuclear reactor sending us free clean energy, let’s use it.

    Let’s not burn hydrocarbons as fuel unless there is no alternative. Lets turn it into insulation and other building products.

    That carbon is essentially sequestered cost effectively

    • Mark Turner says:

      The climate change that is affecting the world today cannot be mitigated in any meaningful way by the way that new homes area constructed in the US nor the implementation of electric autos on American soil. The vast majority of the carbon gas being introduced into the worlds atmosphere is from Brazil, India, and China. If they don’t make massive changes then nothing we do here in America will matter. “Leading the way” doesn’t change anything except increase the price of housing for most Americans; the rest of the world doesn’t care what we are doing. Housing affordability is dramatically affected by the tremendous amount regulation that is neither effective for climate change or public safety. “The Codes” (all inclusive, including councils, the creation and implementation of through lobbying efforts) are an industry unto themselves just like any other that serves its own needs for income and survival and is an “industrial complex” that is largely responsible for the fact that most Americans cannot afford to purchase housing anymore. Houses built in the 60’s still do the job just fine and with no calculable increase to public health, half of my town lives in housing that was built before 1980 is no worse for the wear. Time to end this ridiculous idea that we need “academics and policymakers” for anything.

  3. A simple code that mandated a desired outcome, such as how the Zero-Energy-Ready program works, would be fine, as it would allow builders and their customers to pick and choose the most cost-effective path to get there. Allowing Congress to have ANY part in that process would be a disaster.

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