Promoting Energy Efficiency Construction in Iowa

Grant # 95-04
Principal Investigator: Colin Hansen
Organization: Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities
Subcontractors: R.L. Martin & Associates, Tim Power
Technical Area: Efficiency/Information Transfer

Background and Significance:
Despite the state’s adoption of the CABO Model Energy Code (hereafter referred to as MEC) and the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT) requiring all publicly financed new housing construction to meet MEC, developers/builders (hereafter referred to as builders) in Iowa continue to construct houses which fall well below MEC standards.

This disregard for MEC may save home buyers a few dollars on the purchase price of their homes, but these savings disappear quickly through higher energy bills. In addition to higher energy bills, home buyers will be less comfortable in homes not built to MEC standards than ones that are.

A complete promotion of energy efficient housing needs to involve all the players in the housing business. These include the developers, lenders, real estate agents, city officials, as well as the builders. In communities where homes are being built to MEC standards all these players play vital roles. Code compliance is the first step, but MEC is just a minimum standard. Builder’s need to be encouraged and equipped to build beyond the minimum standards. Additional energy savings can be achieved cost effectively with proper building techniques.

Project Objectives:

  • Increase adoption and enforcement of Model Energy Code by Iowa cities
  • Increase code compliance for publicly funded/financed new housing in the state
  • Train builders on how to cost-effectively build to MEC standards while encouraging them to build beyond the standardsUnder these broad project objectives a number of activities are being carried out. They are discussed below.

Summary of Work:
Comfort Plus Homes Pilot Projects in Manning and West Bend: Two cities with municipally owned electric and gas utilities were chosen to demonstrate the community-wide approach to encouraging energy-efficient construction. The Manning Municipal Utilities offer incentives of a free home energy rating (for both new and existing homes) and a $.50/square foot cash payment (up to $1500 for new homes only).

In West Bend, the city staff have combined the Comfort Plus Homes program with additional grant funding received from the Iowa Department of Economic Development. Free energy ratings are being offered for homes built or retrofitted under the grant project. The city plans to build five new homes and rehabilitate 10 existing homes.

Energy-Efficient Construction Video: A six-video series on energy efficient building practices has been purchased and provided to builders, building officials and others. The series was produced by the Energy Efficient Building Association, a national trade organization of home builders.

Builders’ Guide Booklet: Copies of the EEBA Builders’ Field Guide to Energy Efficient Construction have been purchased and provided to builders, home buyers, Realtors, building officials and others. The booklet outlines a step-by-step process for constructing an energy efficient home.

Builder Training: IAMU cooperated with several other groups to offer a builder training program in February 1997. Other sponsors were MidAmerican Energy, the Home Builders Association of Iowa, the Energy Efficient Building Association, IES Utilities, Energy Rated Homes of Iowa, A-Tec Energy Corporation and Kemper Management Services. An EEBA training curriculum was used and each participant received a copy of the EEBA Field Guide. The IAMU’s Comfort Plus Homes program was presented at the workshop.

Evening Training for Builders: Sessions were held in both of the pilot project communities in June 1997. The one-evening workshops trained local builders in energy-efficient construction techniques and outlined the Comfort Plus Homes Program.

Builder Pamphlet: This pamphlet incorporates energy-efficient techniques with the market push of the Home Energy Rating System. It provides builders with a prescriptive approach to the Home Energy Ratings System, showing them in simple, brief instructions how to build a four star home or above.

Handbook for Lenders: The lenders handbook gives a brief introduction to energy-efficient mortgages (EEMs), and then provides detailed information on various federal programs’ guidelines for issuing EEMs.

The project was essentially completed at the end of June 1997. However, because of a delay in starting the West Bend pilot project, as the city waited for housing improvement funds, some Iowa Energy Center funds were carried over. These funds were used to pay for home energy ratings in West Bend as the city launches its program to build five new homes and rehabilitate 10 existing homes. The energy ratings will help ensure that the new and rehabbed housing in West Bend meet high energy-efficiency standards.