Skip to main content

Green energy certifications could do so much more

May 11, 2018

There are many choices when labeling your building project as energy and water efficient. Building owners use these labels to market units, show funders they are committed to green buildings, satisfy requirements for Low Income Tax Credits (LIHTC), comply with zoning, or secure funds through incentive programs. These labels or certifications have real benefits but could do so much more to inform the world of affordable housing. 

These labels or certifications have real benefits but could do so much more to inform the world of affordable housing.

In general, the certification programs create awareness of sustainable, healthy, resilient communities. 

POAH has certified projects under LEED (Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design – a U.S. Green Building Council program) and Enterprise Green Communities (a program operated by Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.) and we are close to certification for a project under the Zero Energy program operated by the Living Future Institute.  We are eager for an opportunity to certify a project under the Passive House Program (operated by the Passive House Institute of the United States), because it represents the most concise clear path to our goal of sustainable, healthy, affordable housing. 

Ideally, a certification program would accomplish the following:

  • Design goals established by the team with input from a consultant that understands the balance of cost effectiveness and the long view of upfront cost versus long-term operations. 
  • Ongoing design review to keep the goals of the project in tact throughout the design. 
  • Ongoing energy and financial modeling to show energy savings based on the design.
  • Construction oversight that includes a review of all mock-ups (windows, and other enclosure details) before construction starts, diagnostic blower door testing (an air tightness test) during construction, and review of the mechanical system installation. 
  • Final commissioning (seasonal testing of mechanical equipment) of the systems and blower door testing (air tightness test).  
  • Creation of a Systems Operation Manual for ongoing maintenance of equipment installed.
  • Energy and Water Data collection at an interval and level (unit, square feet, floor, building, project) that can highlight the measures that reduced consumption.

Collecting data is the key to moving the needle on state incentives for energy and water conservation in affordable housing

The majority of these items appear in building certification programs.  What is missing from most of the programs is collecting post-occupancy data that highlights distinct measures that save energy and water. Detailed data collection is only required in a Zero Energy or Passive House program.  Collecting data to determine what scope of work was effective is the key to moving the needle on getting states to incentivize energy and water conservation in affordable housing either in the financing phase, by allowing projected real savings to be incorporated in financial models, or awarding tax credits based on achieving the Passive House standard.