What You Need to Know About Building Performance and HERS Ratings

What is building performance? 

In today’s world, we have grown so accustomed to our built environment that we rarely consider the nuances of the processes that keep all of the essential buildings we use running. One of the only times we may consider all of these moving parts is when we receive our utility bills every month. If you notice your electric bill is higher than normal, you may start turning the AC up or the heat down in order to conserve energy and lower the cost. But did you know there are other variables that can affect the efficiency of a building, and consequently the price of keeping buildings maintained and comfortable? Other factors that play into the efficiency of a building are a part of general building performanceNCSEA defines building performance as an “[a]ttribute that describes how well the building functions in light of its architecture, design, and construction.” Building performance plays into varying aspects of a building such as its energy efficiency, indoor air quality and longevity. 

Photo courtesy of UpDwell Homes 

Why should you care about building performance? 

Those who use high-performance buildings reap many of the associated benefits that are linked to increased levels of efficiency, comfort and safety. Buildings with higher levels of efficiency present a plethora of advantages on an individual and large-scale level. One of the main benefits of highly efficient buildings is related to their positive impact on the environment as they have the ability to lower the emission of greenhouse gasses and other harmful pollutants along with decreasing water use. Increased building efficiency also presents economic benefits not only for individuals who will see lower utility bills but for the economy on a larger level as it can create jobs and stabilize the price of electricity.  

According to the World Resources Institute, along with reducing harmful external pollutants, high-performance, energy efficient buildings reduce the instances of pollutants indoors due to the more advanced methods of electricity production that run cleaner therefore having lower levels of combustion, while also offering improved ventilation.  Such decreases in both indoor and outdoor pollutants from energy efficient buildings creates all around cleaner air, decreasing the occurrence of pollutant-caused illnesses such as asthma and lung cancer, and even reduce instances of pre-mature death.  

So, if high-performance, energy efficient buildings can offer us so many benefits, how does one begin to assess their building performance and start making adjustments to achieve an energy efficient standard? One place to start is by calculating a measurement of either a pre-existing or future building’s energy performance to see where changes can be made to improve efficiency levels. While there is an abundance of rating methods available to consumers to help them assess their building’s performance, one main rating on the market is known as a HERS rating.  

Measuring building performance – HERS rating 

Although measuring building performance may sound like a simple measurement of a building’s energy efficiency, it actually moves far beyond this. In order to properly calculate a building’s performance, one must consistently address how the building is performing, what is affecting this performance, and how it can be influenced. Although it has traditionally been a time consuming and difficult task to calculate a building’s performance, ever improving technology has made this process increasingly manageable.  

One modern method of assessing a buildings performance and energy efficiency is known as a HERS rating. HERS stands for “Home Energy Rating System” and allows homebuilders to receive an energy assessment of their future home by having a certified HERS Rater analyze their home’s construction plans and provide onsite inspections. A HERS Rater is a certified individual who is trained to complete a Home Energy Rating following RESNET’s standards by grading and testing various aspects of a home that contribute to its energy use. Collaborating with a certified HERS Rater during the design and build process gives a homebuilder the ability to assess and even direct the energy efficiency of their home before and during construction.  At the end of the build process, the home is then scored with a HERS index that helps to quantify and visualize the home’s calculated energy efficiency.  

If you are a current or future homebuilder looking to create an energy efficient home to benefit not only your wealth but also your health, consider looking into receiving a HERS rating to gain a better understanding of where you stand and how you can improve on your future home’s energy use. To learn more about RESNET’s HERS rating system, click here.  

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