Roseville Electric program takes home efficiency to next level

Even the most successful energy-efficiency program, like Roseville Electric Utility’s You are leaving high-performing BEST Homes partnership, needs a periodic renovation if it is to continue its success. To keep up with the changing times—and codes—the municipal utility recently unveiled its new Roseville Advanced Homes Program (RAHP).

Roseville Electric Utility's updated residential efficiency program is built around the principle that the best time to install high-efficiency features is in early construction.
Roseville Electric Utility’s updated residential efficiency program is built around the principle that the best time to install high-efficiency features is in early construction. (Photo by California Advanced Homes Program)

RAHP is the next step in market evolution that Roseville began with BEST Homes, explained Program Manager Mark Riffey. “When we launched BEST Homes, Roseville builders weren’t installing solar and energy efficiency was nothing more than doing what was required,” he recalled. “But [California Building Standard] code has caught up with the program and will pass it soon.”

Title 24 You are leaving now requires new homes to be solar ready to meet requirements, making incentives for solar unnecessary. By 2020, the code will require all new homes to meet the net-zero energy standard.  RAHP encourages builders to meet that requirement proactively, building efficiency into homes before they even think about solar.

Starting on right foot
The program aims to get builders involved well in advance of submitting plans to the city, said Riffey. “The earlier they enter the conversation, the better chance of success.”

Any residential builder planning a development in Roseville may participate in RAHP by signing a prerequisite agreement confirming that their homes will include:

  • 75-percent high-efficacy lighting
  • HERS verification of Quality Insulation Installation
  • Electric vehicle charging station pre-wiring

These measures were chosen to provide a solid energy-efficiency foundation and because they are easy and relatively inexpensive to install early in construction. “The time to make sure a house is insulated correctly or to put in a dedicated breaker and conduit for an electric vehicle charger is when you are in the design phase or early in construction,” Riffy pointed out. “You can add those things later, but it is much more expensive.”

Once the prerequisites are in place, builders can earn incentives up to $3,500 per house for adding bonus measures such as whole-house fans, high-performance attics and LED lighting. Roseville is considering adding battery storage and triple-pane windows to RAHP in the future to move homes closer to the net-zero energy goal.

The completed home, with its tight shell and efficient systems and equipment, is then ready for a solar array. The homeowner can size the photovoltaic system for a load that has been reduced up front by best construction practices. “RAHP leads builders down the path to be aware of the measures that will get them to the 2020 requirement of zero-energy homes,” explained Riffey.

Or, to put it another way, it is going to take an integrated approach to meet the ambitious clean energy goals California has set for itself.

Working together
That focus on integration may be one of the biggest changes Roseville has made in its updated residential construction program. Where BEST Homes was a local effort guided by local stakeholders, RAHP was designed with the help of a third-party administrator to align with Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) California Advanced Home Program You are leaving (CAHP).

TRC, an engineering and construction management consultant, has administered CAHP for PG&E since 2011. “It was the best use of our resources,” observed Riffey. “TRC has spent years working with Title 24, and they can tell us measures that get the most bang for our buck.”

Coordinating with PG&E made sense, as well, because many Roseville residents are PG&E natural gas customers. After all, a well-insulated home is going to cut both heating and cooling costs. “Builders need to turn in only one set of papers for both programs,” said Riffey. “Anything that streamlines the program for the builder/customer improves its chance for success.”

Roseville Electric Utilities aims to succeed. Over its ten-year run, BEST Homes succeeded beyond expectations. A very high percentage of homes recently built in Roseville are solar ready, and California has made that requirement part of its building code. If RAHP enjoys the same kind of success, Roseville’s housing stock may set a zero-energy example for the whole state.

Construction guidebook points way to efficient new buildings

Building energy efficiency into new construction is easier than teaching an old building (or building owner) new tricks. But many designers and builders still need schooling in energy-efficient construction—lessons that can be found in the New Construction GuideRedirecting to a non-government site.

The New Construction Guide from the New Building Institute offers a whole-building approach to achieving deep energy efficiencies in new building projects. (Art by New Building Institute)
The New Construction Guide from the New Building Institute offers a whole-building approach to achieving deep energy efficiencies in new building projects. (Art by New Building Institute)

The latest offering from the New Building Institute’sRedirecting to a non-government site (NBI) Advanced Buildings tool suite is a whole-building, step-by-step approach to new commercial construction projects that result in efficiencies up to 40 percent higher than conventional buildings. Building design and construction professionals can reference the New Construction Guide to define high performance in building envelope, lighting, HVAC, power systems and controls.

Learn from experts
The people behind the guide know how to achieve efficiencies without adding costs. The primary authors include NBI’s Technical Director Mark Frankel, Program Manager Sean Denniston and Project Manager Mark Lyles. Collectively, they bring decades of experience in improving building performance and strengthening building codes nationwide.

Technical contributions came from experts across the construction and building systems industry. The fields of energy efficiency and resource conservation, design, research and policy are well represented along with specific systems such as lighting, heating and cooling and building controls. The ASHRAE 90.1 standardRedirecting to a non-government site, the International Energy Conservation CodeRedirecting to a non-government site and the Consortium for Energy EfficiencyRedirecting to a non-government site were referenced for lighting and mechanical equipment performance levels. The guide also ties the measures to utility energy efficiency programs.

Modeling methodology
Underpinning the New Construction Guide is an extensive energy modeling protocol. The authors evaluated energy-efficiency measures using eQuest building energy use analysis software to conduct more than 100,000 modeling runs on prototype buildings.

They applied three to five measures to each building prototype and ran energy use analysis in ASHRAE’s eight identified climate zones represented by 16 US cities. Measures were only included if they offered savings beyond the baseline buildings in most scenarios, or significant savings in specialized cases. Once the most effective individual measures were identified, they were all applied as a package to each building prototype in each climate scenario to get predicted savings for the program as a whole.

Power providers get involved
The New Construction Guide has several utility sponsors who independently modeled the measures and validated the approach and methodology.

Ralph DiNola, NBI executive director, would like to see utilities incorporate the guide into commercial building incentive programs. “For example, some of our utility partners are offering builders dollars per square foot for implementing the guide,” he said. “Those programs have delivered cost-effective energy savings at a lower cost than other utility incentive programs.”

Utilities including ComEdRedirecting to a non-government site and NSTAR Electric and GasRedirecting to a non-government site have worked with builders in their territory to implement measures from the Core Performance Guide, the previous edition of the new guide, in local projects. Energy program administrator Efficiency MaineRedirecting to a non-government site and the transmission and distribution network National GridRedirecting to a non-government site both have building projects in the pipeline that implement the New Construction Guide.

Municipalities that have LEED [Leadership in Energy Efficient Design] requirements for new public buildings will find yet another use for the guide. The United States Green Building CouncilRedirecting to a non-government site allows the program to be used to achieve energy prerequisites and credits for LEED certification, on the version of LEED. 

About NBI
Established in 1997, the New Building Institute is dedicated to improving the energy performance of commercial buildings by providing policy and program direction, and promoting best design practices and available technologies. NBI’s board of directors comprises leaders in the energy efficiency and green building industries, including representatives from utilities like Pacific Gas and ElectricRedirecting to a non-government site.

The Advanced Building program promotes high performance buildings with technical tools and educational resources such as case studies, webinars, reference guides and research findings. Sponsors and supporters include the Department of Energy, Energy Center of WisconsinRedirecting to a non-government site and New York State Energy Research and Development AuthorityRedirecting to a non-government site.

NBI welcomes involvement from utilities. To learn more, contact NBI at 360-567-0950, or visit the speakers bureau for links to presentations.