UNC Charlotte study shows statewide increase in green building

Asheville stands out as a hub for energy efficient and high performance structures in this heat map. The underlying data was collected by various sources and mapped by UNC Charlotte scholars during a commissioned study of statewide building performance. Image from UNCC's North Carolina Energy Efficient and High Performance Home and Building Inventory Assessment report

A study of national and state data commissioned by The North Carolina Building Performance Association and conducted by the Energy and Environmental Assistance
Office of UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center notes a 255 percent increase in the number of energy efficient (EE) and high performance (HP) home certifications in the Tar Heel State from 2010 to 2014, among other findings.

NCBPA founder and executive director Ryan Miller says the analysis was “the first swing of the bat” at the important task of quantifying the growing industry’s EE and HP designations as one. The ultimate goal of the project, Miller says, was to highlight and further green building momentum in the state. He also hopes the UNC Charlotte report could spur other entities to begin collecting EE and HP data together, which would create a new, less piecemeal resource for those following industry trends.

“Energy efficiency is not ‘sexy’ when compared to solar,” he says, “but our NC industry is two to three times the size — around $7 billion dollars revenue per year — of solar, offering more than just energy benefits and costing less with a very high return for those interested in the financial side.”

While the report does offer insight into the NC industry’s growth and status in NC, it should be noted that the scholars did not compare NC data to that of any other individual states during the research process. National figures to coincide with the researchers’ state numbers were also difficult to pin down, Miller says, because EE and HP statistics are not aggregated by other organizations in the industry.

“We’re backing up our industry’s reputation as a top five state for EE and HP homes and buildings,” Miller says, citing previous state accomplishments in 2014 like third most HERS ratings in the nation, seventh most LEED certifications, and third most Energy Star new home certifications.

Notably, on a heat map plotting the collected addresses of green built homes, the Asheville area lights up out as a mini mecca for eco-friendly certifications.

In a email Q&A with Xpress, Miller provided additional background information about the study:

Mountain Xpress: NC showed a 255 percent increase in the number of green homes built when comparing 2010 and 2014 figures. What was the national increase or decrease for those same two data points?

Miller: Because our study is the first of its kind, we have to piece together comparisons to the national industry. Here are a few: On page three of the report, we provide a statistic of 300 percent predicted growth in green building from 2013 to 2016 nationally. Both ENERGY STAR and HERS Ratings, the two largest certifications/verifications used in our residential industry, have seen their numbers go up in the past few years. On page four, we provide a 16 percent market penetration for ENERGY STAR homes nationally, and show that HERS Ratings increased 70 percent from 2012 – 2013. The best/newest resource is perhaps the recent USGBC report that came out last week. In short, there isn’t a national association/organization that does what we do – bringing EE/HP homes and buildings together – so we’re trying to promote this need in order to have the data that helps us grow.

Did this study take into account any changes in policy, legislation, definitions or other systematic drivers surrounding certifications in NC or nationally?

There are likely policy/other drivers that impacted the market. The one that we know of, without question, is the 2009 change for ENERGY STAR from version 2 to 3. Version 3 is much more stringent and significantly slowed down growth in the market. But, that’s also when HERS Ratings and other certifications began to take off, during the housing crisis, which builders used to differentiate their homes and buildings. We chose not to dig too much into the reason for some of these numbers, but instead just present them as they are, without any lean on policy, incentives, etc. I’m not aware of any other policy in NC – REPS, REITC, building or energy code, etc. – that would have made much of a difference.

Regarding the heat map that plots addresses of certified green homes, it looks like Asheville emerges as a mini mecca for green building. Are there any facts you’d be able to share about the underlying data?

Asheville is without a doubt a green building mecca. www.WNCGBC.org is our local partner and offers great resources and information on the local market there. Their recent article in [Xpress] was a testament to the local market, so we’re bringing attention to the state market.

Here is the original release from NC Building Performance Assiciation:

RALEIGH, N.C. (September 21, 2015) – The North Carolina Building Performance Association (NCBPA) and UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) today announced the results of a study on energy efficient and high performance homes and buildings in North Carolina.

In the first of its kind study, data was collected from national energy efficiency certification agencies and from green building companies in North Carolina, which identified 121,919 energy efficient and high performance homes and buildings built in the state since 2007, including a 255% increase from 2010 to 2014.

“This study substantiates North Carolina’s position as a national leader in energy efficiency and high performance building with hard and proven data,” says Ryan Miller, NCBPA’s Founder and Executive Director. “As the largest sector of North Carolina’s clean energy economy, it’s important to recognize the positive work that our energy efficiency industry and its customers are doing to save energy and create healthier, safer, more sustainable and valuable homes and buildings across all regions of our state,” says Miller.

The study collected data from more than 80,000 new and existing homes and buildings to determine which ones qualify as being energy efficient or high performing based on industry-recognized standards from 34 certification and verification programs and methods available in North Carolina.

Single family homes certified through ENERGY STAR® accounted for the largest portion of certifications in the study. Single and multifamily homes receiving HERS ratings, LEED certified homes and buildings, and single family homes certified through the National Green Building Standard accounted for the second, third and fourth positions respectively.

The total number of energy efficient and high performance homes and buildings has increased from approximately 5,000 in 2008 to over 28,000 in 2014, the study shows. And despite the downturn in the state’s new construction housing market from 2007 to 2012, energy efficient and high performance homes and buildings showed increased demand.

“The data provides clear evidence of the advantages energy efficient and high performance homes and buildings provide within the construction and housing market in NC; along with opportunities for certifications for existing homes,” says Regina Guyer, EPIC Assistant Director – EEAO. An additional finding in the study is the significant opportunity to implement standards and requirements for ensuring the higher valuation of these homes and buildings in the real estate market.

“This study shows that North Carolina is a leader in energy efficient and high performance buildings,” says Guyer. “The next step is sharing this information wider, and especially promoting the added value and benefits of these homes and buildings with real estate agents, appraisers, lenders, home builders, and home buyers/sellers,” says Guyer.

“The lower operating costs, lower mortgage rates and improved comfort are just some of the known benefits of these energy efficient homes and buildings, but our industry needs to do more to create a higher market valuation for these high performance homes and buildings,” says Miller.

Visit www.BuildingNC.org to download a copy of the report and a summary whitepaper.

About North Carolina Building Performance Association
North Carolina Building Performance Association (NCBPA) is a 501(c)(6) non-profit trade association for the state’s home and building performance industry. The association advocates on behalf of the industry and provides services to member companies and consumers in order to improve the performance of North Carolina homes and buildings. Visit www.BuildingNC.org for more information.

About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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