Summit County consultants help builders adapt to new energy-efficient standards
Summit County is working its way toward a greener future, and no industry will find itself adapting more than construction and building.
According to the Summit County Community Climate Action Plan, which looked at greenhouse gas emissions throughout the county in 2017, 67% of the county’s emissions come from the building sector.
The county’s new Net Zero Energy Ready Home standards aim to bring that percentage down and set homes up to meet sustainability needs in the future. To help builders and homeowners adjust to the change, consulting firms work to create modeling and find viable solutions to meet sustainable standards.
“We are the experts that can help guide a contractor, an architect and an engineer to build their buildings to the most sustainable standard with the different codes in various areas,” said Dustin Schaffer, project coordinator with Deeper Green Consulting in Frisco.
Through the consulting process, Deeper Green and the High Country Conservation Center, which also helps builders adapt to the code, create a model that will get homes to meet the required energy score set by the Net Zero Energy standards.
For example, if a builder is worried that the more energy-efficient windows will drive up the cost of a home, the consultants are able to suggest alternatives.
“I’m able to go into the energy model and move things around,” said Matt Jansing, a building performance expert with Deeper Green. “If they say, ’I don’t want to do these kinds of windows,’ I can say, ’OK, let’s make up for that by having a better ventilation system.’ So you can kind of piece together for each home a path to achieve the energy score that’s required.”
The ultimate goal is for homes to be built so a homeowner can easily implement things to improve energy efficiency, like an electric car charging station or solar panels, if they choose to do so.
The standards fall in line with the county’s ultimate goal of reducing green house gas emissions by 50% by 2030.
Although a lot of people are currently focused on future building projects, Deeper Green and the Conservation Center also help existing homeowners make their homes more energy efficient.
For some, that means adding more insulation to attics and crawl spaces. It also can mean adding solar panels and more energy-efficient heating systems for people who want to reach Net Zero Energy standards.
“You can take an existing home through the same modeling process that I take new construction buildings through,” Jansing said. “It just requires an inspection of the existing home before you can build the model.”
He said the first step for a homeowner looking to make their home more sustainable is to schedule an inspection of the home. When doing inspections, Jansing does a blower door test to measure the air tightness of the home and an infrared imaging test to spot leaks and cool spots throughout the home.
Jansing then suggests which improvements would increase energy efficiency and make the home more sustainable in the long term.
Anyone who decides to renovate their home to be more energy efficient is eligible for rebates through the Energy Smart Colorado Program, which is run locally through the Conservation Center.
Cody Jensen, energy operations manager for the Conservation Center, said there are a number of things people can do if they want to make small improvements for a more energy-efficient home.
“The biggest piece of the energy pie up here in Summit County is air leaks,” he said. “Air leaks account for about 40% of our overall energy cost, and that’s money that’s just leaving the building … under normal operating conditions.”
Jensen said people should look into replacing the weather stripping around their windows and doors and spraying foam around electrical or plumbing holes to external walls, which make the building more airtight. He also suggested insulating a home’s water heater and hot water pipes as well as switching lights to LED as inexpensive fixes to make a home more environmentally friendly.
“With roughly two-thirds of our energy use coming from our buildings, there’s a huge opportunity to focus on construction and making homes here in the county as efficient as possible,” Jensen said.
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