It is a unique privilege to be able to witness a fundamental change in how we view our community, our industry, or even the world around us. Standing at the edge of a major shift in the current way of thinking or doing things can be unnerving, but also exhilarating, filled with anticipation of exciting new possibilities. For those who were paying attention, September 2014 offered the building industry front-row seats to one of these changes.
Newport attended the Energy & Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA) Conference and Expo in St. Louis, and supported the U.S. Department of Energy in holding the second annual Housing Innovation Awards. The awards recognize leading innovators in the building and home performance industries, seeking to promote truly exceptional achievements in transforming how we build and improve homes. The EEBA conference, which gathers industry, advocacy, and educational leaders to exhibit, present, and discuss cutting-edge building science technologies and approaches, offered a prime venue for the awards.
Builders who participate in the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program, who are eligible to apply for the Housing Innovation Awards, are driving a major change to the building industry. The program, which pushes builders to test the limits of energy efficiency – while also adding innovations to achieve leading levels of performance in comfort, quality, durability, and health – allows builders to market their innovative successes using the voice of the Department of Energy to lend credibility to their accomplishments.
Although builders have achieved this level of performance in homes in the past, what makes this time so important is the wide variation in the size and type of builder participating, and the level of commitment to the program. This year’s awards recognized 7 production builders including a national builder, builders who are building over 100 of these homes in a year, and builders who have incorporated the value message of Zero Energy Ready Homes into all of their marketing and sales practices. Also receiving awards were custom builders around the country whose customers demand this level of excellence, and affordable builders including two Habitat for Humanity chapters and a HUD-code Manufactured Home. The accessibility of this program to achieve such excellence in performance while appealing to luxury home builders, small and large production builders, and builders working with the tightest possible budgets, is unprecedented. Consider that these builders are offering homes with minimal utility bills, while providing healthy indoor air, thermal comfort, rapid hot water delivery, and high levels of quality and durability through enhanced inspection processes – most at an affordable or market rate price point.
St. Louis provided a fitting location to honor these builders who are not only changing how they build homes, but pioneering the way forward to a time when consumers will demand nothing less of their homes. Just as the immense St. Louis Arch stands as a reminder of how pioneers fearlessly led the way to redefining America and its reach, these builders are redefining a new normal way to build.
As a buildings research and consulting firm focused on improving how we build, Newport often gets to witness or be a part of shifts in the building industry. From conducting primary and unique research establishing the national average cost of residential sprinklers, to assisting manufacturers in understanding consumer attitudes toward new technologies, to trailblazing methods for improving code compliance, to designing and implementing industry-changing programs like the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home, Newport has been a major player with its finger on the pulse of the industry. On September 23rd, 2014 at the Housing Innovation Awards, we were honored to help celebrate builders making their mark on the industry. It felt like standing at the gateway to housing innovation, where challenges are certain, but possibilities are endless. Watch what these builders are doing. If you don’t, you might find that the building industry has moved on without you.