2021 Earth Advantage Home Certification Program Updates

March 31, 2021 | By: Peter Brown

Earth Advantage Home certification (EAHC) has unveiled our 2021 points worksheet to our active Earth Advantage builders and developers. For the benefit of the uninitiated, the points worksheet is the list of individual measures, both prerequisite and elective measures, that a builder decides to implement on a construction project to obtain the desired certification level in a green building program. This revised certification program will be required on all EAHC homes that receive a rough inspection after June 30, 2021. Building upon the success and widespread adoption of the points worksheet our builders are using now, the 2021 points worksheet represents increased standards of performance in the five pillars we use to measure sustainability in the built environment: Energy, Health, Land, Materials and Water.
Duct blaster testing
Every measure in our program was thoroughly reviewed, researched, and sometimes debated amongst an internal team of our green building consultants and technical field consultants. Additionally, on many measures we worked with outside experts to update our standards with input from leading industry professionals. Measures that had become outdated, sometimes due to being incorporated into the building code, or were so seldom used they were deemed a better fit if recognized under our catch-all “innovative measures,” have been removed. This pruning produced a points worksheet that was more manageable for builders to navigate, and allowed us space to introduce new measures. As befits a comprehensive update, completely new measures have been added that reflect the future trajectory of green home building. For instance, a close partnership with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality led to two new measures. One awards points for building components that have an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). Another new measure awards a point for utilizing products that have a third party verified Health Product Declaration (HPD).

Two new prerequisite measures will affect every Earth Advantage certified home, assuring the buyers of these homes enjoy substantial energy savings, increased levels of comfort and a more durable home that results in lower operating costs. EAHC will require that all homes either insulate exterior walls with blown-in fibrous insulation, or use an advanced wall framing strategy. Another new prerequisite dictates that attic insulation dams be properly installed. For builders who wish to control wind washing through their crawl space floor insulation we have a new elective measure for baffles installed at crawl space vents. While EAHC points are never awarded for complying with our prerequisites, installing baffles at crawl space vents will earn a home one (1) prescriptive Energy point. That can help some homes that need to earn prescriptive Energy points in order to obtain the minimum number of points required in our Energy pillar. Builders looking for prescriptive Energy points might consider another new measure we’ve created. Incorporating an ENERGY STAR® tubular skylight into the home will not only delight homebuyers with its natural light, energy efficiency, and flexibility of installation, but now it will be awarded one (1) prescriptive Energy point.

Infill builders already had an existing measure available to them called Deconstruction of Existing Home. Based on our experience with the separate Earth Advantage program Safe + Sustainable Site Certification, we have added a new measure to EAHC titled Responsible Demolition of Existing Home. This provides infill builders who must cope with an existing home, or structure, on their site another avenue to be rewarded for their sustainable efforts to deal with the removal of an old home at the end of its lifespan.

We did keep most of our existing measures, because the basic tenants of sustainability don’t change radically over time. Conserving natural resources, building spaces that promote better indoor air quality, and continually improving the energy efficiency of everything in our lives are timeless concepts. We just doubled down on these concepts to produce better buildings now. Therefore, many of our existing measures have simply been rewritten to introduce more stringent requirements. For instance, the new EAHC program will have a maximum air leakage requirement of 4 ACH @50pa. Similarly, our energy modeling metric will become slightly more rigorous. While we often focus on energy efficiency, indoor air quality has not been overlooked. Our maximum levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paints, clear finishes and stains, and construction adhesives have all been reduced in the new points worksheet. Recognizing the impending water crisis brought on by a warming planet, we’ve lowered our upper limits of water consumption for fixtures such as showerheads, toilets and faucets. Fortunately, water fixture manufacturers have introduced a wide range of products that don’t sacrifice performance over conservation.
electric car charging
The future is near, but for a home being built today the future must be planned for today. Consequently, we are excited to introduce new measures for Level 2 EV (electric vehicle) Charging, Electric Storage Ready, and Demand Response Ready. These three measures are being built into homes now, and we’ve been rewarding builders EAHC points for these under the catch-all innovative measures. With the widespread adoption it was time each of these became their own EAHC measure, with the guidance, technical specifications, and on-site field verification Earth Advantage has always been trusted to provide.

Contact your Earth Advantage green building consultant today to learn more about how our certification will help you build better now.