Source: Department of Energy Source: Department of Energy

ENERGY STAR, Zero Energy Ready Home, Passive House. You’ve heard about these green rating systems but have you ever wondered how they stack up? How they compare is best understood via the Department of Energy’s (DOE) “High-Performance Home Staircase.” Allow us to walk through the steps.

The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is the landing of the staircase – the foundation for all green building certifications. Mandated state-by-state, the IECC establishes the minimum requirements for energy efficiency in terms of cost savings, energy consumption, use of natural resources and environmental impact. Green building certifications are given to homes that outperform the IECC requirements. How well a home outperforms determines how far up the rating system staircase it goes.

  1. A home achieves ENERGY STAR certification when it is than the IECC requires and up to 30 percent more energy-efficient than a typical new home.
  2. A home achieves Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) certification when it meets or exceeds the 2015 IECC and is at least 40 to 50 percent more energy-efficient than a typical new home. A ZERH-certified house meets ENERGY Star specifications, incorporates practices from the DOE’s Building America program and meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor airPLUS requirements.
  3. A home achieves Passive House certification when it meets Zero Energy Ready Home criteria and is 60-80 percent more energy-efficient than the IECC requires. A Passive House generates most or all of the energy it consumes.

The environment, energy providers and energy users all benefit from green building. Reduced energy use provides a healthier, more sustainable environment. It lessens the loads on power grids, decreasing the need for utility companies to expand power plant capacities. For homeowners, reduced energy use brings down the cost of utilities. Simply put: the higher the step on the High-Performance Home Staircase, the better the home is for everyone.