Build Smarter With the Performance Path 

How flexibility, freedom, and more options cultivate cost-savings while still building a great performing home.

Published November 13, 2020

Code Compliance Variables  

Building in Colorado can be a daunting task. Being a home rule state in Colorado means that a builder could be building to 300 possible variations of these codes, depending on the jurisdiction.

Keeping up to speed with each jurisdiction's variation and  amendments and complying with multiple code versions across the state can add even more confusion around the International Energy Conversation Code (IECC). To further complicate things, that leaves the question of which path do you use that is allowed under the code? 

Understanding your best pathway forward will keep you building cost-effective and code-compliant homes. We hope to shed some light on the advantage of using section R405, the simulated performance path of code compliance.  

Prescriptive Path Hurdles

For most of the building code history, builders relied on the prescriptive requirements in the code to guide the design and construction of homes. The code stated the minimum requirements, and the building must meet or exceed these requirements, and the IECC is no different. 

The prescriptive path means to follow the tables outlined and to do that precisely, no more. However, many jurisdictions throughout the state have adopted code changes that affect building compliance specifications. Existing code requirements are amended, and new code requirements are introduced and enforced across various building compliance paths. Some of the most recent requirements that impact the prescriptive pathway are blower door testing and, in some cases, HVAC system duct testing.  

Prescribed targets vary by code cycle, but in most geographical areas of the state, a blower door test result shows that minimum building or unit tightness has become routine for most builders.  What if there was a way to offer building code compliance and leverage the building tightness or other insulation values to your advantage?  

Performance Meets Demand

The growing trend of advancing codes is not going away. There are more demands than ever on builders to construct higher-performing homes. Many important entities help drive the code adoption process, such as building departments, municipalities, and utilities. They all have individual interests in how the code impacts the new homes constructed in their markets.  Beyond these entities, homeowners today are far more discerning and demanding of a highly energy-efficient home. Even more importantly, homeowners expect a healthy and comfortable home.    

Homeowners may not ask for these things up front but rest assured if the new home or unit they just purchased does not meet their expectations, the number of calls to your warranty department will likely increase.  These demands stack on top of the ever-increasing building costs, such as materials, labor, and other municipal pressures. Because of this, most builders are always looking for ways to build the best possible structure while keeping costs as low as possible.  

The Performance Path Advantage

The performance path works by allowing builders to utilize an energy professional services company like EnergyLogic to construct a proposed model of a home or unit. The home model is compared to a geometrically identical reference home generated by a nationally approved software.  The proposed home model must meet or exceed the code reference home, which has the same overall architectural characteristics: wall, foundation, attic surface areas, window areas, mechanical equipment, and other features specific to each home design.  The reference home has all the prescriptive insulation values, maximum building tightness, window U-values, and other building components built-in through the software.   

Using the software, an energy professional services company will compare the designed home model to the reference home model. As long as the designed home uses less energy than the reference home, you have met the code requirements. The advantage of running your model with this pathway provides the ability to “trade-off” many components throughout the build while achieving the same performance level. 

This approach allows you to build a well-performing home and still provides you with more flexibility and control of your design and the components that make up a typical project. One of the most attractive benefits is the overall cost-effectiveness.   

Additional Performance Path Perks

Many motivators encourage builders to opt-in for the performance path. EnergyLogic finds builders enjoying additional perks that have led them to:

  • Build to higher energy compliance standards to boost sales and marketing, drive a vital message that meets consumer expectations, and sets them apart in a competitive market  
  • Significant savings through the flexibility of trade-offs on components like insulation or window U-values 
  • Demonstrate third-party verification value by promoting the Energy Rating Index (ERI) or Home Energy Rating System (HERS®) scores 
  • Earn potential rebates offered by local utility programs that utilize the prescriptive and performance pathways as economic improvement benchmarks  
  • Attain government tax credits eligibility, such as the L45 tax credit, which can lead to a potential saving of up to $2,000 per home

Builders partner with EnergyLogic to determine which pathway will best meet their goals and discover the most cost-effective approach.  

Contact EnergyLogic’s Business Development Manager, Phil Drotar, if you are interested in learning how your homes perform or if you would like help with compliance guidance on your projects.  

About the Author
Phil Drotar

Phil Drotar

Phil Drotar has been in the building science and energy efficiency world for over 10 years. Phil has been involved in homes and buildings since he started remodeling and turning rental units as a kid, quickly moving to superintendent jobs, trade work and warranty work with a large national builder. Read more about Phil here.

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