• Dwell Development built these contemporary homes in Seattle as part of the NEEA pilot program on energy-efficient residential construction.

    Credit: Dwell Development

    Dwell Development built these contemporary homes in Seattle as part of the NEEA pilot program on energy-efficient residential construction.

A new pilot program from the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) demonstrates that houses of all shapes and styles can be ultra-efficient, from a rural home for empty nesters to an urban contemporary for a growing family.

The voluntary Next Step Home Pilot focuses on tight envelopes that incorporate advanced framing techniques, increased insulation, and high-efficiency windows. The pilot homes also incorporate advanced HVAC systems that use technologies such as ductless heat pumps and heat recovery ventilators.

“These higher-performance homes will be used to identify the most cost-effective methods for achieving the greatest amount of energy savings while paving a pathway for future code adoption,” says Neil Grigsby, who manages NEEA’s homes initiative. “The best practices and technologies of the pilot will help get builders ahead of code changes, achieve greater cost-effective energy savings and increased comfort for customers in the long-term.”

Several regional home builders, including Billings, Mont.-based McCall Homes, Vancouver, Wash.-based New Tradition Homes, and Seattle-based Dwell Development, have built test homes that incorporate advanced building practices that meet the pilot specification. For example, McCall Homes’ project demonstrates available strategies, technologies, and products under the pilot including a double-wall system to minimize thermal bridging, super-efficient windows, radiant floor heating, and polyisocynurate sheathing on the exterior for additional insulation. It was built for a retired couple who downsized from a large home but wanted a walkable community and energy savings.

The pilot program is one step in the NEEA’s goal of transforming the market with a 40 percent energy savings by 2030 as a result of increased codes and standards, says Grigsby. “We estimate that homes built for the pilot have the potential to be at least 30 percent more efficient than those built to state energy code requirements.”