At the end of the first year of ECOHOME’s Vision 2020 program, Cliff Majersik, executive director for the Institute for Market Transformation and chair of the Vision 2020 Market Transformation focus area, concluded that dramatic change was needed in the building environment. “To truly transform the market and make high energy efficiency a baseline,” he wrote, “we’ll have to drive change in the ways buildings are designed, constructed, inspected, retrofitted, valued, bought and sold, and insured.” So how is the industry doing nearly one year later?
It’s been nearly a year since you took part in the first Vision 2020 Sustainability Summit. Has much changed in your focus area, Market Transformation?
We're seeing more signs that energy transparency is going national and mainstream. Research we conducted with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that owners of energy-efficient homes are 32 percent less likely to default on their mortgages--clear proof that these homes makes financial sense for owners and lenders. That's helped start a national conversation about incorporating efficiency into mortgage underwriting and appraisal. On the commercial side, energy benchmarking has snowballed. We expect it to scale up dramatically in the next few years.
Do you see more energy codes being enforced these days?
Energy code compliance still has a lot of room for improvement. We’re providing brochures and information resources that states and local building departments can co-brand. We're working to chronicle best practices in places that are innovating, and trying to get a better sense of compliance baselines to facilitate identifying, measuring and replicating best practices. This fall we'll again recognize jurisdictions and code officials who are going above and beyond in our Standard Bearers award program. We can learn a lot from their successes.
Are you hopeful about passage of the SAVE Act, which was reintroduced in Congress in June?
SAVE is definitely gaining bipartisan traction on the Hill, and we were pleased to take part in the Green Mortgage Roundtable organized by the White House, which President Obama referred to in his address on climate change. The problem of the "energy blind spot" in mortgages and appraisals is receiving a lot of attention, and we're hopeful that SAVE will pass and remedy this.
Have you seen any progress in the area of energy-efficient appraisals?
Progress on appraisal is slow, largely because the problems are mostly systemic. The current system makes it very difficult for appraisers to value energy efficiency. Ultimately, the solution will come from changing systems--everything from underwriting to repeat sales indices to Multiple Listing Services (MLSs). Chicago's MLS listings will soon include home energy costs automatically uploaded from the utility companies. That's a huge step forward for consumers and also for appraisers, because it gives them some of the comps they need to factor energy-efficient features into appraisals. These features add value to a home, and American homeowners deserve for that value to be captured. We hope to assist in replicating the Chicago model and other MLS innovations.
What is new in the realm of energy disclosures for government and commercial buildings?
A lot! Compliance with existing energy disclosure laws is strong in the cities where the laws are already in effect: New York, Washington, San Francisco, Seattle, and Austin. Boston and Minneapolis have passed energy benchmarking and disclosure ordinances this year, and Mayor Emanuel just introduced an ordinance in Chicago. These policies now affect almost 5 billion square feet of floor space. We think this is only the beginning.
What are the biggest challenges you’ll be tackling in the next few years?
Taking benchmarking and disclosure to the national level; mainstreaming energy efficiency in American homes; and more generally, reducing energy waste from buildings.
Building on its successful launch in 2012, ECOHOME’s Vision 2020 program continues in 2013, focusing on eight critical areas in sustainability. Track our progress all year as our panel of visionary focus-area chairs, our editors, and leading researchers, practitioners, and advocates share their perspectives on initiating, tracking, and ensuring progress toward sustainable priorities and goals in residential construction between now and 2020. The program will culminate in an exclusive Vision 2020 Sustainability Summit in Washington, D.C., in September 2013, and with a special edition of ECOHOME in Winter 2013. Click here to see the 2012 Wrap-Up.