Residential Research Quarterly: March 2019

In our first quarterly residential research article of 2019, USGBC highlights several reports. Check out the latest on zero net energy, hazard mitigation, green equity in U.S. cities and more.

The Economics of Zero-energy Homes: Single-family Insights | Rocky Mountain Institute

Prepared by Rocky Mountain Institute, this report reveals a modest cost increase involved in building a zero energy or zero energy ready home, when compared to a conventional home. For an additional 6.7–8.1 percent investment, a home can have the resources needed to become zero energy. The report also found that increased market penetration of zero energy homes can support aggressive goals for emissions reductions. Four cities were examined, taking into account varied climate zones, utility rates, real estate costs, solar resources and more.

Learn how the new LEED Zero certification can verify achievement of net zero goals for energy, water, waste and carbon.

Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2018 Interim Report | National Institute of Building Sciences

Investments in mitigation are worth more than previously reported, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). The 2018 Interim Report found that adopting the 2018 International Codes generates a national benefit of $11 for every $1 invested. NIBS assessed the benefits of building design to mitigate the risks of flooding, earthquakes and hurricane winds to meet the 2018 International Residential Code and the 2018 International Building Code, and compared them to the previous code generation. The $11-for-$1 figure is an update from NIBS’ previous report on the value of mitigation, which reported a $6-for-$1 return on mitigation-related investment.

Read USGBC's new LEED and Climate Mitigation policy brief. For more information on how we are working to enhance the resilience of buildings, check out the Center for Resilience.

Who has access to urban vegetation? A spatial analysis of distributional green equity in 10 US cities | University of British Columbia

This study examined census data and aerial imagery in 10 large U.S. cities to determine how income and education levels are associated with access to urban green spaces. Researchers found that residents with higher incomes and those who have achieved higher levels of education tend to have more access to green space in cities. The benefits of green space, including improved air quality, access to outdoor shade and improved stormwater management, were more often witnessed in higher-income urban neighborhoods. The report highlighted the need for a wider spread of vegetation within urban areas, including trees and designated parks.

To find out how LEED v4.1 encourages access to open space, reduces the heat island effect, and more, see the LEED credit library.

Redefining Home Performance in the 21st Century | Home Performance Coalition

The application of smart technology is essential to continued innovation in homes, as well as the electric grid, according to this study by the Home Performance Coalition (HPC). Smart home technology tools like connected lighting systems and learning thermostats operate at the user’s convenience, reducing overall energy demand. When smart technology is paired with more traditional home efficiency strategies, like double-paned windows and insulation, it has the potential to make these approaches even more effective, the study found.

LEED v4.1 incentivizes these approaches by offering credit for thermal comfort control in at least half of individual occupant spaces and for a minimum ratio of individual, multi-level lighting controls.

Annual Energy Outlook 2019 | U.S. Energy Information Administration

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s annual report details energy use projections through the year 2050 from several sectors. Total delivered residential energy intensity, or annual delivered energy use per household, will see a substantial decline, according to EIA: 22 percent, an improvement attributed to availability of utility energy efficiency rebates, greater efficiency of household appliances and growth in on-site electricity generation. In particular, residential solar photovoltaic capacity is predicted to increase by an average of 8 percent annually, outpacing the projected 5 percent growth in the commercial sector.

LEED v4.1 encourages the incorporation of on-site renewable energy in projects through a tiered approach to point eligibility. The system also promotes advanced levels of energy metering, which enables project teams to track energy use and identify opportunities for improvements.

If you have suggestions for future studies we could share, please contact Alysson Blackwelder.

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