WERS Allowed in Austin Energy’s Green Building Program

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On May 11, Austin Energy announced updates to their esteemed green building program. Included in those revisions was the inclusion of WERS as a points-earning option within the water chapter of the single-family guidebook.

Section 5 requires WaterSense for Homes certification and is worth 3 points. Through Austin Energy, WERS is one of the approved methods for showing compliance to the EPA’s program. Of course, by its very nature, WERS would also demonstrate compliance with the other sections of Austin Energy’s Green Building program’s water chapter.

“It’s truly an honor to have WERS approved by the longest-running green building program in the United States, but all the credit goes to Austin Energy, under the leadership of Heidi Kasper,” said Executive Director Mike Collignon. “Similar to the state of Vermont, they learned about WERS and added it to their green building program completely of their own volition. I think that further demonstrates the growing market awareness and adoption of the WERS Program.”

The new standards will go into effect for projects submitted on or after Monday, June 22, 2020.

While the Water Efficiency Rating Score (WERS)® is currently only cited in the single-family guidebook, the hope is that it will be added to the multifamily guidebook in the next round of revisions. “In looking at the multifamily guidebook, it seems to me that WERS fits seamlessly into there,” stated Collignon.

WERS is now allowed in two municipal building codes (Santa Fe, NM and Santa Barbara, CA), cited in a New Mexico state-level tax credit, is the basis for the WRI in the 2020 National Green Building Standard and is on track to be incorporated as a compliance path in Built Green Canada, the Vermont energy code and WaterSense for Homes 2.0.

Vermont to Include WERS in Energy Code

WERS logo

In the summer of 2020, the state of Vermont will implement a new energy code. When they do, one of the compliance options will look quite a bit different than typical state energy codes.

Builders will have 3 compliance paths. The first one in the list is called “Package Plus Points”. It calls for builders to choose one of the five base packages, which include insulation and fenestration prescriptive requirements. There are packages for standard construction, SIPS, a “thick wall”, “cavity only” insulation method, and log homes. Next, builders will need to consult a table to determine how many points they need to obtain. The required number of points can vary from 4-10, based on building size. Finally, they’ll choose a number of point-earning options from a different table to achieve the required number of compliance points. These points can be accrued by improving envelope insulation, achieving better air leakage results, installing more efficient equipment, taking various water efficiency measures, using renewables or utilizing a couple other innovations like batteries, monitoring systems or EV-ready wiring.

In the water efficiency section, builders could earn 2 points by getting their home(s) certified through WERS. To provide some context, multifamily dwellings under 2,000 s.f. only need to obtain 4 points. Single-family dwellings under 2,000 s.f. need to attain 5 points; 2,000-4,000 s.f. homes are required to earn 7 points and anything over 4,000 s.f. must get 10 points. In the Points table, only 5 of the 23 choices have more points than the water certification option.

“Vermont clearly sees the importance of the energy-water nexus,” said WERS Development Group Chair Mike Collignon. “We applaud the state for including WERS in their forward-thinking energy code.”

The same 2 points are attainable by certifying through the EPA’s WaterSense for Homes program. The Coalition has been in discussions with the EPA for nearly 2 years on the integration of WERS into WaterSense for Homes 2.0, so that dual certification is relatively seamless. The revised WaterSense for Homes program is expected to launch in Q1 2020.