The EPA's Energy Star for new homes is one of the most well-recognized certification programs for new homes in the construction industry. It's an indication that a home is up to 30 percent more energy-efficient than a house built with standard construction practices. But the EPA has expanded on Energy Star by adding Indoor airPLUS to help builders meet the growing consumer interest in homes with improved indoor air quality. Indoor airPLUS "builds on the foundation" of Energy Star, says the EPA.
Atlanta-based Beazer Homes has embraced the initiative: Its Phoenix division certifies all of its homes under the program. The company says it was an easy call because all of its homes are already Energy Star-rated. "We feel that it's an additional feature in our homes that promotes the value and desire we have to build high-efficient, high-quality homes," says purchasing manager Brian Shanks.
Though airPLUS builds on Energy Star, it provides additional construction specifications to provide comprehensive indoor air quality protections in new homes. "It requires some additional air-sealing techniques and other HVAC and ventilation things," Shanks explains. The idea is to make the house a better place to live, especially for those who suffer from respiratory issues.
According to the EPA, builders must implement a series of procedures and product specifications for their homes to be certified under the program. For example, builders must use hard surface flooring in the kitchens, baths, and entries; install approved radon testing; avoid duct systems in the garage; insulate and seal basements/crawlspaces; use low-formaldehyde wood and other materials; and specify low-VOC interior paints and stains, among many other requirements.
By constructing homes that meet airPLUS specifications, the EPA says, builders can distinguish themselves by being among the first recognized by the agency to offer homes that deliver better indoor air quality. Beazer started certifying its Phoenix homes under Indoor airPLUS on Jan. 1, 2014, and does not add a premium on the homes. The company likely will certify all of their homes under the program.
"For lack of a better term, we are using this as an incubator to make sure we use good construction techniques, and we worked through all the details so we can promote it out to our other divisions," Shank says.