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In an Omnibus Survey of Builders fielded by Home Innovation in December, we asked, “What are your biggest challenges in constructing homes to meet current energy codes?” We received 250 write-in, unaided responses that provide insight into difficulties many builders are having.

While responses varied—for instance, 15% of those surveyed said they are not experiencing any challenges—Home Innovation’s market research director Ed Hudson says many respondents indicated that building energy-efficient homes is requiring changes within the industry, and that change can be painful—particularly in light of rising labor and materials costs and a short supply of labor. Among the 85% who indicated having issues, most agreed they are trying to sort out the fast pace of building code changes and their implications on the design and construction of homes.

Aside from increased price and labor pressures, most of the challenges mentioned could be solved by, or at least benefit from, more thorough education and training of industry members and homeowners. Feedback like this allows Home Innovation to help building product manufacturers understand the industry’s challenges and develop workable solutions. More from the survey can be found at Here are some highlights:

  • A frequent comment was that subcontractors are not adequately trained to implement the energy improvements required by building code. Builders said they often resort to personally training subs and overseeing their work.
  • Builders noted suppliers are at times behind the curve, particularly in offering solutions to help builders respond to changing energy-efficiency requirements. Wait times for products and materials for non-standard solutions were also noted. These issues can be compounded in non-metropolitan areas, which seem to be the last to get access to a regular supply of materials and products.
  • Faced with too many options and not enough knowledge to allow them to optimize the selection of systems and materials, builders need training. But what’s the best starting point? A more efficient building envelope through more insulation and airtightness? More efficient HVAC systems, appliances, and fixtures? Solar energy? Reliable guidance is needed.
  • Energy upgrades are universally sought, but who is paying for the materials and design cost? Builders sometimes find it difficult to convey the value of energy improvements to home buyers, especially when costs are involved. This is particularly true when it’s necessary to sacrifice features or functionality in some other area of the home to meet the budget.
  • Builders noted looking for HVAC solutions that take into account aspects of tighter homes, such as ventilation and removal of humidity from the air. A few mentioned having issues with thicker insulation on foundation walls and integrating this seamlessly into the building envelope using currently available materials.