12/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Zero Energy Home for All Americans: Ed Pollock Promotes Builders Challenge at EEBA Conference

The Department of Energy came to Denver this week, promoting its Builders Challenge initiative, which seeks to promote affordable, zero energy homes for all Americans by 2030. Ed Pollock, the Residential Team Leader for the U.S. Department of Energy hosted the Builders Challenge tour at the EEBA Conference which featured two homes, including Sean Smith & Co.'s Wash Park Green LEED Certified Duplex in Denver's Washington Park neighborhood and Ecofuture's Solar Harvest House in Boulder.

David Neiger, Principal at Populus Sustainable Design Consulting, led the EEBA conference tour through the high-performance energy features of the Wash Park duplex, which scored a 37 on the Builders Challenge E-Scale. The E-Scale, which is a "miles per gallon" type rating for a home, is tied to the Home Energy Rating System Index Score, and denotes how the home performs compared to a typical home built to code. A home must score below a 70 on the Builders Challenge E-Scale to be eligible for certification under the Department of Energy's program. In addition, the Builders Challenge program requires the implementation of greenbuilding best practices which address indoor air quality and durability management.

Following the Builders Challenge Tour, the Populus team joined Ed Pollock, Sean Smith, Eric Doub of Ecofutures and Tom Wade of Artistic Homes at a panel discussion focusing on zero energy homes and the goals of the Builders Challenge / Building America program. Mr. Pollock began the panel presentation by discussing the Department of Energy's Builders Challenge goal of an affordable zero energy home (or "Net Zero") for all Americans by the year 2030. In order to achieve these substantial increases in residential energy efficiency, it is essential that the building industry highlight the operational savings of a zero energy home, rather than merely focusing on the first costs of high-performance home features.

To date, the Builders Challenge program has certified a total of 1,800 homes, with six homes scoring net zero or better on the E-Scale and with an average E-Scale score of 63. While this represents only a tiny fraction of the homes built in the United States each year, the high-performance energy features of these 1800 homes results in an average cost savings of $1.6 million per year.

If you are a builder, developer or architect and would like to learn how you can pursue Builders Challenge certification for your next project, contact Populus Sustainable Design Consulting, a Partner in the Builders Challenge program, and we'll walk you through the program requirements and the steps to certification. Unlike some green home certification programs, there is no fee for registering your project in the Builders Challenge program, although there are costs associated with the third-party verification and energy rating that is required under the program. In some cases, building an above-code performing home can qualify you for substantial rebates, incentives or tax credits.

Populus is a full service sustainable design consulting firm that focuses on high performance, net-zero and near-net-zero custom residential and multi-family projects. Populus guides architects and builders through the requirements of mandatory green building codes and optional green home certification programs, providing HERS rating, LEED for Homes Green Rater services and LEED for Homes training. Visit Populus at