This year, Frisco celebrates 11 years of energy efficient building after breaking ground as a national leader on efficient building a decade ago.
Many residents may not know that Frisco was the first city in the nation to adopt the Energy Star building guidelines as its mandatory minimum standard for new home construction.
The Frisco City Council voted to make the Energy Start standards mandatory for residential and commercial builders starting in 2001 — a decision that helped save nearly $45 million in residential utility costs for Frisco residents over the next decade.
Today, Frisco remains a leader, with only a handful of Texas cities joining them in having green building codes or specially written energy standards for public buildings. Those other cities are Dallas, Houston, Austin, Plano, and San Antonio.
Since the green building code was enacted more than 16,500 new buildings in Frisco have been built to the program’s tighter guidelines, which required structures to use 15 percent less energy than they would following the national minimum building codes.
The average energy savings per home in Frisco was $436 annually as a result of the program.
These Energy Star homes accomplished this savings in a variety of ways, through a more tightly sealed building sheath or “envelope”, the use of Energy Star appliances and more efficient lighting, said Steve Covington, chief building official for Frisco.
“They were a little more costly to the builder, upfront, but the savings cost to the customer offset that cost, as well as the improvement to air quality,” Covington said.
City officials have measured Frisco’s contribution to improved air quality by calculating the carbon dioxide, NOx (nitrogen oxides) and sulfur oxide pollution that was avoided by building more efficient homes. They calculate that the program saved 39,223 tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas; 112 tons of NOx, a contributor to ground-level ozone, and 121 tons of SO2 pollution.
Frisco’s green building program also focused on water conservation and waste recycling, encouraging builders to recycle lumber and bricks. The builders met the guidelines if their houses achieved a Home Energy Rating Score (HERS) of 86. (A home with a HERS score of 100 would typically meet minimum guidelines; homes with a lower score were more efficient and those with a score above 100 were using excessive energy.)
The EPA celebrated 20 years of the national Energy Star for buildings program in 2012, calculating that it had saved American families and businesses $230 billion on their utility bills. By 2012, the list of participating cities had grown to the hundreds, and many commercial and residential buildings also had voluntarily built to Energy Star standards.
As in Frisco, air quality, a key goal of the program, had benefited greatly with an aggregate savings across the nation of 1.7 billion metric tons of carbon pollution avoided.
The savings presented by a more efficient house has always been good for home owners, Covington said, helping protect them from high electricity bills and adding to the long-term value of their home and enhancing the value of the community.
But those positives aren’t always clear to the homebuyer at the point of sale, and for builders that presents a conundrum, he said. If they spend more initially for better heating and cooling units, efficient windows and other energy saving components, they can only get their money back if the customer also values these improvements.
Over time, consumers have recognized the value of an energy efficient home, and residential builders have been able to promote energy efficiency, turning it into an effective marketing tool, Covington said.
Enlightened consumers, in fact, are demanding energy efficient homes.
“I think people are expecting it nowdays,” says Chad Schramme, vice president for vice president of construction and purchasing for Darling Homes.
Darling has built about 1,000 homes in Frisco over the last 18 years. The local builder, owned by three brothers, was already developing a plan for “whole house” efficiency when it moved into the Frisco market, Schramme said.
While some competitors might offer one or two “green” features, those can sometimes fail to work appropriately if the entire house isn’t taken into consideration. For instance, a highly rated AC system won’t deliver on its promise if the house is not properly sealed, he said.
Darling wanted to make sure that all the efficiency aspects of a home worked together, so it developed a package of elements that work together.
Currently those elements include reflective radiant barrier roof decking, air returns in all bedrooms, a 16 SEER-rated AC system, conserving water shower heads and faucets and Energy Star-rated appliances, Schramme explained.
“I want everything working in unison on that house to drive down to the most efficient [operations], air quality, energy efficiency, moisture management and water efficiency,” he said. “Those four things tie in that whole house approach.”
This fit perfectly into Frisco’s more ambitious plan, with Darling’s homes aiming to meet two compatible industry standards, a lower HERS score, which denotes energy savings, and the Energy Star guidelines set by the City of Frisco.
Frisco’s approach also is evolving. For the past year, building officials have been working on a revision to the city’s green building requirements, with input from builders, suppliers, installers and manufacturers in the building industries. (You can see the draft at the Frisco city green building webpage.)
The updated rules would allow builders more flexibility to use new programs that have arisen in reason years, explains Covington.
Builders will still have to go above and beyond, aiming for the same 15 percent better efficiency over the minimum building codes (currently, the 2009 Energy Code is the Energy Code for Texas), which the city estimates will save the typical homeowner $501 in electricity costs annually.
But builders will have the option of meeting those requirements by building to Energy Star or the Texas Green Built energy standards or other independent modeling systems that have come out and streamlined the process for the construction industry, Covington said.
Some of the new programs, such as the Texas Green Built program, may actually be more compatible with Frisco’s goals, Covington said, because they add water efficiency guidelines, an area the Energy Star program does not address.
Frisco’s updated draft ordinance aims for an increase in a building’s water efficiency of 25 to 35 percent.
The draft ordinance has yet to go before city council, so it is not in final form, he said.
“We look ahead to our community being a healthy community in the years to come, so our property values maintain a high value,” Covington said. “With the economy lately and energy prices going up, that helps that homeowner stay in their home and know they’re not wasting energy.”
Frisco Green Building Statistics (as of Sept. 1, 2012)
Homes Built under the green building code………………..16,549
CO2 Avoided ………………………………………………………….39,223 tons
NOx Avoided…………………………………………………………..112 tons
SO2 Avoided……………………………………………………………122 tons
Energy saved………………………………………………………..4,650 kWh per home annually
or $436 average savings per home annually
Cumulative savings………………………………………………479,749, 80 kWh saved
or $44,982,0992 utility costs savings / all homes
U.S. Energy Statistics
- 23 percent of the energy used in the U.S. is consumed by the residential sector
- The average annual energy bill for an average American home is $2,200, with nearly half of the energy being spent on heating and cooling.
- 1.3 million ENERGY STAR homes, and 18,000 business buildings, have been certified in the U.S. since the program began in 1992.
- In 2011, about 26 percent of all new single-family homes built in the U.S. earned the Energy Star label.
- A home that meets Energy Star standards will use at least 15 percent less energy than a home meeting the minimum code (the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code).
- The Energy Star program is a “fully integrated, whole-house” approach, according to the EPA, requiring that house systems work well together and include air sealing, quality insulation, high-performance windows, high efficiency HVAC systems, Energy Star rated lighting and appliances and comprehensive water management systems that protect roofs, walls and foundations from moisture damage.
*Sources: Frisco Building department; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which with the Department of Energy, operates the Energy Star program.