Energy Star Now Available for New Multifamily High-Rise Buildings
August 31, 2011

By Sahely Mukerji

Officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced August 30 that new multifamily high-rise residential buildings are now eligible to qualify as Energy Star rated.

"This is a very significant milestone for the Energy Star program and a welcome one for promoting the use of Energy Star-qualified fenestration, which Window & Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) members manufacture and are strong supporters of," says Jeffrey Inks, vice president of code and regulatory affairs for WDMA in Washington, D.C. "It's also extremely important to promoting energy-efficient retrofits of existing construction, which is where we can achieve some of the greatest reductions in energy use, especially through the replacement of older fenestration with Energy Star-qualified products."

While high-rise multifamily is only 5 percent of the U.S. residential market, there is still a large chunk of carbon to be captured, says Arlene Z. Stewart, president of AZS Consulting Inc. in Gainesville, Fla. "While multifamily housing should be more efficient, since most units only have one exterior side to the building envelope, in actuality, they are 27-percent less efficient than single family on a per unit basis," she says.

An important fact to keep in mind regarding this program is that given high-rise buildings designed for multifamily occupancy are constructed with commercial fenestration products, this new Energy Star certification applies to the building itself and not the products used to clad the building, says Mike Turner, vice president of marketing of YKK AP America Inc. in Austell, Ga. "Owners, architects, and specifiers need to remember that there is not an Energy Star certification program applicable to commercial fenestration products," he says. "This is a common specification error that appears on commercial buildings when greater energy efficiency is desired. Buildings seeking this certification will need to incorporate commercial products that perform at least 15-percent better than code." Overall though, "I believe this EPA announcement will have a positive influence within the commercial construction market by encouraging the use of advanced commercial fenestration products helping the USA to reduce its demand for energy."

The benefits from this initiative will trickle down to all parts of the supply chain, says Earnest Thompson, director of corporate marketing and brand management of Guardian Industries in Auburn Hills, Mich. "Our customers and business partners - the fabricators, glaziers and architects - would welcome the new business and be part of the win-win for everyone," he says. "Energy Star has been the kind of high profile program that consumers respond to."

Other than strengthening energy efficiency, the new program also will increase salability for property owners, Stewart says. According to multifamilyexecutive.com, 86 percent of the U.S. rental pool would prefer to live in a green apartment, and a full 42 percent would pay a $100 rent premium to do so.

"This Energy Star initiative will provide fenestration manufacturers and their suppliers with an opportunity to sell higher-performing products," says Richard Walker, president and chief executive officer of American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) in Schaumburg, Ill. "This is certainly a welcome boost to the stagnant economy. Considering the success of the residential Energy Star program for individual doors and windows, we are optimistic that the new high-rise program will also spur demand for high-performance windows and doors."

To qualify for Energy Star, new or substantially rehabilitated multifamily high-rise buildings must meet energy-efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and be designed to be at least 15-percent more energy-efficient than buildings that meet the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) energy use standard. Qualified buildings feature a combination of energy-efficient improvements including high-performance windows.

An independently licensed professional engineer or architect is required to verify that the program's requirements are met through on-site testing and inspections conducted throughout the construction process. In the past, only single-family homes and units in low-rise multifamily buildings were eligible to earn the Energy Star.

Click here for more information on Energy Star qualified multifamily high-rise buildings.

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